From Modernism to the Contemporary (TRU2011)

StaffDr Natalie Pollard - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value2.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module will introduce you to a range of literary texts from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present day. In so doing, it will familiarize the student with broad literary movements and cultural tendencies as well as responses to these movements. The module begins with an exploration of the stylistic experimentation of the modernist movement in British and American literature. It will focus on the modernist sense of social fragmentation, and the ensuing struggle to redefine the individual's position with regard to religion, myth and history, along with a range of developments in modernist studies that have sought to interrogate modernism from the perspectives of gender, race, place, class and sexuality. The second half of the module will move on to examine some of the literary forms that have characterized the later part of the twentieth century until the present day, including postmodernist, feminist and postcolonial literatures. Particular emphasis will be placed on the social contexts of such literature looking at its response to some of the central issues of late modernity and contemporary culture.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate informed appreciation of specific modern literary texts and authors.
  • 2. Demonstrate an in depth understanding of key trends and shifts in twentieth- and twentyfirst- century thought.
  • 3. Demonstrate a nuanced engagement with key literary approaches to the literature of the period.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate an ability to analyse this and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical context.
  • 5. Demonstrate an ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history.
  • 6. Demonstrate an ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary texts.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Through seminar work, demonstrate communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups.
  • 8. Through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose.
  • 9. Through research for seminars and essays, demonstrate proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.
  • 10. Through sitting their final examination, demonstrate proficiency in the use of memory and in the development, organization, and expression of ideas under pressure of time.

Syllabus plan

The module includes 6 lectures and 6 seminars. Content may involve study of the following:

  1. Selection of early twentieth-century poetry (e.g. Amy Lowell, Ezra Pound, Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein)

  2. Selection of early twentieth-century short fiction (e.g. Saki, Henry James, Ronald Firbank, E.M. Forster)

  3. Modernism and the novel (e.g. Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse)

  4. Modernism and drama (e.g. Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot)

  5. Late twentieth-century fiction (e.g. Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions)

  6. Late-twentieth-century and contemporary poetry: Innovation and Embodiment (e.g. Sylvia Plath, Harryette Mullen, Don Paterson, avant-garde British poets)

Contemporary world literatures: student vote. A selection of short fiction (e.g. Xialou Guo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Justin Torres)

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Lecture (1hr x 6)6Large group teaching
Seminar (2.5hr x 6)15Small Group teaching
Guided Independent Study129Seminar preparation and assessment

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay draft 500 words1-4, 6Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Exam1001.51-4, 7Written and option for oral feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExamExam 1.5 hour1-4, 7REF/DEF

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Michael Levenson, Cambridge Companion to Modernism (CUP, 2000)

Susan Stanford Friedman, Mappings: Feminism and the Cultural Geographies of Encounter (Princeton UP, 1998)

Peter Howarth, The Cambridge Introduction to Modernist Poetry (CUP, 2012)

Jerome Klinkowitz, Kurt Vonnegut’s America (South Carolina UP, 2012)

Erin Fallon et al (eds), A Reader’s Companion to the Short Story in English (Routledge, 2001)

Bonnie Kime Scott, ed., Gender in Modernism: New Geographies, Complex Intersections (University of Illinois Press, 2007)

Kate MacDonald and Christopher, Transitions in Middlebrow Writing, 1880-1930 (Palgrave, 2015)

Katherine H. Burkman, ed., Myth and Ritual in the Plays of Samuel Beckett (Associated University Presses, 1987)

Lara Feigal and Alexandra Harris (eds), Modernism on the Sea: Art and Culture at the British Seaside (Peter Lang, 2009)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Further reading materials and resources will be made available on ELE

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Key words search

Modernism, Postmodernism, Contemporary Literature