SEL3394 : Nonsense Literature (Inactive)

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Nonsense literature is often thought to begin and end with the work of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll, but is actually a much broader phenomenon. This module aims to introduce students to nonsense literature from a range of different historical periods. It includes much on the Victorian nonsense of Lear and Carroll, but also examines earlier and later nonsense works, and has a particular interest in the importance of nonsense to the work of major modernist writers including Gertrude Stein and James Joyce. We will consider how nonsense challenges the rules of the ordinary world and, as Adam Phillips suggests, ‘makes us think about the incongruousness of interpretation.’

Outline Of Syllabus

The module traces the development of nonsense writing and seeks to relate theoretical debates about nonsense to particular literary texts. The module will begin by surveying precursors to Victorian nonsense before moving to consider in detail the work of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. It will then turn to focus on the part nonsense plays in twentieth-century writing. Texts may vary from year to year, but will be a mixture of poetry and prose. In addition to Lear and Carroll, authors studied are likely to include Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Flann O'Brien, and Stevie Smith. Topics covered are likely to include: nonsense and language; nonsense and childhood; nonsense and philosophy; nonsense and play.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture161:0016:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion174:0074:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading180:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching82:0016:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching21:002:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops12:002:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity101:0010:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce students to the texts and outline critical and theoretical debates, providing the basis for further independent study. Seminars give students the opportunity to practice analytical and critical skills, developing their ability to recognise the genres and forms taken by nonsense literature.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2A853500 words
Prof skill assessmnt2A15Oral participation in seminars and preparation of study group reports
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Essay2MThis is a 1500-word formative essay.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The 1,500-word formative essay allows students to practice their essay writing skills and receive feedback prior to completing the 3,500-word essay.

The 3,500-word essay assesses students' skills in close critical analysis of primary texts, research, writing, and engagement with critical sources. Essays must demonstrate detailed knowledge of the work of at least two of the authors studied on the module.

The assessment of study group reports and oral participation in seminars encourages students to engage consistently with all aspects of the module. Students are expected to complete the required reading each week and meet for small group discussion, taking it in turns to lead the study group and write the group report (1-2 pages). In seminars, students should demonstrate the ability to present ideas orally and respond constructively to their peers.

Reading Lists