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Unit information: Aesthetic Possibilities in 2015/16

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Unit name Aesthetic Possibilities
Unit code ENGL39029
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Wright
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit explores writing on aesthetics and ethics in relation to literary form and style between c.1790 and 1960. Topics we discuss are likely to include: the representation of beauty and artistry in literature and their bearing on ethical concerns, such as the health of the mind or the nation; the ways that texts examine the relation between social realities and imaginative possibilities; how ideas about hope and expectation are explored in texts, and how readers’ hopes and expectations are in turn shaped by text; the ways that literature has been thought culturally beneficial, and how such views fare with the advance of aestheticism, or in the face of the atrocities of war; how national, personal, or artistic ‘success’ or ‘failure’ might be defined, and to what purpose; what authors and critics have considered to be the possibilities of literary art, and how literary art explores ideas about possibility.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will have:

  1. developed a detailed knowledge and understanding of writing on aesthetics and ethics in relation to literary form and style 1790-1960;
  2. developed a critical understanding of the aesthetic and ethical concerns that influence this body of literature;
  3. acquired the ability to analyse and evaluate differing critical accounts of the primary literature;
  4. demonstrated the ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence in order to illustrate a cogent argument;
  5. strengthened skills in argumentation, academic writing, and evaluation of textual evidence from a variety of poems, novels and other writings.

Both summative elements will assess (1) knowledge and understanding of selected literary texts 1790-1960; test (2) students' understanding of the aesthetic and ethical concerns that inform this literature. In addition, the essays will examine (3, 4, and 5) students’ ability to analyse and assess competing accounts of the primary texts; their ability to adduce pertinent textual (primary and secondary) in support of their arguments, and their ability to present that argument lucidly and in accordance with academic conventions.

Teaching Information

1 x 2 hour seminar.

Assessment Information

  • 1 essay of 2,000 words (40%)
  • 1 essay of 3,000 words (60%)

Both summative essays map onto ILOs 1-5.

Reading and References

Robert Browning, The Ring and the Book (1868-9)

Henry James, Roderick Hudson (1875)

George Eliot, Daniel Deronda (1876)

Christina Rossetti, A Pageant and Other Poems (1881)

Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure (1895)

Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway (1925)

Samuel Beckett, The Complete Dramatic Works