Reading Genre 1 – Autumn term 2011 Reading Genre 2 – Spring & Summer Terms 2012

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Reading Genre 1 – Autumn term 2011

Reading Genre 2Spring & Summer Terms 2012

Cover: Salvador Dali (1904-1989) – Biblia Sacra – Creatio terrae et maris 1969

BA in English

Year 1 courses, 2011-2012

Reading Genre 1 (Autumn Term)

Reading Genre 2 (Spring & Summer Term)

Convenor: Tom Healy

Course Codes: Reading Genre 1 Q3122

Reading Genre 2 Q3125

Level and Credits: Reading Genre 1 12 credits at level 1

Reading Genre 2 18 credits at level 1

General Information

Attendance Requirements

The courses involve one one-hour lecture and one two-hour seminar each week. Details of times and venues will be notified via Sussex Direct.

You are expected to attend seminars and lectures. If you miss a seminar because of illness or for other good cause, you should email the tutor, if possible in advance of the class. If your attendance is unsatisfactory, you will receive a formal letter of warning from your tutor. If you continue to miss classes without good reason, you will be required to attend a meeting with a member of the School management group.

Overall Course Description

How do texts locate themselves in literary conventions to develop their own expression and meaning? How do other media such as film transform literary genre? How does genre act to shape a text and a reader’s understanding of it? How do we identify and understand genre?

These are some of the questions that we shall approach in these two interlinked courses by focussing on five genres: epic, comedy (in the Autumn term) lyric, tragedy, horror (in the Spring and Summer terms). In each instance we shall concentrate on either one or a small number of representative examples, allowing us to widen our understanding of genre while we deepen our acquaintance with key illustrations from it. These two courses may be taken in consort or independently of one another.

A crucial aspect of the course is to develop close reading skills, so seminars and lectures will combine larger ideas about genre (e.g. ideas of imitation; politics of genre; tragic theory) with detailed explorations of examples.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of Reading Genres 1 and 2, a successful student will be able to

  • Identify selected literary genres and critically apply them in textual analysis.

  • Identify the main genres of lyric poetry and critically apply them in addressing issues of poetic meaning.

  • Demonstrate some understanding of Chaucerian Middle English.

  • Identify and critically apply Chaucer’s use of comic forms in selected Canterbury Tales.

  • Show some understanding of genre theory across a broad historic range.

  • Understand how literary form influences writing and reading practices.

  • Show developed critical thinking and methods for literary analysis.


Definitive assessment information for both courses, including exact submission deadlines, will be published on Sussex Direct.

Reading Genre 1 is assessed by a Group Presentation, worth 30 per cent of the mark, to be given during the course (your tutor will give you further guidance on this); and by a 2000-word essay, worth 70 per cent of the mark, submitted at the start of the spring term.

Reading Genre 2 is assessed by a Group Presentation, worth 35 per cent of the mark, to be given during the course (your tutor will give you further guidance on this); and by a 2500-word essay, worth 65 per cent of the mark, submitted in the summer term.

Core Primary Reading

The books listed here (also listed above, in the course outline) are available at a specially discounted price from John Smith’s book shop, in the University Library

For Reading Genre 1

  • Chaucer, Geoffrey (ed. Larry D. Benson) The Riverside Chaucer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988; third edition, reissued 2008).

  • Milton, John (ed. Stephen Orgel and Jonathan Goldberg). Paradise Lost (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008; revised edition). (For other suitable editions, see the information in the course outline).

For Reading Genre 2

  • Beckett, Samuel Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts (Faber and Faber, 2006).

  • Ibsen, Henrik. An Enemy of the People. In Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People, The Wild Duck, Rosmersholm, James McFarlane, Editor and Translator (Oxford World's Classics, Reissued edition 2009).

  • Shakespeare, William Othello ed. E.A.J. Honigmann (Arden Shakespeare. Third Series 2001) or The Oxford Shakespeare: Complete Works, ed. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor, (Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition, 2005).

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King In The Complete Greek Tragedies: Sophocles, Pt.1, transl. David Grene, in the series The Complete Greek Tragedies, edited David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, (Chicago University Press; 2nd Revised edition 1991).

  • Wu, Duncan (ed.) Romanticism: An Anthology (Blackwell, 2005; third edition).

Further required and recommended reading is listed above, in the detailed course outline, for each week of the course.

