Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)


Department: English Studies


Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2022/23 Module Cap 250 Location Durham


  • Either A-level English literature or language (at least grade B) or GCSE foreign language (at least grade B).


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to the history of the English language, including its origins and the development from Old English through Middle English to modern English.
  • To introduce notions of grammar, vocabulary and syntax.
  • To explore vocabulary and semantic change.
  • To introduce notions of standard language and dialect, and the development of ideas of correctness and prescription.
  • To consider reasons for language change (e.g. socio-political).
  • To explore different attitudes to and theories of language (e.g. 17th and 18th-century attitudes).
  • To introduce questions of language usage (e.g. linguistic register, gender issues).
  • To introduce appropriate linguistic terms with which to describe language change.
  • To explore contemporary critical perspectives on language and its history.


  • This module offers the opportunity to explore the rich heritage of the English language in terms of its history and changing use; of past and present attitudes to and theory of language; and of changing ideas of literary language.
  • This is an all-encompassing module that unites different time periods, genres and critical issues. It introduces students to fundamental critical concepts, and equips students with tools for reading and understanding literature.
  • The lectures in Michaelmas Term will normally cover a range of historical topics, including the origins of English, the development of Old and Middle English, the growth of vocabulary and meaning change, and dialect.
  • The lectures in Epiphany Term will normally address the use and theory of language, and will cover topics such as the development of a standard language, attitudes to language in the Renaissance and early modern periods, ideas of correctness, the development of dictionaries and grammars, linguistic register and issues of gender and language.
  • In Easter Term, there may be research trips to explore the resources in the Palace Green and Cathedral libraries. These may focus on areas such as the printing press, manuscript collections, early printed books and digital resources.
  • Tutorials will be tailored to the lecture course.
  • The course will be examined by two assessed essays, to allow for individual research into chosen topics.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To gain knowledge of the general history of the English language.
  • To gain familiarity with grammatical, lexical and semantic change.
  • To develop informed critical views regarding linguistic change, and to assess the critical ideas of others.
  • To develop awareness of changing attitudes to language.
  • To gain familiarity with the development of standard English and ideas of correctness.
  • To develop awareness of critical issues regarding language usage.
  • To gain some experience of earlier forms of language.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts
  • an ability to demonstrate knowledge of a range of texts, authors, and critical approaches within this literary period
  • an informed awareness of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and an ability to offer cogent analysis of their workings in specific texts relating to this literary period
  • a sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects on communication of historical circumstances, and to the affective power of language
  • an ability to articulate and substantiate an imaginative response to literature
  • an ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to this literary period
  • skills of effective communication and argument
  • a command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology
  • an awareness of literature as a medium through which values are affirmed and debated
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • a capacity to analyse critically
  • an ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of distinctive interpretative skills derived from the subject
  • a competence in the planning and execution of essays
  • a capacity for independent thought and judgement, and ability to assess the critical ideas of others
  • skills in critical reasoning
  • an ability to handle information and argument in a critical manner
  • information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access information
  • organisation and time-management skills

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

  • Lectures: enable students to gain subject-specific knowledge of cultural, aesthetic and intellectual issues in relation to individual works and authors, an area or period, or a theoretical or language-related topic; encourage students to be aware of the range and variety of approaches to literary study; present ideas and information to encourage, on the part of students, further thought and discussion
  • Tutorials: enable students to explore, in a selective way, through small-group discussion, specific texts and topics (many of which will be addressed by lectures); to focus on selected literary issues and problems; and guide them in developing subject-specific analytical skills and knowledge
  • Formative essays: are written on a text or texts, or a literary topic, and they require the student to demonstrate appropriate subject-specific knowledge and skills, such as the ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to literary study. A considerable element of choice of essay topics encourages development in students of their capacity for independent thought and judgement.
  • Essay handbacks: encourage students to reflect critically and independently on their work
  • Independent but directed reading in preparation for lectures and tutorials provides opportunity for students to enrich subject-specific knowledge and enhances their ability to develop appropriate subject-specific skills.
  • Coursework: tests the student's ability to argue, respond and interpret, and to demonstrate subject-specific knowledge and skills such as appreciation of the power of imagination in literary creation and the close reading and analysis of texts; they also test the ability to present word-processed work, observing scholarly conventions.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 1 Per Week 1 Hour 21
Tutorials 7 1 Hour 7
Essay Handback Sessions 2 15 minutes 0.5
Preparation and Reading 171.5
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Written Assignments Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
written assignment 1 2500 words 50%
written assignment 2 2500 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

2 Tutorial Essays.

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