This module focuses upon the essay as a critical practice and a literary form. The essay is fundamental to literary criticism, and basic to assessment across your degree. But the essay is also a literary and popular-cultural genre in its own right, a form that marks the invention of the individual and the compulsion to, as Virginia Woolf puts it, ‘write one’s self’. During the course of this module, you will both hone your own skills as literary essayists—writers writing about writing—and weigh up the historical and thematic proportions of the essay as a form. You will explore the eccentricities and paradoxes of essay-writing across history, through ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, from its origins in the sixteenth century to popular journalism and blogs in our own time. In doing so, you will look closely at essayists’ choices of writing style, rhetoric, evidence, and argument—criteria that are fundamental to succeeding in and enjoying our discipline, and to our work as critical readers and individual writers.
Aims and Objectives
Knowledge and Understanding
Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:
- Use independent and self-reflective critical judgement
- Appreciate different contexts and purposes for writing
- Better develop your thoughts through the writing process;
The module will introduce students to principles of rhetoric, composition and discourse as they relate to their own writing and to reading literary texts. It will engage with a range of texts, including classical and historical texts on rhetoric, historical and contemporary essays.
Learning and Teaching
Teaching and learning methods
The module weekly allocation of two one-hour teaching periods will be used flexibly for lectures, seminar and small group discussions. A range of summative writing exercises will be used, with some micro-writing exercises and peer assessment exercises taking place in class times.
This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.
|Wider reading or practice||15|
|Completion of assessment task||40|
|Preparation for scheduled sessions||54|
|Total study time||150|
Resources & Reading list
John Gross (2008). The Oxford Book of the Essay. Oxford.
Gertrude Himmelfarb (2009). The Spirit of the Age: Victorian Essays. New Haven.
Ian Hamilton (2000). The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century Essays. London.
Denise Gigante (2008). The Great Age of the English Essay. New Haven.
Philip Lopate (1994). The Art of the Personal Essay. New York.
Carl H. Klaus and Ned Stuckey-French (2012). Essayists on the Essay: Montaigne to Our Time. Iowa City.
Summative assessment description
Referral assessment description
Repeat type: Internal & External