Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)


Department: English Studies


Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap 280 Location Durham


  • A level English Literature or Literature/Language at nothing less than Grade B.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students, through study of a wide range of poems by poets writing in English from the early modern to the contemporary periods, and including some American poetry, to some of this poetic tradition’s major verse forms, modes of organization, and genres (e.g. blank verse, the couplet, the stanza, lyric, elegy, sonnet, epic, pastoral, ode, open form).
  • To introduce students to the often shifting relationship between genre and theme (e.g. elegy and death).
  • To introduce students to the close and attentive reading of poetry, including analysis of tone, diction, syntax, imagery, and rhythm.
  • To analyze a selection of texts based where possible and desirable on a selected anthology, at an appropriate level for students who have already obtained an A-level (grade B or higher) in English.
  • To introduce students to reading poems in the light of literary history, primarily with regard to the evolution of poetic forms but also in relation to their age.
  • To introduce students to a range of critical methods and issues, including methods of close and attentive reading associated with ‘practical criticism’, the study of genre, and historical criticism.


  • An introduction to poetry and the issues involved in its criticism which concentrates on a wide range of poems in English from the early modern period to the contemporary, through which a number of major poetic forms and modes can be traced.
  • The close consideration of verse form in many of its aspects, and of poetic genres.
  • Consideration of the way in themes and topics such as love, grief, death, politics, religion, and poetic self-consciousness are treated in the selected poems.
  • Specific texts to be studied may vary from year to year. A typical selection might include a representative sample of poems from The Making of a Poem: An Anthology of Poetic Forms, ed. Mark Strand and Eavan Boland, by poets such as Marlowe, Shakespeare, Wroth, Donne, Marvell, Milton, Herbert, Johnson, Gray, Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, Emily Brontë, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath Seamus Heaney, Paula Meehan, Sharon Olds. The anthology would be supplemented by other works as appropriate, normally including as a central text on the module Milton’s Paradise Lost, and also such works as Pope’s The Rape of the Lock.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To gain knowledge of a range of poems written in English across major periods of English literature, including some American poetry.
  • To analyse in detail how poetic texts work at the level of such matters as diction, syntax, rhythm, tone.
  • To become aware of traditions and conventions of verse form and poetic genre in poetry written in English.
  • To gain an understanding of the literary historical development of poetry written in English.
  • To gain an understanding of the relationship between poetry and cultural change.
  • To gain an understanding of critical reasoning, including the ability to assess the critical ideas of others.
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
  • 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.
  • Examination: 'open book' tests the student's ability to present subject-specific knowledge, to select appropriate materials, and to construct and manage clear and effective arguments in a timed period; to demonstrate independent thinking, and test that students have achieved stated learning outcomes.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 Weekly 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: Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
one three-hour written examination ('Open Book': the main module anthology could be taken in, plus a Departmental booklet of other texts) 100%

Formative Assessment:

2 tutorial essays (c.2000 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