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Modernism & Technology - ENG00083H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Nicoletta Asciuto
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

Today, we tend to take technological advancements for granted. The twentieth century has generated a frenetic turnover of technologies which have shaped, and continue to shape, our interaction with the world, and with other human beings — the radio, television, telephone, the Internet, the machine, airplanes, are only few of the revolutionary technological advancements brought forward in the long twentieth century. This advanced option module will focus on the moment in history where we can find the germs for most of the technologies we still make use of today: the turn of the twentieth century. We will examine the outbreak of this “new modernity”, how people reacted to technological transitions, and its representations in literature. Did you know, for example, that E. M. Forster imagined something resembling Skype in one of his short stories? Or that some Western writers would make stances against electric light? Can you guess the revolution in literary narratives brought about by the proliferation of telephones?

This special module will investigate the literary representations of what were considered new technologies in the early twentieth century, with particular focus on electricity and electric light, the typewriter, communication technologies (telephone and radio), visual technologies (cinema and photography), and means of transport (railways, tramcars, cars and motorcycles). Whilst the focus of this special module will be literary Modernism, with canonical writers such as T. S. Eliot, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, we will consider the time period more broadly to include late Victorian and Edwardian writers, as well as authors tangential to Modernism (i.e. Evelyn Waugh, Elizabeth Bowen, F. Scott Fitzgerald), including some contemporaneous avant-garde movements (i.e. Imagism and Futurism). The module will thus not only act as a bridge creating relevant connections between Victorian and Modernist literature, but also resort to the avant-gardes, which will inform our understanding of the period and its literary production and provide an important point of comparison and contrast.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

The main aim of this module is to study a range of texts reflecting people’s and writers’ reception of new technologies and the effect these had on their imagination and perception of reality. It will also encourage an interdisciplinary, historically-attuned approach, bringing various literary texts together in a comparative fashion. It will also help students create connections between Victorian and Modernist literature.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students should have:

  • explored a variety of texts (Late Victorian, Modernist, the Avant-gardes) that experiment with literary expression and representation informed by technological change, and also acquired an ability to make connections between Victorian and Modernist literature;

  • gained a good understanding of some of the intellectual, artistic, and technological contexts shaping early-twentieth-century literature;

  • considered some major critical issues and topics raised by the employment of technology in literature;

  • developed their own approaches and interpretations of the role played by technology in early twentieth-century literature.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

  • You will be given the opportunity to hand in a 1000 word formative essay in the term in which the module is taught (usually in the week 7 seminar).  Material from this essay may be re-visited in your summative essay and it is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. This essay will be submitted in hard copy and your tutor will annotate it and return it two weeks later (usually in your week 9 seminar).  Summary feedback will be uploaded to your eVision account.  All students will have the opportunity to give an in-class individual presentation during a seminar in weeks 2-9.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours
  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Key texts for this module are likely to include the following. Current students should consult the VLE site for a current reading list:

E. M. Forster, 'The Machine Stops'

James Joyce, 'After the Race'

T. S. Eliot, poems from Prufrock and Other Observations

Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies

A selection of poetry in English (ca. 1880-1930)

Rudyard Kipling, 'Wireless'

Katherine Mansfield, 'The Little Governess'

Jean Toomer, 'Bona and Paul'

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Futurist Manifesto

John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.