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Semester 1

Scottish Literature 2A (ENLI08022)


English Literature





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Visiting students must have passed at least one English Literature course previously, at grade B or above; we will only consider University/College level courses. Visiting students can only take one of the following sets of courses during any programme of study: ‘Literary Studies 1A/1B’, ‘Literary Studies 2A/2B’ and ‘Scottish Literature 2A/2B’. Courses from these three sets cannot be combined during the same programme of study. Visiting students wishing to take a 1st/2nd year English Literature course during both semesters can enrol in Scottish Literature 2B (but not Literary Studies 1A/1B or Literary Studies 2A/2B) alongside this course. **This course may incur additional costs for course texts**

Course Summary

This first-semester course introduces students to the history of literature in Scotland in English and Scots, covering two periods of its great flourishing: at the Stuart court of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and in the Romantic period of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The focus will be on how questions of literary form relate to the social and intellectual context in which the text was written and read; that is, on how the text's formal achievement reflects the institutions which made it possible and the ideas which made it meaningful. The course will encourage students to extend their essay writing skills through engagement with critical material.

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to train you to read literature historically: that is, to ask, not only what a literary text says, but what it is doing by saying that in the social context for which it was written. It thus builds on your training in close reading and formal analysis in first year, and completes your preparation for more specialised study in the Honours years of your degree. It does not however attempt a continuous survey of Scottish literary history across the centuries, but proceeds by a series of case-studies in particular periods, each marked by a particular flourishing of literary culture in Scotland. This reflects the historical reality of a culture forced to re-invent itself after various sorts of radical transformation (Reformation and Union; Industrialisation). But this will also help us focus on the relation of the literary text to its historical moment by taking that historical moment, a matter of a few decades in each case, in relative isolation, without assuming a continuous literary national tradition in which these periods can all be connected up. Indeed, in the second half of Scottish Literature 2A we will think about the invention of this idea of national tradition, and the different things it can mean, in the work of Macpherson, Burns and Scott. **As just indicated, Scottish Literature 2A falls into two halves. The first half, weeks 1-5, introduces you to the poetry of the late-Medieval Stuart court. We start here both because this is one place where Scottish Literature can be said to begin; but also because the social context of the late middle ages is so alien that the challenge of understanding its literature requires us to grasp not just new words, but ideas, categories and values totally unrelated to anything in our present-day lives, forcing us to read historically. Then in the second half of the semester (weeks 7-11), we turn to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, conventionally referred to as the Romantic period. In this section, the central ideas will be the historiography and sentimental ethics of the Scottish Enlightenment, and the rise of Evangelical Christianity; the central event will be the French Revolution, as the context in which national literary tradition is constructed to serve particular political and social purposes. Each week, you will attend two lectures, usually one relating that week s text to its social and historical context; and another exploring its internal organisation. There will be a weekly tutorial, for which you will prepare in autonomous small-group work. The course will be assessed by two essays, one written in relation to each half, after the completion of that unit: week 6 is set aside (no lectures or tutorials) for the completion of the first essay, and the second essay will be completed in week 12.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

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