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Four Nations of British Poetry: 1845-1940 - ENG00146M

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Matthew Campbell
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2022-23

Module summary

This module will look at the various ways in which the poetry written about England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland approached the question of imperial dominance and its end in conflict and political dissolution. It will begin by looking at Victorian English poets writing narrative poetry and lyric sequences about England, its regions and borders: Alfred Tennyson (Maud), AE Housman (A Shropshire Lad) and Thomas Hardy. It will end with other long poems looking back at the First World War experience and towards an even more uncertain future: by the Welsh poet David Jones (In Parenthesis), the Irish poet Louis MacNeice (Autumn Journal) and the American poet who was based in England, TS Eliot (‘East Coker’ in Four Quartets). In between it will look at shorter poems and lyric sequences from the UK concerned with political and religious belief or language and identity while finding new poetic forms for changed places. The Irish revolutionary period (W.B Yeats, Dora Sigerson) will feature, but also the matter of Scottish language and nationalism (Hugh McDiarmid) Other poets considered will include James Clarence Mangan, Jane Elgee / Wilde, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Although historical and geographical contexts will be important, emphasis in seminars will be on reading these poems with closeness and attention to the adjustments needed between world and word when sharing public themes. If the poets often respond with private belief or personal anxiety, they also respond in the aesthetic particularities of elegy, satire or even religious and love poetry. The course will also look at the afterlife of these issues, and will consider the interest of contemporary historical and literary studies with the post-Reformation four nations of the Atlantic archipelago, with vernacular literatures and with world English.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2023-24

Module aims

This module aims to examine lyric and narrative poetry of the period from 1845 to 1940. It will encourage the close reading of poetry against the specific historical and intellectual contexts of the end of Empire, colonialism, war and insurrection. Students will be introduced to new approaches to British literary history informed by a four-nations conception of the United Kingdom. The module will give students the opportunity to research closely the context of a significant period of British poetry. Students will also be given the opportunity to write a substantial piece of work about poetry in historical contexts.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students will be able:

·To have read a variety of narrative and lyric poems from the period

·To research independently into poetry and historical contexts

·To write with confidence about poetry in history


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
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 module tutor, the MA Convenor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours.

Indicative reading

Key texts: Alfred Tennyson, Maud; James Clarence Mangan and Jane Elgee (Speranza), poems of Young Ireland; AE Housman, A Shropshire Lad; David Jones, In Parenthesis; WB. Yeats and Dora Sigerson, poems of the Easter Rising; Hugh McDiarmid, A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle; Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal: T.S. Eliot ‘East Coker.

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.