English Literature and Society

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Angus Wrenn PEL 6.01a


Available as an outside option to students on all undergraduate programmes where regulations permit, and to General Course students. Students can take this course in any year of their studies. 


An A-level pass or equivalent is recommended but not required (especially for General Course students).

Course content

(a) Study of 20th century British literature (prose, poetry and drama) in its socio-political context; Study of individual authors (in weekly lectures) - these form the basis of the examination assessment (b) Study of major cultural themes running through the century e.g. Literature of War; Imperialism; Feminism; Modernism; Postmodernism; Political writing - these form the basis of the student's extended coursework essay. (c) Several trips to theatre productions during the year; (d) Extensive use of archive recordings of authors, and video; (e) Students encouraged to draw upon background in their main discipline, and to read widely.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour of classes in the ST.

 Structured activities during the reading week in the MT and LT. Revision workshops and tutorials in the ST.

This course has reading weeks in Week 6 of Michaelmas and Lent Terms.

Formative coursework

Two essays per year; topically based research presentations.

Indicative reading

(Primary texts) Conrad Heart of Darkness; T S Eliot The Waste Land; Virginia Woolf Mrs Dalloway; James Joyce Portrait of the Artist Forster Passage to India George Orwell Nineteen Eighty-Four; Larkin Collected Poems; Heaney Collected Poems; (Secondary text) The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature (The New Cambridge History of English Literature)  by Laura Marcus and Peter Nicholls  Cambridge: CUP, 2012


Exam (70%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (30%) in the LT.


Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
First 40
2:1 51.4
2:2 2.9
Third 0
Fail 5.7

Key facts

Department: Language Centre

Total students 2021/22: 21

Average class size 2021/22: 8

Capped 2021/22: Yes (32)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.