English literature preparation

Welcome to English literature and English literature with creative writing!

Semester overview

The academic year at Surrey is divided into two semesters. In each semester of eleven weeks (the first runs from the start of October to December) you’ll be taking four modules.

As an English literature student in your first semester you’ll be taking:

  • History of English Literature I
  • Theories of Reading I
  • Understanding the Novel
  • Understanding Stage and Screen.

As an English Literature with Creative Writing student in your first semester you’ll be taking:

  • History of English Literature I
  • Introduction to Creative Writing
  • Theories of Reading I
  • And either ‘Understanding the Novel’ or 'Understanding Stage and Screen.’

Reading lists by module

Below are the reading lists, but we should emphasize that there is no pressure or necessity to read all (or indeed any) of the texts before you arrive. Once you are here, of course, you’ll also have access to texts via the Library and online library resources. What might be a place to start with is reading some of the longer texts i.e. novels, if you want to get ahead: Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko, for instance, or some of the novels from the novel module if you intend on taking it.

We hope this is helpful – and there are some books and pieces of writing which look exciting here! Do feel free to contact Dr Charlotte Mathieson, if you have any questions about English Literature, and Dr Liz Bahs for enquiries about the English Literature with Creative Writing programme  – and we look forward to welcoming you here at Surrey in person soon!

    History of English Literature I 

    These texts can be found in the Norton Anthology of English Literature, but we would stress that most of the texts can be found for free online and there is absolutely no need for you to read them in advance of the semester.

    Introduction to Creative Writing

    Theories of Reading

    The critical and theoretical approaches we will explore on this module include formalism, structuralism, psychoanalytic literary theory, Marxist literary theory, and the critical writings produced by figures associated with the Harlem Renaissance. The set text for the module will be Literary Theory: An Anthology, 3rd edition, edited by Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan (Blackwell, 2017). If you would like to get ahead with some reading, useful places to start are:

    • Toni Morrison, ‘Playing in the Dark’, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 1163–1173
    • Viktor Shklovsky, ‘Art as Technique’, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 8-14
    • Roland Barthes, ‘Mythologies’, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 196–204
    • Sigmund Freud, ‘Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego’, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 615–617
    • Karl Marx, ‘The German Ideology’, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 730–736.

    Understanding Stage and Screen

    On this module we will be reading the playtexts and watching film adaptations of: 

    • Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest 
    • Shelagh Delaney, A Taste of Honey 
    • Bola Agbaje, Gone Too Far!


    Understanding the Novel

    The primary texts on this module are:

    • Eliza Haywood, Fantomina
    • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
    • Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
    • Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
    • Muriel Spark, The Drivers Seat
    • Kazuo Ishiguro, the Remains of the Day.