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Module QXE-2027:
Literature and Modernity

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Dr Andrew Webb

Overall aims and purpose

Literature and Modernity will cover responses to major historical events of the period from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1950s. These may include the First World War, the ‘Great Depression’, the Second World War and the start of the nuclear age. It will also encourage those taking the course to consider how literature responds to, and provokes, broader cultural shifts within the period, including changes in understanding of gender and sexuality, consumerism and national identity. Finally, it will pay particular attention to the emergence of modernism as a literary movement during these years.

Course content

Literature and Modernity examines literature about, or by writers from, Britain and Ireland in a period bracketed by the emergence of proto-modernist writing in the late 1890s and the emergence in the early 1950s of texts that would later be seen as postmodern. This period in Western Europe witnessed unprecedented changes in the modes of production, in relations between the sexes and between the classes, and in the development of new cultural forms like radio and cinema. While these originated in the Victorian period, they were accelerated by the social and psychological impact of the First World War, global depression, the rise of fascism, another catastrophic World War and the start of the nuclear age, historical factors that make the study of literature from this period especially rewarding. Students will study some of the ways in which authors responded to these cataclysmic shifts by considering work from a range of critical perspectives. These may include the literary movement (for example, modernism), broad historical change (for example, changes in gender roles), a major historical event (for example, the Second World War), genre, or recent trends in criticism which encourage us to look at this period’s writing from a new angle.

Assessment Criteria


Typically, work graded B- to B+ (or 60 to 69) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas adeptly • Most of the arguments about a specific field are well-aired • Displays knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is relevant • Shows analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of relevant reading • Shows accuracy in expression with mastery over language. • A few minor errors here and there. • Signs of creative thought deserve a higher position within the class • In creative work: shows signs of originality, having understood the requirements of the medium • Plans of well-balanced and full answers, despite some gaps

Typically, work graded C- to C+ (or 50 to 59) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas, but without much confidence • A respectable effort but not showing any unusual talent; a few flashes of originality here and there • Makes reference to the subject in question, but some important matters not mentioned • Fairly clear thought on most occasions, and the arguments relevant on the whole • Evidence of having read some works associated with the field in question • Quite accurate expression, though the points may sometimes be presented clumsily • Signs of conscientious work deserve a higher position within the class • In creative work: not having quite mastered the requirements of the medium
• Evidence of planning in the answers, but a lack of coherence at times; undisciplined and unsure at times


Typically, work graded A- to A** (or 70 to 100) will show many of the following qualities:

• Discusses ideas with confidence and precision • Demonstrates maturity and sophistication • Displays deep knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is totally relevant • Shows independent, analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of substantial and relevant reading • Shows great accuracy in expression, displaying total mastery over all aspects of the language • Shows occasional signs of brilliance and originality of thought • In creative work: displays considerable originality • Command over medium; may have potential for publication/production


Typically, work graded D- to D+ (or 40 to 49) will show many of the following qualities: • Unsure and lacking in confidence when discussing ideas • Referring to the subject in question in a superficial manner • Making an effort to provide fairly balanced answers • Some points in the argument irrelevant to the topic • Little evidence of background reading • Some uncertainty over language and syntax • Strengths and weaknesses fairly balanced; occasionally clumsy and unimaginative • In creative work: superficial • Not succeeding in mastering the requirements of the medium

Learning outcomes

  1. Appreciate, analyse and interpret a range of literary texts in relation to modernity

  2. Explore patterns and variations in the literary response to modernity, especially modernism

  3. Interrogate texts from the perspective of a particular critical concern (for example, gender, response to a particular event, development or subversion of a particular genre or literary movement),

  4. construct a meaningful cultural and historical understanding of the period

  5. Select, digest and organise material and produce a consistent and coherent argument, presented in essay form, to a deadline

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
One 2,000 word essay 60
In-class exam 40

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Lecture 22
Study group 11
Seminar 11
Private study 156

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting


Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: