Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)


Department: English Studies


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2018/19 Module Cap 20


  • Students must hold a good BA degree in English or a related subject to be eligible for entry onto the MA in English Literary Studies.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module will introduce students to an important political, literary and philosophical debate that dominated from the 1790s through to the early twentieth century.
  • In so doing, the module will focus on a range of texts and genres, such as Edmund Burke's epistolary Reflections on the Revolution in France, Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man and the realist fiction of Irish writers such as Maria Edgeworth and Mary Leadbeater, the poetry, songs and satires of Thomas Moore and the essays of John Henry Newman and Matthew Arnold.
  • The course will conclude with a discussion of some important texts of the Irish Revival (such as the poetry of Yeats and the drama of Synge). This material will be examined in light of its engagement with revolutionary discourse and in relevant literary, philosophical and historical contexts.
  • The following topics will be addressed: the relationship between realism and romanticism; gender and genre; utilitarianism versus 'aestheticism'; and the construction of Irish national character.


  • This module will examine some key revolutionary and counter-revolutionary texts, such as Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man and Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France.
  • Close attention will be paid to literary responses to the revolution in the fiction of the period, concentrating in particular on the didactic and 'improving' literature produced by women writers such as Hannah More, Maria Edgeworth and Mary Leadbeater.
  • This 'realist' tradition will be examined against the broader context of Romantic poetry and literary 'theory'.
  • In so doing, the course will be addressing questions such as why so many women wrote in a counter-revolutionary, didactic mode; why this tradition is particularly strong in Irish writing from this period; and the impact of this tradition on literary, intellectual and political culture up to the foundation of the Irish Free state in 1922.
  • Students will be provided with photocopies of a range of primary materials in order to broaden knowledge of this complex period of literary and intellectual history. As such, this module will focus on the enormous cultural and political repercussions of the French Revolution and, by extension, Romanticism throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will acquire a detailed and focused perspective on a specific period of British and Irish literary history.
  • By concentrating on a selection of key texts, students will become aware of the complex ideological debates that underpinned both reaction to Romanticism and the emergence of the nineteenth-century realist novel and Irish modernism.
  • The module will provide grounding for future research in an area where much remains to be done.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • Advanced critical skills in the close reading and analysis of literary texts;
  • An ability to demonstrate advanced knowledge of a chosen field of literary studies;
  • An ability to offer advanced analysis of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature;
  • An ability to articulate and substantiate at a high level an imaginative response to literature;
  • An ability to demonstrate an advanced understanding of the cultural, intellectual, socio-political and linguistic contexts of literature;
  • An ability to articulate an advanced knowledge and understanding of conceptual or theoretical literary material;
  • An advanced command of a broad range of vocabulary and critical literary terminology.
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • An advanced ability to analyse critically;
  • An advanced ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in structured and systematic ways;
  • An advanced ability to interpret complex information of diverse kinds through the distinctive skills derived from the subject;
  • Expertise in conventions of scholarly presentation and bibliographical skills;
  • An independence of thought and judgement, and ability to assess acutely the critical ideas of others;
  • Sophisticated skills in critical reasoning;
  • An advanced ability to handle information and argument critically;
  • A competence in information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access;
  • Professional organisation and time-management skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students are encouraged to develop advanced conceptual abilities and analytical skills as well as the ability to communicate an advanced knowledge within seminars.
  • The capacity for advanced independent study is demonstrated through the completion of two assessed pieces of work.
  • Typically, directed learning may include assigning student(s) an issue, theme or topic that can be independently or collectively explored within a framework and/or with additional materials provided by the tutor. This may function as preparatory work for presenting their ideas or findings (sometimes electronically) to their peers and tutor in the context of a seminar.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 Fortnightly 2 hours 18
Independent student research supervised by the Module Convenor 10
Preparation and Reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative Essay 3000 words 50%
Summative Essay 3000 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

One essay of not more than 2,000 words

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University