module specification

SJ6003 - Moderns to Contemporaries (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module title Moderns to Contemporaries
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 300
90 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
210 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 20%   Either A) 1000 word critical essay, or B) 800 word creative piece + 200 word critical commentary
Coursework 30%   Either A) 2000 word critical essay, or B) 1500 word creative piece + 500 word critical commentary
Coursework 50%   Either A) 3000 word critical essay, or B) 2500 word creative piece + 500 word critical commentary
Running in 2022/23

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Thursday Morning

Module summary

This module builds on the earlier core historical modules Romantics to Victorians and Victorians to Moderns and examines the period from the 1940s to the 2010s. Through the study of poetry 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 also 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 experience of literary and cultural engagement for readers today. The module takes a chronological approach and discusses, variously, war and reconstruction; the legacies of violence that inflect our understanding of gender, religion and race; post-war cultural politics and social change; the neo-liberal settlement of the 1980s and the culture of post-modernity; and emerging themes in recently published literary work. The module is taught in weekly sessions comprising a common lecture followed by an English Literature seminar or Creative Writing workshop. The module is supported by online material and tutorial hours, and assessed by critical essays and/or creative work.

The aims of this module are to introduce students to modern and contemporary (c.1940-2010) literary and poetical works written in the UK and in other countries; to provide students with a wide literary, historical and socio-cultural context; to produce well-informed readers capable of thoughtful interpretation; to develop students’ critical and/or creative writing skills to an advanced level.

Prior learning requirements

Completion and pass (120 credits) of previous level.


Topics in social, political and cultural history (LO2) will inform the module syllabus in a way that continues and develops the discussion in the earlier core historical modules Romantics to Victorians and Victorians to Moderns. Students study innovative and controversial works of poetry and prose (LO1) which allow a chronological history of the post-war period (LO2) to unfold through discussion of topics such as: the legacy of war and historical violence; countercultural and social revolution; urbanisation, mediatisation and consumerism; progressive politics and conservative reaction; postcolonial and transnational identities; fictional narrative and the recovery of history (LO1/LO2). Seminar and workshop discussions focus on students' critical and creative responses to the literature studied and topics raised (LO4) and require them to produce writing and engage in spoken argument and debate each week (LO3).

Typical texts studied include: Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita; Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot; Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems; Frank O’Hara, Lunch Poems; Seamus Heaney, North; Ted Hughes, Crow: From the Life and Songs of the Crow; Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber, Toni Morrison, Beloved; Peter Brook, Mahabharata; A. S. Byatt, Angels and Insects; Chris Kraus, I Love Dick; George Saunders, In Persuasion Nation. Primary works studied may change from year to year.

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

The syllabus requires a concerted and organised approach to reading, and there are weekly set texts. These vary from shorter poetic works to collections of poetry and short stories, novellas and shorter and longer novels. Independent reading and study outside of class ensures that study in class is effective and addresses the learning outcomes and assessment tasks. There will be a range of learning strategies deployed from lecture, seminar, workshop and tutorial, and individual learning styles will be accommodated. The module’s learning outcomes, its contents and delivery, have been scrutinised and will be regularly reviewed to ensure an inclusive approach to pedagogic practice.

The module and course utilise the University’s blended learning platform to support and reinforce learning, to foster peer-to-peer communication and to facilitate tutorial support for students. Reflective learning is promoted through assessment items and interim formative feedback points that ask students to reflect on their progress, seek help where they identify the opportunity for improvement in learning strategies and outcomes, and make recommendations to themselves for future development. Throughout the module, students build a body of work, including reflections on progress and achievement.

The School’s programme of employability events and embedded work-related learning within the curriculum supports students’ personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able, as they progress from year to year, to understand the professional environment of their disciplines, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions.

Learning outcomes

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

Cognitive intellectual abilities
LO1 articulate coherent, detailed and sustained understanding of thematic and formal developments in poetry and prose fiction from 1940 to the most recent publications;

Knowledge and understanding
LO2 evaluate literary production in English in the period in terms of wider historical, cultural and political contexts and in terms of the qualities of the fictional world itself;

Subject specific skills
LO3 write sustained critical and/or creative responses to the thematic, formal and/or historical development of prose and poetry in the period 1940 to recent years;

Transferable skills
LO4 develop and produce critically and creatively sophisticated work in response to research task.

Assessment strategy

Students respond critically and creatively to the thematic and formal development of literary production in English in the period (LO1) and relate this development to the broader historical context (LO2). English Literature students produce three essays (LO3) which build in complexity (LO4) and in their demand for independent analysis, synthesis and research (LO4). Creative Writing students produce three creative pieces (LO3) which become more sustained (LO4) and must respond to various cultural, critical and historical themes (LO2) which characterise the course.

For English Literature:
Assignment 1 (20%): 1000 word commentary on one or two set texts in relation to historical, political or critical theme
Assignment 2 (30%): 2000 word critical essay on one or more set texts from a given period
Assignment 3 (50%): 3000 word essay on a critical theme in relation to one or more set texts

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): 800 words+200 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 = 6000 words



Where possible, the most current version of reading materials is used during the delivery of this module. Comprehensive reading lists are provided to students in their handbooks. Reading Lists will be updated annually.

Core textbooks
Acheson, J., (2017) The Contemporary British Novel Since 2000, Edinburgh University Press
Ashton, J., (ed.), (2013) The Cambridge Companion to American Poetry after 1945, Cambridge University Press
Corcoran, N., (ed.), (2007) The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century English Poetry, Cambridge University Press
Olster, S., (2017) The Cambridge Introduction to Contemporary American Fiction, Cambridge University Press

Other textbooks
Beach, C., (2003) The Cambridge Introduction to Twentieth-Century American Poetry, Cambridge University Press
Childs, P., (2005) Contemporary Novelists: British Fiction since 1970, Palgrave Macmillan
Dobyns, S., (2011) Next Word, Better Word: The Craft of Writing Poetry, Palgrave Macmillan
Duvall, J. N., (ed.), (2012) The Cambridge Companion to American Fiction after 1945, Cambridge University Press
Harper, G., (2013) A Companion to Creative Writing, Wiley-Blackwell
Higgins, M., Smith, C. and Storey, J., (eds), (2010) The Cambridge Companion to Modern British Culture, Cambridge University Press
Philips, D., (2014) Women's Fiction: From 1945 to Today, Bloomsbury Academic
Procter, J., (2003) Dwelling Places: Postwar Black British Writing, Manchester University Press
Tew, P., (2007) The Contemporary British Novel, 2nd ed., Continuum

Electronic Databases
Project Muse
Academic Search Complete
Cambridge Core