English BA Welcome Pack

Welcome to English BA 2022.

Welcome to English BA (Hons) at the University of Northampton. We hope you will have a rewarding and enjoyable course of study with us. Here at Northampton, students are encouraged to read and enjoy a wide range of literature, and to examine their responses to it. We start from the premise that there can be no fixed and irrefutable interpretations of literature, but there can be assessments and opinions which are widely acceptable because they are based upon extensive and detailed reading and are supported by intelligent and perceptive argument. Since English studies require a good deal of reading and reflection, in addition to the time spent attending the timetabled English sessions you will have private study time in which to read and to prepare for seminars and for written assignments. We sometimes organize theatre visits and whenever possible we invite writers into the University to read and discuss their work. It means, in fact, that all of us spend a good deal of our time reading, talking about, analysing and reflecting upon the texts and questions which are the basis of the course.

All the English tutors at Northampton are researching and publishing in their specialist fields, which means that all our modules are taught by tutors who are experts in that particular subject, whether that is Shakespeare, Victorian literature or contemporary writing. You will be taught by tutors who are passionate and enthusiastic about their subject and who work hard to ensure their students get the very best out of their degree course.

On this page, you will find information about your first week of study and some welcome activities we would like you to participate in. You will also find information about the modules you will be taking this year, including reading lists. Do please make a start on this reading for the modules you will be taking.

We are sure you will find our English course inspiring and rewarding, and we look forward to meeting you in September.

Your Programme Leader

Phillippa Bennett, programme leader English BA

Dr Phillippa Bennett

Programme Leader for English BA (Hons)


Welcome and Induction Sessions

To give you the opportunity to meet members of the English (BA) Hons programme and subject team and other students, we would like to invite you to attend the following introductory sessions:

  • In order to help to get to know us and each other, we have organized a welcome event to take place during your first week of study. Therefore, please join us on Wednesday 28 September from 2pm BST for nibbles and drinks. This event will allow you to meet all of your tutors, as well as other students on your course, both those starting this year with you, as well as students from second and third year.

    • Date: Wednesday 28 September
    • Time: 2pm BST onwards
    • Room: LH128

    The event will include:

    • Meet your Lecturers
    • ‘Things I wish I knew then’ – valuable advice from students already studying English.
    • ‘UON BA English Dream Reading List’ - come prepared to talk about one book you have read recently which you really enjoyed and would like to recommend to others.  We will collate all these together to construct our ‘Dream Reading List’ for UON English BA 22/23.


​The first year of your English degree is made up of the modules below. Each module is worth 20 credits. In your first year you must take a total of 120 credits, or 3 modules (60 credits) each semester. This must include LIT1049 as this is a core (compulsory) module. However, you can choose which semester to take this module in.

The modules you can pick from and the semesters they are running in are listed below:

Autumn Semester
  • Lit1049 Reading and Writing our World
  • Lit1037  Identity Under Construction
  • Lit1038  Contemporary Shakespeares
  • Lit1048  American Dreams, American Nightmares: Race, Class and Gender
Spring Semester
  • Lit1049  Reading and Writing our World
  • Lit1045  Digital Culture and Print Media
  • Lit1046  Decolonising the Bookshelf
  • Lit1047  Writing the Wild

You will be contacted by student records asking you to make your module selection.

To help you make a decision in relation to which module is best for you, please see below for a brief module description and proposed reading lists for each module:

Reading Lists

LIT1049 Reading and Writing our World (Compulsory Module)

Please select to take this module either in the Autumn or Spring semester. You do not need to take it in both.

The purpose of this module is to introduce students to the dual roles involved in the construction of textual meaning: writing and reading. In exploring imaginative and critical reading and writing practices in a range of genres, students will engage in identifying the relevance of textual creativity to real-world applications.

Required Texts:

  • Henry James, Daisy Miller [1878] – note:  there are two versions;  I recommend the 1907-08 version, which is not available online (buy Oxford World Classics)
  • A.S. Byatt.  Possession [1990] – Vintage
  • Tom Stoppard.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead [1967/1973] – Faber

Other Texts (all freely available online – links available on NILE for poetry and below for fiction):


  • Robert Herrick
  • John Clare
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • TS Eliot
  • James Joyce
  • Philip Larkin
  • Rita Dove
  • Tyehimba Jess

Short Fiction:

Further Reading if interested:

  • Umberto Eco.  Interpretation and Overinterpretation.  (Library hard copy and e-resource).
Autumn Optional Modules
LIT1037 Identity Under Construction

Module Description: This module introduces literatures with a primary focus on the constructions of identity, around issues such as race, class, gender and sexuality. Students also explore  the concept of ‘identity’ to ask questions of form and genre, and thus consider key developments in the context of literary movements and social change.

