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 the programme leader, Paul Vlitos, if you have any questions  – 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.

    • Marie de France, Milun; Lanval; Chevrefoil
    • Sir Orfeo
    • Geoffrey Chaucer, The Miller’s Tale.

    • Walter Raleigh: ‘The Nymph’s Reply to the Shepherd’; ‘What is our life?’; ‘[Sir Walter Raleigh to His Son]’; ‘The Lie’; ‘Farewell, false love’; ‘Methought I saw the grave where Laura lay’; ‘Nature, that washed her hands in milk’; ‘[The Author’s Epitaph, Made by Himself]’
    • Mary Wroth: The Countess of Mongomery’s Urania’, From ‘The First Book’; Song (‘Love what art thou? A vain though’); ‘Pamphilia to Amphilanthus’; 1; 16; 25; 28; 39; 40; 64; 68; 74; From ‘A Crown of Sonnets Dedicated to Love’; 77; 103 
    • Aemilia Lanyer, ‘The Description of Cookham’
    • Ben Jonson, ‘To Penshurst’
    • Thomas Carew, ‘To Saxham’
    • Andrew Marvell, ‘Upon Appleton House.’

    • Aphra Behn, Oronooko
    • Alexander Pope: The Rape of the Lock; Jonathan Swift, The Lady’s Dressing Room; Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 'The Reasons That Induced Dr. Swift to Write a Poem Called the Lady's Dressing Room'
    • Samuel Richardson, Pamela (selected letters will be identified in advance of the seminar).

    Introduction to Creative Writing

    Natalie Goldberg (2010): Writing Down the Bones: Chapters titled 'Man Eats Car'; 'Writing is Not a McDonald's Hamburger'' and 'Baking a Cake.'

    Peter Elbow (1998): Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process. Second Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chapter 2 'Freewriting' (13-19) and Chapters at the start of Section 6 including 'Power in Writing (Intro)', 'Writing and Voice' (279-313).

    Strand, M. and Eavan Boland (2000). The Making of a Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms. New York/London: Norton. Chapter: “The Stanza” (136-155).

    Ted Hughes (2008). Poetry in the Making: A Handbook for Writing and Teaching. London: Faber & Faber. Chapters: “Capturing Animals”; “Writing About People”; “Learning to Think.”

    Furniss, T. and Michael Bath (1996). Reading Poetry: An Introduction. Harlow: Pearson. Chapter: “The Sonnet” (355-384) from Don Patterson, 101 Sonnets from Shakespeare to Heaney (2002). (pdf of this will be on SurreyLearn).

    David Lodge (1992) The Art of Fiction: illustrated from classic and modern texts. London: Penguin. Chapters: “Beginning” (3-8); “Point of View” (25-29); “Defamiliarization” (52-55); “The Sense of Place” (56-60); “Introducing a Character” (66-69); “Showing and Telling” (121-124); “Telling in Different Voices” (125-129), “Narrative Structure” (215-218).

    Alison Bell (2001): The Creative Writing Coursebook, Chapter 3 ‘Abstracts’ (44-49) + 1-2 contemporary short stories [tbc] from Jacob Ross (2015) Closure: Contemporary Black British Short Stories. Peepal Tree.

    Alice Munro (2014), ‘How I Met My Husband’ in Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You.


    Many handouts will be provided in class! If you are hoping to become a deep reader and writer of poetry, we strongly suggest you pick up a copy of either or both of these: The Norton Anthology of Poetry (any edition will do); 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem (edited by Ruth Padel, any edition).

    For those hoping to explore the minds of poets and what makes them tick, a fantastic book is the text of manifestos and essays: W.N. Herbert and M. Hollis (2000), Strong Words: modern poets on modern poetry. Bloodaxe Books.

    Short stories

    We recommend three collections of short stories in particular: Art of the Short Story (2005), an enormous tome filled with interesting and engaging stories and author interviews. Used copies can be found online. For some engaging contemporary stories: Closure: Contemporary Black British Short Stories (2015), and Penguin Book of the Contemporary British Short Story (2019).

    Theories of Reading

    You should ideally purchase Literary Theory: An Anthology ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, 3rd edition (1998; Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2017). Most of the reading for the module is in this volume, except where noted.

    Toni Morrison, ‘Playing in the Dark’, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 1163–1173.

    Ferdinand de Saussure, ‘Course in General Linguistics’, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 137–177.

    Roland Barthes, ‘Mythologies’, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 196–204.

    Richard Wright (1994 [1937]), ‘Blueprint for Negro Writing’, Within the Circle: An anthology of African American literary criticism from the Harlem Renaissance to the present, pp. 97–106. [PDF provided on SurreyLearn].

    Sigmund Freud, ‘Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego’, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 615–617.

    Lisa Hinrichsen, ‘Trauma Studies and the Literature of the US South’, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 636–649.

    Viewing: Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Masks (Isaac Julien, 1997; 71 minutes).

    Karl Marx, ‘The German Ideology’, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 730–736.

    Walter Benjamin, ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 736–744.

    Louis Althusser, Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 768–777.

    Michel Foucault, Right of Death and Power Over Life, in Rivkin and Ryan, pp. 778–791.

    David T Mitchell & Sharon L Snyder, Chapter 2: ‘Narrative Prosthesis and the Materiality of Metaphor’, Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press), pp. 47–64.

    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.