BA English Language and Literature: modules and course structure

The below information is relevant to both our single honours English Language and Literature course (Q304) and our dual honours English Language and Sociology course (QL33).

Over the course of each academic year at Sheffield, you will need to study modules that equate to the value of 120 credits. Some of these credits will be taken up by our core modules, which are designed to give you the breadth of knowledge and ways of thinking necessary to the degree being awarded. For your remaining credits, you will be able to choose from an extensive range of optional modules, allowing you to shape your degree to the topics that interest you.

You will take the following core modules in year one:

Core modules

Practical Stylists

Core module, 20 credits

On this module, we will explore the language of literary texts and find out how we can use a range of linguistic models to investigate different textual effects. We will look at a wide variety of prose fiction, dramatic, and poetic texts, taken from a range of literary genres and periods. The module also investigates the language of newspaper journalism and politics. In particular, we will think about:

  • The linguistic patterns contained within literary texts
  • How literary worlds are created and structured
  • The development of narrative and how different perspectives are presented in texts
  • How power is communicated and manipulated through language

Among other things, you will learn how Jane Austen constructs voices and personalities for her characters, how Tony Harrison uses pronouns to move his readers, how Kurt Vonnegut manipulates our expectations of narrative structure, and how politicians use language to win the trust of disillusioned voters. The module takes a practical and hands-on approach and it will equip you with the linguistic and analytical tools you need to undertake your own stylistic analyses and uncover the inner workings of literary language.

Sounds of English

Core module, 10 credits

This module is an introduction to the sub disciplines of Linguistics known as Phonetics and Phonology, focusing specifically on the sounds of the English language. It is designed to provide a sound basic understanding of the key concepts and terminology necessary to describe and explain the sounds of English and of other languages. It will equip students with the practical skills necessary to transcribe and write about sounds.  It serves as an essential basis for more advanced linguistic study.

Structures of English

Core module, 10 credits

This module provides an introduction to basic sentence structures and related linguistic terminologies, comparing  the morphological and syntactic structure of contemporary dialects of English to those of other languages. It runs in parallel with its 10-credit sister module Sounds of English (ELL112), and is designed to provide a firm grounding in the description and analysis of sentence structure(s). The module will also offer a brief introduction to English semantics, serving as an essential basis for more advanced linguistic study.

+ 20 credits of Literature modules

Modules you can choose from might include: Contemporary Literature (20 credits), Introduction to Creative Writing (20 credits), Shakespeare (20 credits), Introduction to Cinema (20 credits), Studying Theatre (20 credits) Foundations in Literary Study: Biblical and Classical Sources in English (20 credits) and Renaissance to Revolution (20 credits, autumn semester only).

Optional modules

You will also take a minimum of 20 credits from the following list. For your remaining 40 credits, you may choose modules from the list below, or you can take up to 40 credits of unrestricted modules from across the University of Sheffield. 

Varieties of English

Optional module, 20 credits

This course explores the extraordinary diversity of the English language today, and is concerned with describing the features, use and status of contemporary varieties of English in Britain and around the world. Extraterritorial varieties are located within histories of expansion, colonialism, and globalisation, and considered in relation to the role of English as an international language. We investigate developments which led to the social and geographic distribution of certain present day varieties in Britain. Students will apply tools of description for all linguistic levels, and develop awareness of sociolinguistic aspects of language such as social indexing, attitudes and standardisation, as well as the relationship between variation and change.

History of English

Optional module, 20 credits

Early Englishes works backward over a whole millennium of English, 1600 to 600. Each week's lectures and seminar focus on one century and one text representative of that century (for example, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Beowulf). We will use a variety of techniques - literary, linguistic, anthropological, cultural historical - to analyse each text, thereby opening up discussion of the issues that preoccupied the English of the time, from glorious monster-slaying to the slow surrender of pagan belief to terror at the imminent arrival of Antichrist and on to the first expressions of love and desire. Texts will initially be studied in translation so no prior knowledge of Old or Middle English is necessary, but students will also be given the opportunity to examine texts in the original language.

Celtic Languages and Literatures: an Introduction

Optional module, 20 credits

In this module students are introduced to the Celtic languages and literatures of the British Isles from the earliest times to the present. Students gain a basic understanding of the relationships between the various Celtic languages and major developments within them. The literature studied spans a broad chronological range from early medieval texts such as the Welsh Gododdin and the Irish Cattle Raid of Coooley to the work of modern authors, and students will develop an understanding of the broad outlines of the Irish-language and Welsh-language literary traditions. All texts will be read in translation.