Course Outline for Autumn Term – Reading Genre 1

Week: 1 Introducing Genre

Lecture 1: Norman Vance

The word ‘genre’ comes from an ancient quasi-scientific term, meaning kind, sort, or class, which has been applied to literature, film and other arts. It may be used descriptively, to signal broadly what to expect from a given work and how to approach it, or prescriptively, to suggest what a particular kind of work ought to be. There is scope for considerable tension between description and prescription, between what is there and what it is felt ought to be there, and genre in itself can be a stimulus and a challenge to creative artists to push beyond expectations and established boundaries. The lecture will consider ‘genre’ alongside other terms such as ‘style’ and ‘convention’, will briefly indicate some of the most enduring genres in literary history, and will reflect on the significant continuities and discontinuities illuminated by genre-based literary analysis.

Initial Reading for Week 1

  • Oxford English Dictionary entries on ‘genre’ and ‘gender’.

  • Heather Dubrow, Genre (Methuen, 1982).

Further Reading

  • David Duff, editor, Modern Genre Theory, (Longman, 1999, Longman Critical Reader).

  • Alastair Fowler, Kinds of Literature (Oxford UP,1982)

  • John Frow, Genre, (Routledge, 2005, New Critical Idiom series).

  • Christine Gledhill, 'Genre' in Pam Cook, editor, The Cinema Book (British Film Institute 1985)

  • Tzvetan Todorov, Genres in Discourse (1978) translated Catherine Porter (Cambridge UP, 1990)

Weeks 2-5: Paradise Lost and Epic

Tom Healy

Lecture 1 (Week 2): Tom Healy

Epic occupies the pinnacle of literary genres within western cultures. Epics seek to convey large, often monumental, visions that are frequently celebrated as formative of a culture’s ideals and values. How did epic come to occupy this role? This lecture will seek to place Milton and his vision for Paradise Lost within the Western Epic tradition that preceded him (especially Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Dante) and that (in English) which follows him (e.g. Wordsworth, Joyce, Walcott).

Lecture 2 (Week 3): Tom Healy

The lecture will explore the question of Christian epic. Milton adapted the conventions of classical epic and reinvented them for his Christian epic and the story of the fall of man, but how do Christian perceptions of suffering or providence combine with the largely Classical heroic model that informs the western epic tradition. The lecture will explore the moments in Paradise Lost where the poet notably brings attention to himself and his place within epic: the opening of Books 1, 3, 7, 9.

Lecture 3 (Week 4): Tom Healy

The lecture will explore Milton’s rhetoric and what Christopher Ricks described as his “grand style”. Milton’s poetic expression is not simply a vehicle for his ideas; the ideas themselves are shaped by the poetic expression. As such, the lecture will focus on the language of epic poetry focussing especially on Satan’s temptation of Eve in Book 9, but also passages from books 2, 4 and 10. We shall also consider Milton’s use of epic similie.

Lecture 4 (Week 5): Tom Healy

What constitutes the heroic is a key aspect of epic. Epic writers regularly challenge previous notions of the heroic and Milton is no exception in Paradise Lost. Through exploring Books 4 and 10, the lecture will consider how Milton asks his readers to re-think conceptions of what the heroic consists of, particularly in relation to gender. The lecture will conclude with some thoughts on how one key aspect of epic since Virgil has been the development of the ‘heroic’ reader, how the reader’s act of understanding forms an important aspect of the epic tradition.

Required Text for Weeks 2-5: Recommended Editions

  • Paradise Lost, edited Stephen Orgel and Jonathan Goldberg, Oxford World's Classics (Oxford University Press, revised edition, 2008).

  • Paradise Lost, edited John Leonard (Penguin Classics, 2003).

  • Paradise Lost, edited Alastair Fowler, Longman Annotated English Poets (Longman Books, 2nd edition, 2006). This is an edition with copious notes of explanation and annotation. It is more expensive than the above.

  • Paradise Lost, edited Barbara K. Lewalski (Blackwell Books, 2007). A nicely produced book with good notes, if not as extensive as Fowler.

Other Initial Reading for Weeks 2-5

The most important epic to inform Paradise Lost (and much Western literature) is Virgil’s Aeneid. You should try to read it in a poetic rather than prose translation. Two recommended recent ones are:

  • The Aeneid, translated by Robert Fitzgerald (Everyman's Library classics, 1992).

  • Aeneid, translated Frederick Ahl, Oxford World's Classics (Oxford University Press, 2008).

