module specification

SJ6003 - Moderns to Contemporaries (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Moderns to Contemporaries
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 30
School The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass)
Total study hours 300
219 hours Guided independent study
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 20%   A) 1500 word critical essay, or B) 1000 word creative piece + 500 word critical commentary
Coursework 35%   Either A) 2000 word critical essay, or B) 1500 word creative piece + 500 word critical commentary
Coursework 45%   Either A) 3000 word critical essay, or B) 2500 word creative piece + 500 word critical commentary
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Wednesday Morning

Module summary

This module builds on the earlier core modules Romantics to Victorians and Victorians to Moderns for English Literature students, and Writers World and Research Methodology and Ethics for Creative Writing students. It examines the period from the 1950s to the 2010s. Through the study of poetry, drama and prose, their critical discussion and creative production, and through reference to other media forms, the module addresses major themes in the cultural, social and political history of the period. The syllabus includes canonical works but enlarges and transforms students’ understanding of literary production by considering works written in English within other national traditions and works in translation in order properly to represent the complex, intersectional experience of literary and cultural engagement for readers today. The module takes a partly chronological approach and addresses such themes as war and reconstruction; race, feminism and sexuality; post-war geopolitics, the Cold War; Thatcherism, Reaganism and the neo-liberal settlement; post-modernity; multiculturalism and intersectionality; post-9/11 writing and the political making of the modern world. The module is taught in weekly sessions comprising a lecture followed by an English Literature seminar or Creative Writing workshop. The module is supported by online material and face-to-face tutorial hours, and assessed by short critical writing, essays and/or creative pieces produced in workshop.

Module aims

The aims of this module are

  • to introduce students to modern and contemporary (roughly the period 1940-2010) literary, poetical and dramatic works written in the UK, and other countries with an English literary tradition;
  • to provide students with a wide literary, historical and socio-cultural contextual repertoire for interpreting these works;
  • to produce well-informed readers capable of thoughtful interpretation of many different kinds of cultural and social artefacts;
  • to develop students’ creative writing skills in their preferred genres at an advanced level


Topics in social, political and cultural history will inform the module syllabus in a way that continues and develops the discussion in the earlier core modules Romantics to Victorians, Victorians to Moderns, Writers World and Research Methodology and Ethics. Discussion may include such topics as: the legacy of war; counterculture and social revolution; class and education; urbanisation, mediatisation and technological life; identity politics and liberation movements, postcoloniality, geopolitics and intersectionality; AIDS and queer politics; fictional narrative and the recovery of history; globalisation and modern imperialism; Britishness and national identity.

Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems, 1956
Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, 1958
Robert Lowell, Life Studies,1959
Sylvia Plath, Ariel, 1963
Frank O’Hara, Lunch Poems,  1964
Ted Hughes, Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow, 1970
Seamus Heaney, North, 1975
Linton Kwesi Johnson, Inglan is a Bitch, 1980
William S. Burroughs, Cities of the Red Night, 1982
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, 1985
Toni Morrison, Beloved, 1987

Works may change from year to year.

Learning and teaching

Use will be made of the www and Blackboard postings to direct students to relevant material that arises in lectures and seminars. Lectures, seminars and workshops will strive to maintain a high level of dialogic engagement and interaction, and tutorial hours will support and develop classroom learning. Class sessions may also be enhanced by guest speakers, visits, screenings and other activities.


Reading of set texts and research for assessment  Writing and editing coursework

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

● write critically on the thematic, formal and/or historical development of the novel, poetry and drama in the period 1940 to 2010
● evaluate the nature of literary production

  • in terms of wider historical context
  • in terms of cultural and political context
  • in terms of the diegesis (fictional world) itself

● engage with political, historical and/or critical themes in a number of creative genres

Assessment strategy

For English Literature students:
Assignment 1 (20%): 1500 word commentary on one or two set texts in relation to historical, political or critical theme
Assignment 2 (35%): Either A) 2000 word critical essay on one or more set texts from a given period, or B) 1500 word creative piece + 500 word critical commentary relating to a given period
Assignment 3: 3000 word essay on a critical theme in relation to one or more set texts (45%)

For Creative Writing students, each assessment will involve a piece of writing in a preferred genre and a commentary engaging with relevant political, historical or cultural criticism.
Assignment 1 (Prose): 1000 words+500 commentary (20%)
Assignment 2 (Prose): 1500 words+500 commentary (35%)
Assignment 3 (Prose): 2000-2500 words+500-1000 commentary (45%)

Alternative word counts in script or poetry submissions according to departmental norms. In general, a sequence of six poems would be the equivalent of 2000 words of prose.

Assessment total = 6500 words


Ashton, Jennifer,  ed., The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry after 1945 (Cambridge: C.U.P., 2013)
Bilton, Alan, An Introduction to Contemporary American Fiction (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002)
Beach, Christopher, The Cambridge Introduction to Twentieth-Century American Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)
Childs, Peter, Contemporary Novelists: British Fiction since 1970 (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005)
Collins, Patricia Hill, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, 1 edition (New York: Routledge, 2008)
Corcoran, Neil, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century English Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
Crenshaw, Kimberle, Neil Gotanda, Garry Peller, and Kendall Thomas, eds., Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement (New York: The New Press, 1995)
Day, Gary, and Brian Docherty, eds., British Poetry from the 1950s to the 1990s: Politics and Art (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997)
Dowson, Jane, and Alice Entwistle, A History of Twentieth-Century British Women’s Poetry (Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005)
Higgins, Michael, Clarissa Smith, and John Storey, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Modern British Culture (Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010)
Procter, James, Dwelling Places: Postwar Black British Writing (Manchester ; New York : New York: Manchester University Press ; Distributed exclusively in the USA by Palgrave, 2003)
Rennison, Nick, Contemporary British Novelists, Routledge Key Guides (London ; New York: Routledge, 2005)
Roberts, Neil, ed., A Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003)
Shaffer, Brian W., ed., A Companion to the British and Irish Novel, 1945-2000 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007)
Shank, Theodore, ed., Contemporary British Theatre (London: Macmillan, 1996)
Shellard, Dominic, British Theatre Since the War (New Haven, CT ; London: Yale University Press, 1999)
Sierz, Aleks, In-Yer-Face Theatre: British Drama Today (London: Faber and Faber, 2001)
Tew, Philip, The Contemporary British Novel, 2nd ed (London ; New York: Continuum, 2007)