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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 2Campus Attendance


WLIT200 Medieval and Renaissance Masterpieces: the Rise of the English Literary Tradition or WLIT201 The Age of the Novel: 1600-1900

Unit rationale, description and aim

In this unit students will study writers including Blake, Coleridge and Wordsworth to gain insight into the Romantic period (1780-1830) and its concerns with environmentalism, ideas of the imagination, and the artist as hero. Students will then examine the emergence of literary Realism in the Victorian era (1837-1901), through an examination of the writing of authors including Dostoyevsky and Dickens, and their analysis of economic change, social movements and poverty. The literary Modernism that followed in the twentieth century, expressed through the writing of T.S. Elliot, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce among others, focussed on individual experience and the unconscious, and was overtly innovative in its use of language. Students will engage deeply with these writers and their works and then look to the later twentieth century, when postmodern writers rejected both the centrality of the individual and the idea that reality can be represented, instead celebrating fragmentation, simulation, pastiche and self-reference.

The aim of this unit is to trace, through close textual analysis, the trajectory of these four movements and the ways in which they overlap in contemporary culture, developing students' capacity to analyse and critique diverse works within the western literary tradition.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Identify key aspects of the great Romantic, Realist, Modernist and Postmodernist works of the western canon within the Literature disciplineGC1, GC3, GC7, GC9
LO2Discuss literary, social, historical, aesthetic or ethical ideas and movements in texts drawn from the relevant periods through an independently-formulated research taskGC1, GC3, GC7, GC9, GC11, GC12
LO3Evaluate and synthesise knowledge from diverse sources and communicate complex ideas and findings with sophistication and confidence to a range of audiencesGC1, GC3, GC7, GC9, GC11, GC12
LO4Apply disciplinary knowledge and skills to formulate intellectually-grounded, evidence-based judgments about literary and aesthetics movements and their interactionsGC1, GC3, GC7, GC9


Topics may include: 

  • Literary, social, historical, aesthetic or ethical ideas and movements in texts drawn from the Romantic, Realist, Modernist and Postmodernist periods
  • Definitions of Romanticism
  • The French Revolution, the Enlightenment and Romanticism
  • Romanticism in England: Blake, Coleridge and Wordsworth
  • Realism and Social Commentary: Dostoyevsky
  • Aestheticism and the fin de siècle
  • Modernity and Modernism: Woolf and Eliot
  • Representing the Horror: World War1 in Poetry
  • The Individual Experience: Joyce, Lawrence and Mansfield
  • Social realism, social fantasy: Orwell
  • Experiments: Kafka and Borges
  • Postmodern novels: Vonnegut, Pynchon, Wallace, and Smith
  • Global Literatures: Morrison, Rushdie, Roy and Wright
  • Metamodernism: what comes next?

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Students will gain a familiarity with literary movements through class discussion in a small group setting, in which the texts and thematic concerns of the unit can be considered and debated in a supportive and inclusive manner. The small group setting will facilitate the use of the ‘Socratic’ method, in which analytical discussion and dialogue is stimulated through the use of an engaging question and answer format to consider texts and ideas from the Romantic, Realist, Modernist and Postmodernist periods.

In this context, students will: 

  1. Gain a knowledge of the Romantic, Realist, Modernist and Postmodernist periods including social contexts, significant authors and works. Exercises in promoting a foundational understanding of these movements as literary, artistic and philosophical and political developments and advances will be undertaken throughout the unit. Canon formation and current debates concerning the definitions of all four movements will be covered early and returned to throughout the unit. 
  2. Hone their skills in the close reading of texts in order to generate deeper levels of analysis. This will involve exercises in close reading of texts to apprehend meanings that are not apparent at a superficial level. Students gain skills in recognising the movement the text belongs to. 
  3. Be able to synthesise both the content knowledge and close reading skills to link a developing interpretation to a historical and cultural context. This ability to relate meaning to context will be developed through class and formal exercises where students will discuss case studies in the relationship of textual meaning to its historical and cultural context.

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. 

Assessments have been developed to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. These have been designed so that they use a variety of tasks to measure the different learning outcomes at a level suitable for third year studies of Western Civilisation.

The research project has two stages that require students to propose and then locate a particular work within Romanticism, Realism or Modernism, and analyse its approach to representation and/or literary techniques such as narration, use of dialogue and so on. This task will require students to place the work within the cultural and historical context and the issues it seeks to address.

The final task is summative and requires students to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of literary works and styles over the periods in question, with a focus on Postmodernism. This assessment will also ask students to broadly analyse the interactions of these movements, in terms of an overlapping model, rather than one period succeeding the next.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Research Project 

This essay requires students to interpret a literary work or works relating them to the Romantic, Realist, Modernist and Postmodernist movement that inspired them.

a)   Research proposal 10%

b)   Research essay 40%


LO1, LO2, LO3

Summative Task/Exam

This assessment requires students to analyse a Postmodern texts or texts and to be able to analyse how these movements overlap in particular texts or cultural moments.


LO1, LO3, LO4

Representative texts and references

Burwick, Frederick. A History of Romantic Literature. Blackwell History of Literature. Hoboken: New Jersey, 2019.

Collett, and Murphy. Romantic Climates: Literature and Science in an Age of Catastrophe. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.

Diepeveen, Leonard. Modernist Fraud: Hoax, Parody, Deception. Oxford University Press, 2019

Economides, Louise, and Ursula K Heise. The Ecology of Wonder in Romantic and Postmodern Literature. Literatures, Cultures, and the Environment. New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, 2016.

Gaggi, Silvio. Modern/Postmodern: A Study in Twentieth-Century Arts and Ideas. Penn Studies in Contemporary American Fiction. Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.

Henry, Casey Michael. New Media and the Transformation of Postmodern American Literature: From Cage to Connection. New Horizons in Contemporary Writing. 2019.

Levenson, Michael H., and ProQuest. Modernism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011.

Miguel-Alfonso. The Fictional Minds of Modernism: Narrative Cognition from Henry James to Christopher Isherwood. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020.

O'Neill, Michael, and Madeleine. Callaghan. The Romantic Poetry Handbook. 1st ed. Wiley Blackwell Literature Handbooks. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018.

Stephan, Matthias. Defining Literary Postmodernism for the Twenty-first Century. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.

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