A good introductory critical book for Milton is Christopher Ricks, Milton's Grand Style. (Clarendon Press, 1963; new edition 1978). Also recommended are the essays in section 6 of Nicholas McDowell and Nigel Smith, editors, The Oxford Handbook of Milton (Oxford University Press, 2009). There is also a helpful website for those new to Milton and Paradise Lost (contributed to and edited by Katherine Fletcher, now a Sussex DPhil student):

Further Reading for Weeks 2-5

  • Francis C. Blessington, Paradise Lost and the Classical Epic, (Routledge, 1979).

  • Colin Burrow, Epic Romance: Homer to Milton (Oxford UP, 1993).

  • Barbara K Lewalski, Paradise Lost and the Rhetoric of Literary Forms, Princeton UP, 1985).

  • Charles Martindale, John Milton and the Transformation of Ancient Epic, Croom Helm, 1986, esp 1-52.

  • David Quint, Epic and Empire, (Princeton UP, 1993). esp 9-96; 248-324

Weeks 6-10 Comedy: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

John David Rhodes, Andrew Hadfield and Tom Healy

In the second part of the Autumn term we shall be investigating comedy through examining The Nuns Priests Tale, The Millers Prologue and Tale, and The Pardoners Prologue and Tale which are part of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The seminars will also allow us to explore reading Middle English. The section will finish by looking at Pasolini’s film adaptation of the Canterbury Tales (1972).

Lecture 1 (Week 6): Tom Healy

If one of the qualities of epic is its ‘high style’, comedy frequently embraces wide ranging popular, ‘low’, and mixed styles to achieve its ends. The first lecture will explore the role of the comic, notably drawing on the work of the Russian theorist Mikhail Bakhtin. It will address some of the key aspects of Chaucer’s methods: e.g. his use of fabliaux, parody, his drawing on the resources of middle English to create narrators with distinctive idiolects.

Lecture 2 (Week 7): Andrew Hadfield

The Nuns Priests Tale.

Lecture 3 (Week 8): Andrew Hadfield

The Millers Prologue and Tale.

Lecture 4 (Week 9): Tom Healy

The Pardoners Prologue and Tale.

Required Text and Edition for Weeks 6-9

The required edition (which you should own) is Geoffrey Chaucer, The Riverside Chaucer, third edition, edited Larry D. Benson (Oxford University Press, 1988, reissued 2008). This is the only edition of Chaucer you should use. Most students will be unfamiliar with Middle English which approached from a non-specialist perspective is much less difficult than it first appears, though it does require frequently consulting the glossary at the end to understand many words. The required reading for this section of the course is less lengthy to take account of the fact that you will be reading a lot less quickly than usual. A helpful tool to get you started is an inter-linear online version of the Canterbury Tales provided by Harvard and you may find it helpful to consult this as you start your exploration of the tales we are looking at:

Other Initial Reading for Weeks 6-9

Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, translated Helene Iswolsky, 1968; written late 1930s (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1984), Introduction, pp. 1-58.

Further Reading for Weeks 6-9

  • Helen Cooper, The Canterbury Tales, second edition, (Oxford University Press 1996).

  • John Hirsh, Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales: A Short Introduction (Blackwell Books, 2002).

  • Robert Enzer Lewis ‘The English Fabliau and Chaucer's the Miller's Tale’, Modern Philology 79 (1982) 241-55.

  • Helen Phillips, An Introduction to the Canterbury Tales: Reading, Fiction, Context (Macmillan, 1999).

Week 10: Chaucer, Cinema, and the Vicissitudes of Liberation

John David Rhodes

This lecture will take up the left-wing, homosexual filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini’s adaptation of The Canterbury Tales: I racconti di Canterbury (Canterbury Tales, 1972). Pasolini’s film is part of a trilogy of films that he called ‘la trilogia di vita’, or ‘the trilogy of life’. (The other two films were adaptations from Boccaccio’s The Decameron and from 1001 Nights: Il decamerone [1971] and Il fiore delle mille e una notte [Arabian Nights, 1974].) These adaptations of medieval and early modern literature were intended by Pasolini as rebukes to what he felt was the repressive force of modern, capitalist society. In these texts Pasolini finds a source of vitality that had, so he thought, evaporated from the modern world.

We will attempt to understand Pasolini’s adaptation of Chaucer in the context of the sexual liberation movements of the 1960s and 70s and the loosening of laws regarding the representation of sexuality during this period as a result of these movements. Ultimately, we will try to understand how Pasolini instrumentalizes Chaucer as a means of social criticism. Pasolini’s emphasis on the grotesque and comic body—a body that is, as we know, already emphasised in Chaucer—is of apiece with other appeals to the body as a source of political and social criticism in the 1960s and 70s. We will look at Pasolini’s own renunciation of his ‘trilogy of life’ in order to consider both the potential and the frailty of this appeal to the body.


