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SEL1034 : Beginnings

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Kate De Rycker
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 360 student places

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


Every story must start somewhere. This core module will guide students on their first steps through medieval tales of monsters, fantastical voyages from the age of discovery, and introduce them to the radical working-class poets of the Enlightenment, laying the foundations for further literary studies in their degree. ‘Beginnings’ specifically addresses the emergence of English literature within the context of a multi-lingual Britain. Origin stories, travel, and self-discovery are themes throughout the texts we will be reading. By the end of this course students will have a better understanding of the evolution of English literature, and will have begun to practise their own ways of introducing academic topics through group presentations and essay writing.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module is grouped around five different ‘beginnings’ taught over eleven weeks. These will cover five main periods of literary history and introduce students to different genres of poetry (e.g. the epic), prose (e.g. travel writing), and drama (e.g. city comedy). It will introduce students to the diverse geographical sites across the British Isles, the New World and beyond, where literary cultures first developed. Each week, we will be thinking about the creative ways authors lead their audience into their story, and the influence of popular oral culture on the written word, for example by looking at Shakespearean performance culture, medieval story-telling contests, and eighteenth-century ballads. We will also consider how the stories we tell about ourselves helped shape a sense of national identity, while also showcasing the linguistic diversity at the heart of early writing in English.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion120:0020:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture201:0020:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1012:00120:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities110:0010:00Group research ahead of presentation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops12:002:00Group presentations
Guided Independent StudyReflective learning activity15:005:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity111:0011:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery11:001:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will introduce the students to key literary texts, genres, concepts, and historical context, and some will also clarify what academic skills are needed at degree level. Seminars will be used to practise the learning outcomes outlined above, as well as students' interpersonal and communication skills. Student-led study groups provide students with the opportunity to discuss their weekly reading and to prepare for the next seminar. Study groups will also organise a group presentation (see assessment rationale below), in the process developing their skills in delegation, oral argument, & digital literacy. A final drop-in session with team lecturers, module leader, and members of the library's academic skills team will provide targeted assessment support for students ahead of their final written assessment.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio1M20Group presentation + individual reflective commentary c.250 words
Portfolio1A80portfolio of 2 essays: one analysing an extract, one a thematic essay. Total = 3,000 words.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The mid-term portfolio involves two components. First, a group presentation encourages students to practise transferable skills such as collaboration, problem-solving, delegation, oral presentation and digital skills. Individual students will then provide a written reflective commentary (c.250 words) about their contribution to the group presentation. This will be an opportunity for the student to reflect on their learning so far, as well as to indicate the critical thinking which underpinned the presentation. Taken together, this portfolio assesses student understanding of the course aims, and allows seminar tutors to clarify any misunderstandings and provide advice before the final assessment.

The second portfolio includes two essays, and will total 3,000 words. Each essay should focus on a different module text. One essay will involve close textual analysis of an extract from a module text. The second will be a response to a thematic question about a text, author, or literary genre studied on the module. Taken together, this portfolio assesses their skills of textual analysis, as well as their ability to create a coherent argument supported by evidence from the text, its historical context, and secondary criticism. The aim is to help students develop the writing and analytical skills necessary for the rest of their degree in the humanities.

Reading Lists