The module will acquaint students with a range of writing including poetry, drama and the novel, which each have a focus on the concept of identity in some manner, as well as key critical and theoretical considerations, such as feminism, postmodernism and postcolonialism. The module will also equip students with a range of key and subject-specific skills relating to information retrieval, referencing, close reading and research.

Reading List

You may use any edition of the below texts. This is the order we will study them in

  • George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • Alan Moore and David Lloyd, V for Vendetta (please note, this is in comic form/ graphic novel)
  • Samuel Beckett, Endgame
  • Sarah Kane, Blasted
  • Martin Amis, Money
  • Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry
  • Andrea Levy, Small Island
  • John Cooper-Clarke, Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt
  • An additional selection of post-war poetry will be provided via Nile.
LIT1038 Contemporary Shakespeares

This module has two main aims:

  • To introduce you to Shakespeare as studied at degree level. This involves presenting Shakespeare as part of his historical, theatrical and literary worlds, familiarising you with a range of his plays across several genres – comedies, tragedies, histories, and late plays or ‘romances’ – and developing your skills in the close critical analysis of those texts.
  • To explore a) some contemporary critical approaches to Shakespeare, which might include presentism, cultural materialism eco-criticism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, Marxism, film and performance criticism, and b) cultural appropriations of his life and work. We will look particularly at film, graphic novels, and theatrical performance, but will also discuss the range of ways in which Shakespeare appears in contemporary culture, which might include fiction, popular music, art, advertising, heritage and tourism, and so on.

The module is grounded in the assumption that the meaning and significance of Shakespeare is continually re-invented in relation to cultural, historical and political pressures, and that it is always unsettled, manifold, and subject to debate: hence the plural form, ‘Shakespeares’. Whilst proper attention will be given to the richness of the plays’ literary language, and the depth and complexity of their themes and form, we are not attempting to demonstrate their (nor their author’s) greatness or universality, but rather the many ways in which they can be made to mean, motivated by different social interests in the present day.

Hopefully the module will leave you with an enduring enthusiasm for these texts and their seemingly infinite capacity for re-interpretation, along with the critical capabilities to make your own mark on the world of Shakespeare.

Reading List

Please read the following plays carefully over the Summer, to get first impressions, and again before the seminar in which we discuss each one, to refresh your memory.

This is the probable order in which we will study them (although this could change):

  • Hamlet
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Othello
  • Henry V
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • The Tempest

An Important Note on Editions of Shakespeare

Many different editions of the plays, produced by various publishers, are available.
You are free to choose your own edition of each play, but please note: it is very important to use a high-quality edition (that is, one with a named scholarly editor, Introduction, and notes).

One of these high-quality, scholarly editions will be a huge help to you, offering up-to-date critical interpretations of each play, cultural and historical contexts, and notes explaining any obscure or archaic language. It will offer understanding, clarification, and starting points for class discussion and assessed work; it will also be a quotable secondary source you can use in assignments.

Suitable single-play-to-a-volume editions include:

  • The Arden Shakespeare ‘Third Series’ (their most recent)
  • The Oxford Shakespeare (the ‘grown-up’ Oxford, not their School series)
  • The New Cambridge Shakespeare (the ‘grown-up’ Cambridge, not their School series)
  • The New Penguin Shakespeare (their scholarly series, not the cheap Penguin Popular series which lacks notes)
  • Norton Critical Editions
  • The individual RSC Shakespeare volumes

These are all excellent.  Alternatively, you might prefer to use a Complete Works, with all the plays in one book (plus many others), but, again, look for one with scholarly introductions, appendices, and notes, such as:

  • The RSC Shakespeare (either the first or the new second edition)
  • The Norton Shakespeare (Student Edition),
  • The Arden Shakespeare (although the latter has a glossary, rather than notes).

These, too, are excellent editions.  The cost of buying quality editions can add up, so it is a good idea to explore the availability of second-hand copies and, of course, the library will have some copies of suitable editions for university-level study. You might find that getting a good Complete Works is cheaper than buying individual volumes of each play – although bear in mind that it will be heavier to carry around.

LIT1048 American Dreams, American Nightmares: Race, Class and Gender

Welcome to the introductory American literature module on the English programme.

This module will introduce you to a range of texts that illustrate the development of a national literature and culture in the US from the Colonial period up to the present day. Through the study of novels, poems and non-fiction forms, seminars will analyse how American writing has developed alongside the emerging republic and how it has responded to key social and historical developments.

The texts are arranged broadly chronologically but will be grouped around themes including race, gender, class, and counter-culture. The notion of founding a nation on the philosophical concepts contained in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will frame the question ‘What is an American?’ throughout the module, as will the ways in which critical perspectives can illuminate our readings of American texts.

