Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)

Module ENGL52730: Modern Poetry

Department: English Studies

ENGL52730: Modern Poetry

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


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • Students are expected to read specified poems by a range of Modern Poets; to show advanced knowledge of critical debate; and to explore the poetic achievement of the poets, in part through comparison and connection between the works of the poets. These objectives will be met through the requirements that students undertake appropriate reading for, and make presentations in seminars, and through the assessment process (2 essays of 3,000 words, one requiring comparison between at least two of the poets).


  • In alternate years the module will consider major Irish poets (writing in English) since Yeats. It will focus on the work of the following poets: Patrick Kavanagh, Louis MacNeice, Thomas Kinsella, John Montague, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Tom Paulin and Paul Muldoon. The ways in which individual texts work will be explored and the module will also examine whether poets compose a tradition. One concern will be different reactions to the Yeatsian inheritance; another will be the imaginative treatment by the poets of politics and history. Prominence will be given to the poets' consideration of national identity, a major theme from MacNeice's 'Valediction' to Paulin's "'And Where Do You Stand on the National Question?''' Essential reading: The Faber Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry, ed. Paul Muldoon.
  • In alternate years the module will consider Postwar British and American Poetry. It will be accessible both to those who have not studied poetry intensively at undergraduate level but who would like to extend their knowledge and enjoyment of the subject, and to those with a more specialized interest and expertise. Seminars will foreground the poems, contextualizing and exploring themes and more general issues where appropriate. It will focus on the work of the following poets: Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Basil Bunting, Donald Davie and Geoffrey Hill.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module, students will be able to:
  • articulate their in-depth knowledge of the poetry of a range of Modern Poets;
  • demonstrate a sophisticated awareness of the poetic achievement of the poets;
  • reflect on a variety of critical and cultural issues raised by the different poetic texts studied;
  • be able to compare and contrast the work of at least two of the poets.
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 analyze 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 judgment, 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 organization and time-management skills.

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

  • Through a variety of teaching activities and approaches, seminars will facilitate the development of communication and critical skills. Sessions will require student presentations to aid understanding of poets, topics and contexts, and will facilitate the analysis of specific poetic texts as well as encourage individual interpretation and enquiry. Formative written work and consultation with the module tutor will operate as learning tools, allowing the investigation and testing of ideas and readings. Two summative assignments will assess the competencies and outcomes outlined above and foster advanced independent study.
  • 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 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 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
Essay 3000 words 50%
Essay 3000 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

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