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Unit information: Introduction to Literary Research in 2020/21

Unit name Introduction to Literary Research
Unit code ENGLM3029
Credit points 40
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Andrew Blades
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Focusing on writers such as Spenser, Shakespeare, Keats, Coleridge, Eliot, and Davis Foster Wallace the unit will enquire into the changing nature of texts, textual authority, and authorship, from the Renaissance to the present day. Approaching a diverse range of literary forms (including poems, letters, fragments, essays and anthologies), it will investigate when a collection of words becomes a literary text and how our understanding of texts is shaped by the ways in which they are presented, taking into account such things as paratexts, editing, and the physical aspects of the work. Different models of authorship will be compared, and texts will be considered both as social products and as the creations of a particular writer. The unit will also explore issues of book production and theories of editing; introduce students into some of the databases and tools of literary research; and introduce students to researching primary literary texts through the study of a particular and significant year in English literary history, with the aim of recovering the diversity of its literary production and considering how that diversity is represented by conventional literary histories.

Intended learning outcomes

1. A knowledge of some of the problems and questions surrounding textual editing. (For example: Should older literary texts be modernized, in spelling, punctuation, etc.? How should an editor handle a literary work that exists in more than one version? What should an editor do with a work that is collaborative, or which contains interventions by hands other than those of the author?)

2. An understanding of how to do literary research, both in terms of different methodologies critics employ and in terms of the various resources and databases which are available.

3. A greater awareness of how our understanding of texts in shaped by the way that they are presented, taking into account such things as paratexts, editing, and the physical aspects of how the work is presented.

4. Developing an appropriate style of critical writing for the discussion and analysis of literary texts.

5. A knowledge of how to devise annotated bibliographies.

6. Improving existing skills through independent reading, reasearch and writing on specific texts and topics.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities. These can include seminars, lectures, class discussion, formative tasks, small group work, and self-directed exercises.

Assessment Details

Three summative assignments: 3000 word essay (80%); 1000 word book review (10%); 1000 word bibliographical assignment (10%). Students will also give a 1000 word presentation.

Reading and References

Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (OUP, 1972, rev edn 1974)

D. C. Greetham, Textual Scholarship: An Introduction (New York: Garland, 1994)

Jerome J. McGann, A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983)

D. F. McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (CUP, 1999)

Michel Foucault, ‘What Is An Author’, in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: Random House, 1984), 101-20.

Roland Barthes, ‘The Death of the Author’, in Image-Music-Text, tr. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977), 142-8.