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20th century literature: texts and debates

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This module takes you right to the heart of twentieth-century literature – the excitement it has caused, the provocative critical debates it has generated, the political and historical influences it has developed from. Alongside close critical study of works by the century’s major literary lions (Brecht, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Chekhov and others), you will place them in the contexts in which they were written and read, examine the debates and arguments of influential critics, and analyse alternative interpretations. The module is divided into four blocks: the function of literature; different modernisms; notions of popularity; and questions of evaluation.

Modules at Level 3 assume that you are suitably prepared for study at this level. If you want to take a single module to satisfy your career development needs or pursue particular interests, you don’t need to start at Level 1 but you do need to have adequately prepared yourself for OU study in some other way. Check with our Student Registration & Enquiry Service to make sure that you are sufficiently prepared.

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04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£775.00
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Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£775.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1625.00
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Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£775.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£775.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£1465.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£2632.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£2632.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£775.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.
Start End Fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015
£2632.00
Choose country above

Registration opens on 30/04/14

See below for information about part time tuition fee loans available for study towards a qualification.

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2016.

*Fees may vary by country.

What you will study

In this module, you’ll study a selection of twentieth-century novels, poetry and drama, and participate in some of the major debates that have animated twentieth-century literature and criticism. In addition to the focus on ‘texts and debates’, the module examines in detail the variety of historical contexts in which the literary texts and the critical debates have arisen. The module is organised in four blocks, with each block focusing on a particular literary debate, and four texts of different genres. For each text, you’ll undertake a close analysis of its literary language; examine its historical context(s); discuss competing critical and theoretical interpretations; and relate the particular text and its critical reception to the general debates covered in the block. You are encouraged to develop your own readings of the texts by combining close critical analysis and historical contextualisation, and by organising your views in relation to the relevant critical and theoretical perspectives.

The four blocks are: What is literature for?; Competing modernisms; Varieties of the popular; and Judging literature, and the module follows a loosely chronological approach. Each block lasts for eight weeks, with the debates outlined at the start, and then developed in the discussion of the four texts. Discussion is also linked between blocks.

Book 1, Aestheticism and Modernism contains the teaching material for the first two blocks. The introduction to Block 1 sets out the variety of ways in which the question ‘What is literature for?’ has been answered, and the next four chapters focus on Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, Katherine Mansfield’s Short Stories, Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s Sunset Song, and Robin Skelton’s selection of 1930’s British poetry.

Block 2 introduces the issues and debates concerned with the competing forms of modernist writing, and then moves on to chapters on T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock and Other Observations, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, Betrolt Brecht’s Galileo, and Christopher Okigbo’s Labyrinths with Path of Thunder.

Book 2 The Popular and the Canonical contains the teaching material for the second two blocks.

Block 3 introduces the debates over the relation between ‘high’ and ‘popular’ literary forms, and these debates are taken up and focused in the chapters on Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, the 1950s U.S. poetry of Frank O’Hara and Allen Ginsberg, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Block 4 introduces both general debates over how literature should be judged, and particular debates over judging literature in the context of literary prizes. Discussion of the Nobel Prize for Literature frames the analysis of the first two texts, which are by Nobel winners: Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Seamus Heaney’s New Selected Poems, 1966-1987. Discussion of the Booker Prize frames the analysis of the final two texts – Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Paradise (a Booker finalist) and Pat Barker’s The Ghost Road (a Booker winner).

The third module book is Debating Twentieth-century Literature: A Reader, and it contains indispensable primary and secondary material to accompany the study of the texts and debates featured in the module. Students will need to purchase this book along with the other set texts for the module.

Entry

A300 is a Level 3 module. Level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at Levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Preparatory work

It will be to your advantage to read as many of the set literary texts as possible before the module begins. The obvious place to start is with the texts in the first two blocks, but another useful route might be to start with the eight novels in the module, as they will take longer to read.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

The printed study materials are available in the DAISY Digital Talking Book format. The books are available in a comb-bound format. Written transcripts are available for the audio-visual material. Our Services for disabled students website has the latest information about availability.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Services for disabled students website for more information, including:

  • help to determine your study requirements and how to request the support that you need  
  • Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs)
  • using a computer for OU study
  • equipment and other support services that we offer
  • examination arrangements
  • how to contact us for advice and support both before you register and while you are studying.

Study materials

What's included

Module books, other printed materials, DVD and audio CDs, website.

You will need

A DVD and CD player.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this course as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2007 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile computing device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.6 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information including the details of the support we provide.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Brecht, B (tr John Willett) Life of Galileo, Methuen £9.99 - ISBN 9780413577801
  • Heaney, S New Selected Poems, 1966-1987, Faber and Faber £13.99 - ISBN 9780571143726
  • Woolf, V Orlando: a Biography, Oxford World's Classics £7.99 - ISBN 9780199536597
  • Gurnah, A Paradise, Bloomsbury £8.99 - ISBN 9780747573999
  • Skelton, R (ed) Poetry of the Thirties, Penguin £9.99 - ISBN 9780141184579
  • Eliot, T S Prufrock and Other Observations, Faber and Faber £4.99 - ISBN 9780571207206
  • Mansfield, K Selected Stories, Oxford World's Classics £7.99 - ISBN 9780199537358
  • Gibbon, Lewis Grassic Sunset Song, Cannongate Books £8.99 - ISBN 9781841957562
  • Puig, Manuel Kiss of the Spider Woman, Vintage £7.99 - ISBN 9780099342007
  • Gupta, S & Johnson, D (eds) A Twentieth-Century Literature Reader: Texts and Debates, Routledge £21.99 - ISBN 9780415351713
  • Beckett, S Waiting for Godot, Samuel French £9.50 - ISBN 9780573040085
  • Du Maurier, D Rebecca, Virago £8.99 - ISBN 9781844080380
  • Ginsberg, A Howl and other poems, Perseus Running Press £6.75 - ISBN 9780872860179
  • Dick, P K Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, SF Masterworks £7.99 - ISBN 9780575094185
  • Barker, P The Ghost Road, Penguin £8.99 - ISBN 9780141030951
  • Chekov, A Five Plays, Oxford University Press £6.99 - ISBN 9780199536696

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day-schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper. The end-of-module assessment (EMA) may be submitted on paper or online.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014. We expect it to be available once a year.

How to register

To register a place on this course return to the top of the page and use the Click to register button.

Student Reviews

“This was the final course to complete my B.A.(Open) and also the most challenging of my two level three courses. ...”
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“I found this course mentally exhausting due to the volume of reading material to be consumed in relatively short periods ...”
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Distance learning

The Open University is the world’s leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you’re at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you’ll be supported throughout your studies – your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information read Distance learning explained.

Are you already an OU student ? Go to StudentHome for information on choosing your next module.
Course facts
About this course:
Course code A300
Credits 60
OU Level 3
SCQF level 10
FHEQ level 6
Course work includes:
6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

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