Canterbury Tales (I racconti di Canterbury, 1972).

Initial Reading for Week 10

Pier Paolo Pasolini, ‘Trilogy of Life Rejected’, Lutheran Letters, transl. Stuart Hood (New York: Carcanet, 1987), pp. 49-52.

Maurizio Viano, A Certain Realism: Making Use of Pasolinis Film Theory and Practice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 263-293.

Further Reading for Week 10

Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, transl. Hélène Iswolsky (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1984), pp. 368-436.

Spring Term & Summer Term – Reading Genre 2

Please note there is no teaching for first year students in Weeks 1 and 2 of Spring term. You should use this time to complete your reading for the weeks ahead.

Weeks 3-6: Lyric

Alistair Davies & Keston Sutherland

Lectures 1 and 2 (Weeks 3 and 4): Alistair Davies

We begin with a lecture on Wordsworth’s two-volume Prelude on the topic of “the autobiographical lyric and the modern subject”. Students will be asked to think about what Wordsworth owes to precursors (Collins, Gray) and about what is a source of originality in the poem, making questions of lyric origin and originality a theme of the lecture.

For week two, we explore the conversational poem further (since The Prelude can be claimed as a conversational poem), using ‘Tintern Abbey’ and Coleridge’s ‘This Lime-Tree Bower, My Prison’ and ‘Frost at Midnight’. The creation of voice in poetry will be considered; we will consider the role of the addressee and note that these poems can also be read through a variety of “generic” forms. Something will also be said about Romantic and post-Romantic genre theory. After two weeks, students should have some sense of the importance of these two poets and their interconnections; and some understanding of the ways in which as lyric poets they draw upon older forms and develop them anew.

Lectures 3 and 4 (Weeks 5 and 6): Keston Sutherland

The second half of this four-week block will ask students to think in detail about two particular types of lyric, the sonnet and the ode. The two lectures will offer close readings of some original, challenging or successful sonnets and odes by Wordsworth and Keats; a brief history of the forms will gives some sense of how these forms have been enlarged, complicated and refined since their first introduction into English. We will ask what was at stake for Wordsworth and Keats in their complex inheritance of the forms, and how they re-imagined them; and finally, we will offer a theoretical reflection on the significance of poetic form in general. The lectures will say something about the special difficulties both poets experienced in practising these forms, and something about what they thought they were doing with them.

Students should by the end of the lectures be able both to read individual sonnets and odes with an appreciation of their formal and technical accomplishment, and to think historically and speculatively about the meaning of poetic forms and types.

Required Reading for Weeks 3-6

All the texts for the lyric section of the course are available in Duncan Wu (ed), Romanticism: An Anthology (third edition) (Blackwell, 2005). You should own a copy of this book. The texts to be studied are as follows:

  • Week 3: Wordsworth, 1799 Prelude.

  • Week 4: Wordsworth, ‘Tintern Abbey’ ; Coleridge, ‘This Lime-Tree Bower, My Prison’ and ‘Frost at Midnight’.

  • Week 5: Sonnets. Wordsworth, ‘The world is too much with us’, ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’, ‘Written in London’, ‘London’, ‘Nuns fret not at their Convent’s narrow room’, ‘These words were uttered in a pensive mood’, ‘October, 1803’, ‘To B.R. Haydon, Esq.’, ‘While not a leaf seems faded’, ‘Scorn not the Sonnet’;

  • Keats, the seventeen sonnets collected in Poems (1817), plus (from the Literary Remains) ’When I have fears that I may cease to be’, ‘To Homer’, ‘To J.R.’, ‘To sleep’, ‘On Fame’, ‘Why did I laugh to-night?’, ‘If by dull rhymes our English must be chain’d’, ‘Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art’, ‘O though whose face hath felt the Winter’s wind’.

  • Week 6: Odes Wordsworth, ‘Ode to Duty’, ‘Ode (“There was a time”)’, ’Ode composed upon an evening of extraordinary splendour and beauty’; Keats, ‘Ode to Psyche’, ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, ‘To Autumn’, ’Ode on a Grecian Urn’.

Further Reading for Weeks 3-6

  • Jonathan Bate, The Song of the Earth (Harvard UP, 2000).

  • W. Jackson Bate, The Burden of the Past and the English Poet (Norton, 1972).

  • Raymond Williams’s The Country and the City (Hogarth Press, new edition, 1985).

