The Literature subject stream equips students with the skills and techniques to discriminate between literature and other forms of writing and representation, taking account of contemporary perspectives in criticism and theory, including feminism, historicism and post-modernism. Irish, British, American and other literature in English will be evaluated in terms of their contribution to cultural formation. Students will encounter competing ideas about writing and literature, within different historical and national frameworks.
The information below is provided in order that students may gain a reasonable impression of module content. This information is also provided specifically so that students may use it to inform any exemption applications they may make. However, modules are regularly updated and therefore the content of these modules, may differ from what is stated below.
For full module information please click on the relevant module title below.
Lit1: What is Literature
The first unit of this module is ‘How do we read literature?’ This is a question that preoccupies even the most experienced of readers and this module aims to set students on the path to finding their answers to it. It introduces literature from a number of genres and periods: drama is represented by Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams, poetry by a detailed examination of Yeats, short story writing by Joyce, and the novel by Dickens’s Great Expectations and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. These works are approached using a variety of strategies including close reading and an analysis of form, historical context, and critical theories such as psychoanalysis. In addition to this the module equips students with the study skills needed to successfully study literature at third level.
Lit2: Literatures of the Twentieth Century
This module draws on the works of English, Irish and American authors. It begins with the question ‘what is modern?’ and leads students through key modernist prose and poetry by T.S. Eliot, Woolf, Joyce, Wallace Stevens and Elizabeth Bishop. The drama section deals with European playwrights whose work was particularly influential in English translation as well as Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Later twentieth-century works include John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Irish writers such as Elizabeth Bowen, Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien. Although very varied, the writing of this period is characterised by experimentation and the imperative to ‘make it new!’
Lit3: Literatures of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
The module opens in the mid-seventeenth century with a unit called ‘An Incendiary Age.’ The warfare that ravages the three kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland finds expressions as various as celebrations of Cromwell, attacks on censorship, and John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. The period in which John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress, an allegory of Christian life, also witnessed the sexual revelry and scepticism of Restoration poetry and drama. The eighteenth century was a golden age of prose, including Swift’s satirical suggestion that the Irish could sustain themselves by eating the babies of impoverished families, the refined feeling of ‘the rise of the novel,’ and the birth of Gothic fiction.
Lit4: The Renaissance
The Renaissance – roughly the period spanning the sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century – is an era marked by well-known political figures such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, as well as famous authors including Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, and John Donne. This module focuses on drama and poetry that ranges from the gruesome violence of tragedies, through the troubles of lovers, to the meditative calm of religious verse. In doing so it deals with the traditional canonical writers of the era as well as introducing students to texts that have only recently received critical attention (such as the earliest female writers of modern English).
Lit5: 19th Century: Romanticism to Victorianism
This module begins with Romanticism and the revolutionary movements in France, America and Ireland at the end of the eighteenth century, and ends with the social upheaval of the Industrial Revolution that was ongoing throughout the Victorian period. The module includes the most influential Romantic writers including Wordsworth, Coleridge, the Shelleys, Byron and Keats. As well as dealing with celebrations and critiques of the everyday, it deals with exotic worlds in Frankenstein, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and the literature produced under the influence of opium. The Victorian section draws on some of the best-known novelists in English – Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy – and includes units on crime fiction, empire and religious controversy. In the work of Wilde students meet the fin-de-siècle, the end of the Victorians and one of the roots of the modern.
Lit6: Contemporary and Late Twentieth Century Literature
This module deals with contemporary novels, films, poetry and drama from across the English-speaking world. The themes of nation, race, gender and sexuality are addressed against backgrounds that include rural Ireland, Nigeria, the West Indies, post-9/11 America, Spaghetti Westerns and the fictionalised trenches of Pat Barker’s World War I novel, Regeneration. Old and new Englands and Irelands jostle one another in the poetry of Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Ted Hughes and Carol Ann Duffy. This module aims to prepare students for the proliferation of English literatures that are encountered in our time. It also introduces students to a different form of academic writing as it involves the completion of a dissertation instead of a final examination.