Changing Literatures: From Chaucer to the Contemporary

In your first module in the School of English, you will gain an overview of the whole history of English literature, from the time of Geoffrey Chaucer to the present day. You will study some of the most famous works of poetry, drama and fiction of all time, and will discover some extraordinarily funny, sad and brilliant books which aren’t so well known.

At University level, you are expected to read a wider variety of texts than at secondary school. It is a very good idea to try and get on top of your reading in advance. For Changing Literatures, the four set books are:

  • Francis Beaumont, The Knight of the Burning Pestle, ed. Sheldon P. Zitner (Manchester University Press, 2004). One of the funniest comedies on the Elizabethan stage.
  • Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (London: Faber and Faber, 1968). A brilliant satire of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and a classic ‘postmodern’ text about the meaninglessness of existence.
  • Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, ed. Joanna Lipking (New York: Norton, 1997). One of the first novels ever written in English, and a powerful tale about slavery in the early British Empire.
  • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, ed. James Kinsley (Oxford University Press, 2019). One of the most popular novels in the English language, and certainly one of the best.

All these books will be available in the on campus bookstore, with special discounts available for School of English students.

You will also be provided with a free module reader, containing a whole range of other exciting texts, including Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘The Wife of Bath’s Prologue’ from the Canterbury Tales, a selection of sonnets from across the 700-year history of the form, medieval drama, Romantic poetry, and a twentieth-century Palestinian novella by Ghassan Khanafani. We hope you enjoy your first taste of University English!