Modern Literature and Theory 1

Module code: EN7031

Module co-ordinator: Dr Emma Parker

This module demonstrates how literary analysis can be enhanced through the consideration of movement (Modernism), an author (Muriel Spark) and a decade (the 1940s). The module encourages students to engage in close reading and to situate texts in their sociohistorical context.

The module is divided into three sections. The first, ‘Modernism’, considers a major literary movement from the perspective of canonical male writers, women writers and gay writers. The second section, 'The 1940s', examines novels and short fiction published during this decade and considers their treatment of key concerns of the period, particularly the effects of war on everyday life and consciousness. The third section, ‘Muriel Spark’, explores six novels by a major author alongside some of her poetry, short fiction, and criticism, and concentrates on the concepts of identity, self-transformation, modernism, post-modernism and the nouveau roman.


There will be nine two-hour seminars. You may be expected to make presentations at some point in the module.

By the end of the module, you will be able to:

  • Define and illustrate the features of Modernism
  • Assess how gender, sexuality and nationhood shape a Movement
  • Make informed judgments about how a focus on the work of one author informs our understanding of modern literature
  • Critically assess the significance of biography to literary criticism
  • Describe and analyse the key characteristics of the literary culture of the 1940s
  • Assess the depiction of the Second World War and its effects in selected literary texts from the 1940s
  • Analyse the themes and formal characteristics of the texts studied


  • Two 2,500-word essays, each on a specific section of the module; the higher of the two marks will count for 70% of the module mark and the lower for 30%