The reading for each week is set out below. You must check the schedule in advance so that you can be prepared for every class. Many of these texts can be found on the NILE site but it is your responsibility to find, read and bring these to the relevant seminars.

The module is delivered through 2 hour seminars focusing on one major text over a week or shorter texts that will be discussed in a single seminar. There will also be a small number of online activities to engage with, these will help to supplement the work carried out in seminars. You MUST read the text prior to each respective seminar.

Reading List


  • Nathaniel Hawthorne,. The Scarlet Letter (any edition)
  • Frederick Douglass Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (any edition)
  • Kate Chopin. The Awakening (any edition)
  • Stephen Crane. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (any edition)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby (any edition)
  • John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath (any edition)
  • Richard Wright. Native Son (any edition)
  • Allen Ginsberg. Howl (any edition)

Please note that a selection of other shorter required texts will be made available through NILE.


  • Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, Howl (2010) available on Box of Broadcasts for free
Spring Optional Modules
LIT1045 Digital Culture and Print Media

Module Description:
With an emphasis on the modern age, this module explores the relationship between literature and evolving media and technologies.  Texts range from entrenched classics to contemporary ‘Twitterature’ always seeking new understandings of literary meaning via the forms in which they are presented or published.  Understanding print and digital formats within mediated cultural frameworks allow for exploration of contemporary understandings of new skills and capabilities for reading now.

Required Books:

  • H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds [1898] any edition (available online, or Penguin paperback)
  • Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness [1899] Norton critical edition recommended (also online)
  • Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart [1958] Penguin or Norton critical edition
  • Jennifer Egan, Visit from the Goon Squad [2010] any edition

Online and Shorter Works:

Twitter stories:

HyperText Narrative:

LIT1046 Decolonising the Bookshelf

Module Description: This module sets out to answer the question: what does it mean to decolonise the literary canon? It explores literary representations of global ethnic majorities within a range of texts written in English and drawn from different historical periods.

The module engages a range of critical approaches including post-colonialism and critical race studies to reframe literary debates about diversity and inclusiveness. It examines a range of topics and themes such as colonial discourse, legacies of slavery, writing back to the centre, the relationship between race, gender and class, cultural belonging and unbelonging, and decolonising the canon. It enables students to encounter and discuss a range of representations of the racialised self and other in a constructive, creative and collaborative way.

Reading List
  • Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. Purple Hibiscus (any edition)
  • Beaty, Paul. The Sellout (any edition)
  • Blackman, Malorie. Noughts and Crosses (any edition)
  • Coetzee, J.M. Foe (any edition)
  • Emecheta, Buchi. Second Class Citizen (any edition)
  • Evaristo, Bernadine. Soul Tourists (any edition)
  • Ghosh, Amitav. The Hungry Tide (any edition)
  • Phillips, Caryl. Crossing the River (any edition)
  • Prince, Mary. The History of Mary Prince (any edition)
  • Selvon, Sam. The Lonely Londoners (any edition)
LIT1047  Writing the Wild

Module Description: Writing the Wild explores literary representations of the natural world and the diverse ways in which writers have responded to the wild and the non-human. The module emphasises the significance of literary texts in contributing to contemporary debates regarding our relationships with the environment, other people and other animals, and how the rediscovery of our own wildness can help us to rethink and regenerate those relationships.

The module situates the discussion of literary texts in the context of broader social, cultural and political debates regarding the place of the human in the natural world. A range of literary non-fiction, fiction and poetry will be studied alongside reading in the fields of eco-criticism, wilderness theory and animal advocacy. You will be encouraged to establish a dialogue between literary and non-literary texts thereby understanding how literature reflects and informs current conversations about our relationship with the natural environment and with the other species that inhabit it. The module will establish a historical basis for contemporary discussions, drawing on texts from the nineteenth century onwards, and from both British and American writers. It will consider themes and concepts such as Wildness, Wilderness, Rewilding, Speciesism and Deep Ecology.

Essential Texts for the Module
  • Emily Brontë. Wuthering Heights. Norton Critical Edition (2019).
  • Cheryl Strayed. Wild. Atlantic (2012).
  • Kathryn Aalto (ed.), Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers, and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the Natural World. Timber Press (2020).
  • Alison H. Deming and Lauret Savoy, eds. Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity and the Natural World. Milkweed (2011).
  • Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native. Norton (2006).
  • Richard Powers, The Overstory. Vintage (2019).
  • Diane Setterfield, Once Upon a River. Penguin (2018).
  • Henry Thoreau, Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854) – any edition.

Other poems and extracts from writers on nature, wildness and wilderness will also be studied on the module but these will be made available on NILE in advance of seminars.

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