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20th century literature: texts and debates

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.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module

Module code
A300
Credits
60
Study level
OU SCQF FHEQ
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Am I ready?

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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.

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.

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.

Course work includes:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


Entry

A300 is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU 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.

Register

Start End England fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015 £2632.00

Registration closes 11/09/14 (places subject to availability)

Register

You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

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

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later - OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

For more information about employer sponsorship speak to an adviser or request a call back.

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or request a call back.


Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is based upon current details for  year 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015.
This information was provided on 28/07/2014.

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 module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

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

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Gibbon, Lewis Grassic Sunset Song Cannongate Books £8.99 - ISBN 9781841957562
  • Gupta, S & Johnson, D (eds) A Twentieth-Century Literature Reader: Texts and Debates Routledge £21.99 - ISBN 9780415351713
  • Mansfield, K Selected Stories Oxford World's Classics £7.99 - ISBN 9780199537358
  • Du Maurier, D Rebecca Virago £8.99 - ISBN 9781844080380
  • Skelton, R (ed) Poetry of the Thirties Penguin £9.99 - ISBN 9780141184579
  • Beckett, S Waiting for Godot Samuel French £9.50 - ISBN 9780573040085
  • Gurnah, A Paradise Bloomsbury £8.99 - ISBN 9780747573999 This book is Print On Demand, please allow at least 7 weeks for receipt following order
  • Woolf, V Orlando: a Biography Oxford World's Classics £7.99 - ISBN 9780199536597
  • Heaney, S New Selected Poems, 1966-1987 Faber and Faber £13.99 - ISBN 9780571143726
  • Brecht, B (tr John Willett) Life of Galileo Methuen £9.99 - ISBN 9780413577801
  • Puig, Manuel Kiss of the Spider Woman Vintage £7.99 - ISBN 9780099342007
  • Ginsberg, A Howl and other poems Perseus Running Press £6.75 - ISBN 9780872860179
  • Barker, P The Ghost Road Penguin £8.99 - ISBN 9780141030951
  • Chekov, A Five Plays Oxford University Press £6.99 - ISBN 9780199536696
  • Dick, P K Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? SF Masterworks £7.99 - ISBN 9780575094185
  • Eliot, T S Prufrock and Other Observations Faber and Faber £4.99 - ISBN 9780571207206

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.

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. Find out more about our services for disabled students.