BA English Language and English Literature / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Literature and History

Course unit fact file
Unit code ENGL10072
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


The aim of the course is to explore the relationship between literature and history and to introduce students to the study of literary and cultural texts within the framework of the historical past. Students will be encouraged to explore, via close and detailed discussions of particular texts, the diverse ways in which the past and pastness are imagined and constructed. The focus will be on three historical moments; the aim is not to offer comprehensive coverage but to nurture skills that can be deployed in relation to texts from other periods. In the process students' preconceptions about history itself will be challenged by exploring thinkers for whom history is not a singular or linear phenomenon and who ask questions about the ways in which history is produced and mediated by texts and narratives. In each week we will study a core text in order to think about history and historicisation through questions of language, style and form. Core texts will be combined with theoretical texts to develop self-reflexive critical reading practices.


' To examine the relationship between texts and historical contexts;
- To introduce students to the study of literary and cultural texts within the framework of the historical past
- To cultivate the skill of close reading, especially sensitive attention to literary form;
- To study a range of texts across a range of genres and literary periods;
- To analyse and evaluate theoretical methods for studying literature historically;
- To foster both verbal and written skills in critical and analytical thinking and the deployment of evidence to sustain a coherent argument appropriate to Level 1, initial year degree work.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students should have developed:

Knowledge and understanding
An extensive and detailed knowledge of the different ways in which groups of texts from two/ three historical moments represent, affect and are affected by those events;
An understanding of key debates about the study of literature in relation to history and historicity, including: the variety of ways in which texts respond to and also shape historical events; the relationship between literary form and political conflict; and the mediation and construction of history by texts and narratives.

Intellectual skills
An ability to interrogate the category of 'history'; evaluate the usefulness and cogency of rival theoretical approaches to the study of literature in history; read texts closely in order to discuss how their form, language and so on affect and are affected by historical context.

Practical skills
Research, writing and analytical skills appropriate to level 1 study.

Transferable skills and personal qualities
The ability to: work independently and in groups; construct and support an argument; utilise skills in written expression such as the deployment of evidence and the organisation of a coherent argument; display a capacity for self- and peer-criticism.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students taking this unit will be able to analyse and evaluate arguments and texts. Above all, committed students will emerge from this course unit with an advanced capacity to think critically, i.e. knowledgeably, rigorously, confidently and independently.
Group/team working
Students taking this unit will be able to work courteously and constructively as part of a larger group.
On this unit students are encouraged to respond imaginatively and independently to the questions and ideas raised by texts and other media.
Students on this unit must take responsibility for their learning and are encouraged not only to participate in group discussions but to do so actively and even to lead those discussions.
Project management
Students taking this unit will be able to work towards deadlines and to manage their time effectively.
Oral communication
Students taking this unit will be able to show fluency, clarity and persuasiveness in spoken communication.
Students on this unit will be required to digest, summarise and present large amounts of information. They are encouraged to enrich their responses and arguments with a wide range of further reading.
Written communication
Students on this unit will develop their ability to write in a way that is lucid, precise and compelling.

Assessment methods

Coursework essay 25%

Examination 75%

Feedback methods

Written and face-to-face (upon arrangement)

Recommended reading

Edmund Burke, selected prose extracts 
Andrew Marvell, selected poetry 
John Milton, political sonnets 
Thomas Paine, selected prose extracts 
W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz 
Art Spiegelman, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale 
Anna Trapnel, The Cry of a Stone 
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman 
William Wordsworth and S. T. Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads 

Christopher Hill, Milton and the English Revolution (1997) 
Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious (1981) 
Dominick LaCapra, “History beyond the Pleasure Principle?” (2009) 
---------Writing History, Writing Trauma (2001) 
Jerome McGann, The Romantic Ideology (1986) 
Pierre Nora, ‘Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire’ (1989) 
Hayden White, ‘The Historical Text as Literary Artifact’ (1974).  

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Alderson Unit coordinator

Additional notes

The use of dictionaries in the examination is prohibited. This rule applies to all categories of students, including all Visiting Students.

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