Module code: ELI1033

Module Overview

This module introduces students to key theoretical debates and critical methodologies relating to literature and literary studies. It extends the student's knowledge of the different approaches we can take to literary studies, the various questions we can ask of literature, and the diverse forms of knowledge and insight that the study of literature can yield. Simultaneously, it allows students to identify the approaches and concerns in which they have been previously (and often unwittingly) been trained and those which most interest them going forward; it then helps them develop and enhance their understanding and application of their preferred methodologies. The module is in this way both complementary and foundational to all the other modules students will take in both their first year and in subsequent years: it gives them a vital tool-kit they will deploy on all modules. Topics and methodologies to be explored include questions of form and the close reading of literary texts; the political and ideological implications of literary texts; the interrelationships between texts, genres and culture more generally; the relationship between texts and their various historical contexts; and the evolution of the academic discipline of English Literature from the early 20th to the early 21st century. Students are trained not only to understand some of the most influential literary theories and methodologies, but also to appraise, compare and critique these different approaches. They will also undertake their own theoretically-informed critical analyses of literary texts, thereby also developing their ability to apply different methodologies and theoretical approaches. The module's themes and focus are then extended by the semester 2 companion module ELI1011 Theories of Reading II, which continues the survey of key literary theories. Both these modules form a foundation for levels 5 and 6 where the theoretical knowledge and application skills will be further reinforced.

Module provider

School of Literature and Languages

Module Leader

THOMPSON Carl (Lit & Langs)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 4

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 80

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 37

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative Content May Include:

  • Formalism

  • Structuralism

  • Psychoanalytic literary theory

  • Marxist literary theory

  • Literary theory and issues of race, gender and sexuality

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework ESSAY (1500 WORDS) 75

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate achievement of the module learning outcomes.

Seminar discussion with ongoing formative feedback from tutors is designed mainly to develop transferable skills in working as part of a group and practical/professional skills in expressing complex ideas and performing critical analysis through oral communication. It also develops subject knowledge in the different forms of critical theory used in English literature and cognitive/analytical skills in critical thinking and in using theory in the close reading of literary texts.

The summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • Critical analysis (500 words)

  • Essay (1500 words)

The critical analysis and essay are designed to assess both subject knowledge in the different forms of critical theory used in English literature and also cognitive/analytical skills in critical thinking, in using theory in the close reading of literary texts, and in thinking more broadly about cultural forms and processes: this supports Surrey's key learning pillar on GLOBAL AND CULTURAL CAPABILITIES. They also assess practical/professional skills in expressing ideas and critical analysis in written communication and transferable skills in working independently: this supports Surrey's key pillars of EMPLOYABILITY and also (in the online research required for the assignments) DIGITAL CAPABILITIES.

The critical analysis requires students to apply a specific literary theory or methodology in the close reading of a selected short text; it also requires them to discuss and appraise the theory they have chosen. The final essay then requires students to compare, contrast, appraise and critique two different theoretical approaches, thereby training them in critical thinking and more abstract theoretical thinking.

The deadline for the critical analysis is usually in the middle of the first term. The feedback offered on this assessment can therefore feed forward to inform the final summative assessment, i.e. the essay.

Formative assessment and feedback Verbal feedback and formative feed forward is provided through seminar discussions, and tutor and peer feedback in seminars. Writing, presentation and critical analysis skills will be developed and honed which will feed forward to the summative assessment at the end of the module.

There is the option of a range of other feedback mechanisms agreed between tutor and students in week 1 of the module, such as seminar contribution and writing exercises.

Module aims

  • The module aims to: Introduce a broad range of literary theories
  • develop the conceptual skills necessary for understanding, comparing and critiquing literary theories
  • develop the ability to apply theory to literary texts, in particular through the process of close reading
  • develop skills in oral and written communication
  • develop the ability to work independently and as part of a seminar group

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 By the end of the module students will be able to: understand the different forms of literary theory used in the study of English Literature K
002 Use theory in the close reading of literary texts C
003 Carry out analysis, evaluation and critical thinking C
004 Express ideas and critical analysis in both oral and written communication P
005 Work independently and as part of a seminar group T

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to introduce students to subject knowledge, to develop cognitive/analytical skills, and to develop transferable, practical and professional skills (Employability). Specifically, the weekly lectures deliver subject knowledge related to the different forms of critical theory used in English Literature and develop cognitive/analytical skills in using theory in the close reading of literary texts and in critical thinking. The weekly seminars offer student-led discussions that develop skills in expressing ideas and critical analysis in oral communication, and in working as part of a seminar group (T).

This relates to the programme learning and teaching strategy, which, at FHEQ Level 4, is designed to introduce students to subject knowledge through the lectures and further resources on SurreyLearn. SurreyLearn also enables students to develop IT skills in accessing and utilising resources (Digital Capabilities). Seminars, in which students are expected to have done core reading and to discuss this in class, serve to ground this subject knowledge further and to give students a reasonable level of attainment in cognitive/analytical, practical/professional and transferable skills. Discussions in seminars and workshops aim to give students further practical and transferable skills in working with others and in using rhetorical skills for argument.

The learning and teaching methods include a combination of lecture materials, seminars, captured content, guided learning and independent learning

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ELI1033

Other information

Surrey's Curriculum Framework is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:

Digital Capabilities: The module requires students to use and navigate Surrey University¿s Virtual Learning Environment, SurreyLearn. The supplementary captured content supplied to them via SurreyLearn requires them to navigate other online resources (for example, YouTube). For assignments, they must draw on a variety of online research tools (for example, the University Library¿s online catalogue and its various databases; Google Scholar; JSTOR) to identify relevant critical and theoretical material. Two skills sessions, in the middle and at the end of the syllabus, are built into the module to help students develop and improve these digital research capabilities.

Employability: The module develops a variety of important transferable skills. These include the ability to process quickly large amounts of information and complex ideas, and then to summarize, appraise and critique these ideas both through oral communication (in seminar discussions) and through written reports (the two summative assignments). The written assignments must also be written, proof-read, formatted and referenced to a high standard: training in all these aspects of the assignments is given in the module's two skills sessions.

Global and Cultural Capabilities: The module provides an important intellectual and conceptual tool-kit for understanding, articulating and critiquing many of the fundamental structures and processes that underpin any culture, past or present, local or global. The intersections between culture, politics and economic systems, for example, are explored in several sessions, while others address the global legacies and psychological/cultural effects of colonialism and empire. English literature and its study are also explored from many different cultural perspectives, with being taken to ensure diversity in the texts and theorists we use as the starting points for debate.

Sustainability: This module does not address questions of sustainability directly (though this Pillar is picked up more explicitly in the companion module which includes sessions on the new field of ecocriticism). However, it trains students in techniques of critical thinking and cultural analysis which must necessarily underpin any attempt to think strategically and on a large scale about issues of sustainability and environmentalism. It also gives them a solid grounding in issues of intersectionality, which again necessarily form an important component in any attempt to devise a truly sustainable society

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
English Literature and Spanish BA (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
English Literature with German BA (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
English Literature and French BA (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
English Literature BA (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
English Literature with Creative Writing BA (Hons) 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2023/4 academic year.