Early Englishes

Optional module, 20 credits

Early Englishes works backward over a whole millennium of English, 1600 to 600. Each week's lectures and seminar focus on one century and one text representative of that century (for example, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Beowulf). We will use a variety of techniques - literary, linguistic, anthropological, cultural historical - to analyse each text, thereby opening up discussion of the issues that preoccupied the English of the time, from glorious monster-slaying to the slow surrender of pagan belief to terror at the imminent arrival of Antichrist and on to the first expressions of love and desire. Texts will initially be studied in translation so no prior knowledge of Old or Middle English is necessary, but students will also be given the opportunity to examine texts in the original language.

Linguistic Theory

Optional module, 20 credits

This module explores how language is structured by examining central issues in linguistic theory, building upon the concepts introduced in Sounds of English and Structures of English. Students will be instructed in (1) foundational theories and concepts in areas such as phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics, (2) the linguistic evidence that informs these approaches, (3) the analytical techniques required to apply these theories to language data, and (4) the relevance of such theoretical models for the wider study of language. The module will develop analytical tools in using linguistic theory, training students to rigorously interpret language data within theoretical frameworks.

This module is a prerequisite for the following second year modules: Syntax (ELL221), Semantics (ELL222), Language Acquisition (ELL226) and Phonology (ELL232).

Introduction to Creative Writing

Optional module, 20 credits

The aim of this module is to help students to develop their expressive and technical skills in writing poetry and prose, and to improve their abilities as an editor and critic of their own and other people's writing. Students will be guided in the production of new work and encouraged to develop an analytical awareness of both the craft elements and the wider cultural and theoretical contexts of writing. This module explores poetic techniques for creating new poems and narrative techniques for generating some prose work through the critical study of published examples, imaginative exercises, discussion and feedback on students' own writing. This exploration will help students to develop their own creative work while sharpening critical appreciation of published poetry and modern and contemporary fiction. The course is designed to give students the experience of being workshopped as well as to establish basic creative writing techniques to prepare students for creative writing modules in years two and three. 

Contemporary Literature

Optional module, 20 credits

This module introduces students to a diverse range of contemporary texts in English (prose, poetry, and film). Texts will be chosen to provoke thinking and debate on topics that might include: globalisation and neoliberalism; ecology and animal lives; artificial intelligence and the post human; political activism and social justice; migration and displacement; state violence and armed conflict. We will discuss formally and conceptually challenging works, raise ethical and philosophical questions and begin to discover how current critical and theoretical approaches can help us to engage with literature of ‘the now’.

Shakespeare

Optional module, 20 credits

This module introduces students to the plays and poetry of William Shakespeare. Students will read a wide range of his works and will analyse them in the context of the cultural and historical energies of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England.  We will consider the range of dramatic styles and genres that he engages, alongside the conditions of performance, kinds of publication, and the characteristics of the language in which he worked.  We shall also relate the texts to critical methods that help illuminate the relationships between drama and the culture, politics, and religion of the period.

Introduction to Cinema

Optional module, 20 credits

This module gives the student the opportunity to study a series of films from a variety of national cinemas of the 20th and 21st centuries. In a series of weekly lectures and seminars, students will develop an understanding of the fundamental institutional and industrial characteristics of film history and production well as of the conventions of style in a range of contrasting national cinemas.

Studying Theatre: A History of Dramatic Texts in Performance 

Optional module, 20 credits

This module introduces you to key dramatic texts from Ancient Greece to the present. Each week you will study a particular play, and the historical, ideological and social contexts that informed its composition, its first performances, and its theatrical afterlife. We will talk about the play in performance, and the processes that underlie its production - about acting, directing, design and economics – with the emphasis on theatre as a complex and practical discipline. In recent years the course texts have included work by playwrights such as Sophocles, John Vanbrugh, William Shakespeare, Alfred Jarry, Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, Caryl Churchill and Debbie Tucker Green. The aim is to develop your understanding of a range of seminal Western theatre texts and further your ability to analyse the connections between different styles and forms of theatre and the societies out of which they have emerged. This relationship is something you will return to throughout your degree as we examine how theatre and performance represent, critique and illuminate the society that produces them.