Weeks 7-10: Tragedy

Tom Healy

We shall be examining the idea of the tragic in four dramatic texts.

Week 7: Sophocles: Oedipus Rex

Week 8: Shakespeare: Othello

Week 9: Ibsen: An Enemy of the People.

Week 10: Beckett: Waiting for Godot.

Required Reading for Weeks 7-10: Primary exts

The recommended editions of the primary texts are:

  • Sophocles Oedipus the King (sometimes translated as Oedipus Tyrannus) in : The Complete Greek Tragedies: Sophocles, Pt.1, transl. David Grene, in the series The Complete Greek Tragedies, edited David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, (Chicago University Press; 2nd Revised edition 1991).

  • Othello, edited E.A.J. Honigmann (Arden Shakespeare. Third Series 2001). Students undertaking the BA English may prefer to purchase a complete works of Shakespeare. The recommended edition is William Shakespeare: The Complete Works, edited Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor (Editor), John Jowett, William Montgomery (Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, 2005).

  • An Enemy of the People in Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People ,The Wild Duck, Rosmersholm, James McFarlane, Editor and Translator (Oxford World's Classics, Reissued edition 2009).

  • Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts (Faber and Faber, 2006).

Other Required Reading for Weeks 7-10

Students should be acquainted with Aristotle’s Poetics. For those studying Critical Approaches, you will already have encountered this in Vincent B. Leitch, et al., editors, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2nd revised edition (Norton, 2010). For those wishing a separate edition there is either: Poetics, edited Malcolm Heath (Penguin,1996) or it is in a collection, Classical Literary Criticism, edited D.A. Russell and Michael Winterbottom, (Oxford World’s Classics, 1998).

Further Reading for Weeks 7-10

General Works on Tragedy

  • John Drakakis and Naomi Conn Liebler, editors, Tragedy, Longman Critical Reader, (1998).

  • Terry Eagleton, Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic (Blackwell, 2002).

  • Adrian Poole, Tragedy A Very Short Introduction (Oxford UP, 2005).

  • Raymond Williams, Modern Tragedy (Chatto and Windus, 1966; new edition Verso, 1979).

On Oedipus

  • Cluade Calame, ‘Vision, Blindness, and Mask: The Radicalization of the Emotions in Sophocles Oedipus Rex’, in M.S. Silk editor, Tragedy and the Tragic: Greek Theatre and Beyond ( Oxford UP, 1996) 17-37.

  • Simon Goldhill, Reading Greek Tragedy (Cambridge UP, 1986).


  • Berger, Harry, Jr ‘Acts of Silence, Acts of Speech: How to Do Things with Othello and Desdemona’, Renaissance Drama, 33 (2004), 3-35.

  • Stanley Cavall, Disowning Knowledge in Seven Plays by Shakespeare, updated edition, (Cambridge UP, 2003), 125-142.

  • Barbara Everett, ‘Inside Othello’ Shakespeare Survey, 53 (2000), 184-95.

  • Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance self-fashioning: from More to Shakespeare (1980), 222-254.

  • Martha Ronk ‘Desdemona's Self-Presentation’, English Literary Renaissance, 35 (2005), 52–72

  • Stephen Orgel, ‘Othello and the end of comedy’, Shakespeare Survey, 56 (2003), 105-116.

An Enemy of the People

  • James McFarlane, editor, The Cambridge Companion to Ibsen, (1994).

Waiting for Godot

  • Peter Boxall, editor, Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Icon Reader's Guides to Essential Criticism (Icon Books, 2000).

  • Steven Connor, editor, Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot and "Endgame" New Casebooks (Macmillan, 1992).

Easter vacation

Summer Term

Weeks 1-4 Horror (or, the Shock of the New Media)

Vicky Lebeau

In this section of the course, we look at the concept of genre – specifically, the genre of horror – through the medium of film. In any medium – verbal or visual – horror is a notoriously elusive genre. The four films on which we will focus our attention have been described, variously, as ‘horror’, ‘thrillers’, ‘monster movies’, ‘mysteries’ (the list could go on). What all have in common, however, is a reflection on the state of horror in a contemporary moment characterised by rapid developments in new technologies of vision and communication. Following a film showing and discussion, weekly seminars will introduce you to visual and narrative analysis of contemporary horror cinema and explore ways of thinking about the historical and cultural significance of these films.

  • Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983).

  • Ringu (Ring) (Hideo Nakata, 1998) Note that this film was remade for the English language market in 2001/2, directed by Gore Verbinski.

  • Cloverfield (Matt Reeves, 2008).

  • 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002).


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