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Unit information: The Art of Grief in 2021/22

Unit name The Art of Grief
Unit code ENGL20116
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Baden-Daintree
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit explores the ways in which writers and artists respond to grief and bereavement. Drawing on a range of media including novels, memoirs, poetic elegies, children’s books, photography, textile art, podcasts and landscape installations, the seminars on this unit explore the ways in which various theoretical approaches to grief and mourning inform creative responses. The unit will appeal to students with an interest in the relationships between art and literature, and literature and medicine.

Seminars will explore the tradition of elegy in poetry from the sixteenth century to the present day, and its influence on other art forms, together with the psychoanalytical basis of contemporary elegiac theory. Recent developments in bereavement theory are in opposition to many influential medical approaches to grief, yet such models continue to inform the creative arts, as well as literary critical approaches to such work.

The unit will also consider the role of natural settings and imagery in the art and literature of mourning.

Students will be given the opportunity to submit a draft or outline of their final, summative essay of up to 1,500 words and to receive feedback on this.

Unit Aims:

  • To introduce students to a wide range of creative responses to grief, loss, bereavement and commemoration, with a particular focus on elegiac poetry.
  • To develop an overview of theoretical and critical approaches to writing on loss and bereavement and the application of these to a range of literary texts and other art forms.
  • To explore the influence of elegy on a range of literary and visual art forms, in both personal and public mourning and commemoration, and the interactions between literature and material culture.

Intended Learning Outcomes

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

1. demonstrate a detailed knowledge of a range of grief and bereavement-related materials; this may include poetic elegies, novels, children’s books, elegiac memoirs and examples of visual and material culture from the sixteenth century to the present day.

2. reflect critically on ways in which social and cultural environment affect the creative expression of grief and mourning.

3. apply a critical understanding of the development of the elegiac mode in English poetry to a range of source materials and assess its influence on a range of visual arts and other literary forms.

4. demonstrate a critical understanding of a range of theoretical, social, psychoanalytical, and religious responses to bereavement, together with the ability to relate this historical perspective to current bereavement practice.

5. demonstrate skills in academic writing, close textual analysis, argumentation, and evaluation of evidence from primary texts, other primary source material and critical literature.

Teaching Information

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Information

  • 1 x 3000 word essay (100%) [ILOs 1-5]


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. ENGL20116).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.