BA English Literature and History

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Literary and Sexual Experimentalism Between the Wars

Course unit fact file
Unit code ENGL34141
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course looks at novels, novellas and poems published in Britain and the US that through literary experimentation pose key questions about gender and sexuality in the interwar period (1922 to 1937). The unit will link each individual texts to current debates about modernism and experimentalism, exploring through sexuality the relation between the Edwardian, Georgian, and the modernist novel in England (Woolf); the queer transatlantic connections between Blackness, European decadence, and North American modernism (Nugent, Barnes); Black modernism, vernacular experimentalism, and the Harlem Renaissance; and the Black Atlantic (Larsen and Marson).  



The aims of this course are:

- to introduce students to key texts and issues from the interwar period that link literary and sexual experimentalism;

- to introduce students to the analysis of novels, novellas and poems from the interwar period;

- to consider the links established between formal and thematic innovations by more canonical authors (Woolf, Barnes, Hurston) and lesser known ones (Nugent, Marson);

- to analyse the ways in which these texts from the interwar period in the UK and US interact with their cultural and historical contexts;

- to understand contemporary and historical understandings of sexuality in feminist and queer theory;

- to consider how these texts address issues of gender, sexuality, and race;

- to develop skills of critical thought, both orally and in writing in relation to the study of key authors writing in the 1920s and 1930s;

- to develop IT skills through the use of Blackboard, online library catalogues, and archival catalogues;

- to develop teamwork skills through informal seminar discussions and presentations.




Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

- demonstrate a thorough knowledge of all the primary texts on this unit;

- demonstrate a good understanding of the complex contexts in which they are placed, across the   UK, the US and the West Indies;

- demonstrate a critical understanding of the role of sexuality in these texts;

- engage with key issues in contemporary feminist, queer, and modernist studies.


Intellectual skills

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

- think critically about literature in the interwar period across different geographical locations;

- analyse course texts in a critical manner;

- reflect critically on the history of sexuality;

- evaluate critical arguments advanced by critics working in modernist, queer, and gender studies.


Practical skills

- plan and execute independent research on experimental texts in the interwar period;

- make good use of library, electronic, and online resources pertaining to the course;

- speak and write clearly about experimental literature;

- comment on the performance of a peer, identifying strengths and making constructive suggestions for improvement where appropriate.


Transferable skills and personal qualities

- retrieve, sift, organise, synthesise and critically evaluate material from a range of different sources, including library, electronic, and online resources;

- produce written work using appropriate language for an academic audience;

- produce written work that collects and integrates evidence to formulate/test a critical argument;

- demonstrate good teamwork skills by acknowledging the views of others and working constructively with others;

- display basic negotiating skills in understanding and working with others;

- manage time effectively by scheduling tasks in order of importance.



Employability skills

This course enhances student employability by giving students a range of transferable skills. These include: logical thought; good oral and written communication skills, resourcefulness in the ability to gather, interpret, analyse and/or evaluate critical sources; time management skills through the completion of deadline-driven work; articulacy and presentation skills through the use of seminar discussion. This course enhances employability by encouraging students and identify and understand a range of different viewpoints and/or critical approaches to complex literary experiment.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

Feedback method –

Formative or Summative

Numerical grade and written comments on essay within 15 working days. Oral/written feedback to group; office hours feedback; and written comments.

Formative and summative

Numerical grade and written comments on essay within 15 working days. Oral/written feedback to group; office hours feedback; and written comments.

formative and summative


Recommended reading

Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room (1922)

Nella Larsen, Quicksand (1928)

Djuna Barnes, Nightwood (1936)

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)

Una Marson, Selected Poetry (1930s)

Winifred Holtby, South Riding (1936)


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Daniela Caselli Unit coordinator

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