EN3FKL-Folk and Literature

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2019/0

Module Convenor: Dr Paddy Bullard

Email: p.s.bullard@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module investigates English writing about rural life, folk culture and nature, from the Romantic Period (c.1800) to the present day. Landscapes shaped by labour, natural environments, the fate of countryside communities: these complex themes have been crucial to British writing since the Romantic age. This module, which is run in collaboration with MERL (Reading’s Museum of English Rural Life) looks at representations of the rural in British literature over the last two centuries. It focuses on the figure of the outsider in rural society, and on the ambiguous identification of writers with those who live beyond the community. It also gives an introduction to British folk song – _to_its ‘outsider’ relationship with mainstream literature, and its parallel engagement with the outsider theme. Hands-on work with_MERL’s object collections helps students consider the meaningfulness of the connections that material culture provides with our receding rural heritage..


This module encourages students to test their skills in literary analysis by stretching them beyond the literary sphere. First, textual representations of rural communities are studied alongside real material objects from the collections of Reading’s Museum of English Rural Life. Second, readings in the lyrical modes of rural writing are compared with vernacular British folk songs – songs often presented by educated writers as sitting at the heart of traditional rural cultures. This module aims to encourage students to move freely between these media in their thinking and writing.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module it is expected that students will be able to:

  • demonstrate awareness of how the mainstream literature interacts with vernacular art and material culture

  • make thematic comparisons and cross-reference between the set texts

  • make historical comparisons between historical writings and contemporary texts and cultural objects

  • organize and articulate a coherent written argument, both in coursework essays and under timed examination conditions.

  • engage critically with the ideas presented in lectures, seminars, or secondary materials

  • describe and analyse the distinctive features of the set texts and songs

Additional outcomes:

Students on this course will develop organizational, curatorial and team-building skill through institutional work with MERL. Oral and written communication skills will be developed, together with critical, interpretative and analytical abilities. Students will also enhance their IT competence through the use of relevant web resources and digital assessment in a critically informed manner.

Outline content:

Texts may include:

  • William Wordsworth, Selected Poems

  • John Clare, Selected Poems

  • The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, ed. Steve Roud and Julia Bishop

  • Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge

  • Flora Thompson, Lark Rise to Candleford

  • D.H. Lawrence, Selected Short Stories

  • Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm

  • Jez Butterworth, Jerusalem

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Three seminar hours weekly, which may take the form of a single 3-hour block or two blocks of 1 and 2 hours respectively, for which students are required to do preparatory reading. Students are also entitled to a half-hour tutorial on their formative written work. With the consent of the module convenor, students may also undertake a placement, through which they will learn how to apply the knowledge and skills gained in studying for this module in a professional context outside the University.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 33
Tutorials 0.5
Guided independent study: 166.5
Total hours by term 201
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 50
Report 30
Project output other than dissertation 20

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Students will be assessed formally on an essay of 2250-2500 words, or the equivalent placement report. They will also be assessed on a project output, which may take one of the following (or different) forms: a curatorial project at the Museum of English Rural Life (developed in consultation with MERL’s curators); a digital project involving (for example) folksong or documentary databases; a performance project involving adaptation of or response to the British folk song tradition. In each case, the aims, methods and contexts of the project output (20% of assessment) must be described and analysed in a supporting report or journal (30% of assessment).

Formative assessment methods:

Students write one formative essay, of between 1500 and 2000 words. Feedback will also be provided on the assessed essay of 2250-2500 words, or the equivalent placement report.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    A mark of at least 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-examination in September. Coursework will be carried forward if it bears a confirmed mark of 40% or more. Otherwise it must be resubmitted by 1 September.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 8 April 2019


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