Foundations in Literary Study: Biblical and Classical Sources in English

Optional module, 20 credits

The Bible, Greek and Roman mythology, represent some of the central sources for European literary imaginations.  Their themes inform writing of all periods and genres, from Dante Alighieri to Philip Pullman, from phrases like 'a wolf in sheep's clothing' to Virginia Woolf. Their authors have inspired the creation of figures such as Aeneas, Beelzebub, Faustus, Odysseus and Satan; the representation of Eve and Judas, of 'sin', 'betrayal', 'the underworld' or 'hell'; of 'redemption', 'metamorphosis' and a variety of allegorical modes.  When we understand the ways in which biblical and classical writers shaped their narratives, and how creative authors revised, resisted or radicalised their themes, we have several important keys to unlock crucial facets of English literary tradition. When we appreciate the rich linguistic heritage of sources like the 1611 King James Bible we can recognise the origin of many familiar and reworked phrases (not all of them tasty): 'bite the dust'; 'forbidden fruit'; 'skin of my teeth'; 'fatted calf'.

Renaissance to Revolution

Optional module, 20 credits - students wishing to take this module must begin it in the Autumn semester

This module surveys the poetry and prose from the early modern period in England.  We will look at different genres, from court complaint to sonnets, prose fiction, erotic verse, restoration drama and the works of writers such as Donne, Herbert, Spenser, Marlowe, Dyrden, Milton and Pope. The texts studied will be related to critical methods that help us understand the relationships between literature and its cultural, political and historical contexts.

In the second year, you take two core English Language and Literature modules, one in each semester. These modules continue the work that you began in Practical Stylistics, exploring the language of literary and non-literary texts.

The History of Persuasion

Core module, 20 credits

We shall look at a number of text-types associated with particular domains: journalism, advertising, political speaking, science writing, and preaching. We shall use the tools of stylistics and textual analysis to look at what counts as authoritative or persuasive communication in each area. For example, contemporary journalism makes use of very distinctive methods of structuring narrative, while in science writing it is common to write in a highly impersonal style rarely found in other contexts. We shall think about why these stylistic characteristics have come to be associated with these different types of writing, looking at the history of each and also its status in present-day culture and society.

Writing the Real

Core module, 20 credits

This module explores the often problematic relationship between literature and 'the real world', using a range of stylistic approaches. We will consider why 'realism' is such a difficult term to get to grips with; why describing a fictional or dramatic text as 'realistic' can be a very politically charged act; how ideas of 'the real' have changed over time; and what effects the inclusion of 'real' materials into fictional works may have. We will explore 'the real' in a wide range of prose and drama texts, including works by George Eliot and Kurt Vonnegut. 

You will then choose at least one module from English Language, and one from English Literature.

For your remaining 40 credits, you will take at least 20 credits within the School of English, which may be within English Language or English Literature. For a list of the optional modules you may be able to choose from in your second year, see our English Literature and English Language and Linguistics modules pages.

In the third year, you take at least two specialist modules that bring language and literature together. These modules allow you to specialise a little as you come to the end of your course, and work with a member of staff on an area that is closely related to his or her own research. The modules on offer change from year to year, but could include some or all of the following: Dialect in Film and Literature, Narrative Style in the Contemporary Novel, Cognitive Poetics, Researching Real Readers. You may also take a Language and Literature dissertation.

You will then choose at least one module from English Language, and one from English Literature.

For your remaining 40 credits, you will take at least 20 credits within the School of English which may be within English Language or English Literature. For a list of the optional modules you may be able to choose from in your third year, see our English Literature and English Language and Linguistics modules pages. 

Teaching

Throughout your degree, you will be taught through a mixture of lectures and seminars. Lectures are designed to give you a grounding in a particular topic and to introduce you to the surrounding theories, concepts and ideas. Seminars give you the chance to explore these topics in greater depth, to develop your own ideas and to share these through discussion with your tutors and fellow students.

Assessment

The essay is the staple of assessment for Language and Literature students, allowing you to develop your writing skills through a continual process of practice and feedback. There are also a small number of traditional timed exams. Depending on the modules you choose, you’ll also experience a range of other assessment methods such as creating websites, group presentations, completing learning journals or designing posters.


The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research, funding changes, professional accreditation requirements, student or employer feedback, outcomes of reviews, and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

Information last updated: 30 September 2019


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