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Unit information: Literature 1900-present in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Literature 1900-present
Unit code ENGL20064
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Maude
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit aims to introduce students to the breadth of British, Irish and Commonwealth writing of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It will encourage them to think about some of the major literary genres, movements and contexts of the age, including modernism, colonial and postcolonial writings, Absurdism, postmodernism, and beyond. The unit will also consider some of the most pressing intellectual, ideological and artistic debates of the long twentieth century through its literatures, discussing issues such as the impact of technological advances; nationhood and nationalism; exile and diaspora; war and conflict; nostalgia and Utopianism; the politics of racial, religious and gender identity; and the role of ‘culture’ and art in the public arena. Alternating between weeks centred on the study of core texts and weeks on these particular topics, genres, movements and contexts, the unit will encourage students to make connections across texts, and to use the core reading as a starting point for further exploration, both in their work for this unit and on the Later Literature options at H/6.

Students will practice their close reading skills in small groups, and will work together on a group presentation.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate a detailed knowledge and understanding of key literary texts and authors of the period;
  2. apply a critical understanding of historical and cultural contexts to readings of twentieth and twenty-first-century literature;
  3. discriminate between and evaluate differing critical perspectives on the primary literature;
  4. identify and critically assess pertinent evidence in order to illustrate a cogent argument;
  5. demonstrate the skills to work collaboratively;
  6. demonstrate skills in close textual analysis, argumentation, and critical interpretation appropriate to level I/5 using evidence from primary texts and secondary sources.

Teaching details


3 x one hour lectures

1 x two hour seminar

Assessment Details


  • One 1500 word (33%) [ILOs 1-4].
  • One 2500 word essay (67%) [ILOs 1-5]


1 x group presentation (ILOs 5 and 6)

Reading and References

T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922)

Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (1925)

Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart (1938)

Samuel Beckett, Endgame (1957)

Seamus Heaney, North (1975)

Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000)