Summer School: English Literature

Study at an English department ranked amongst the highest in the UK and at a university rated the 22nd most international in the world*. View our English Literature Summer School modules below.

English Literature modules

The University of Sussex reserves the right to cancel modules due to staff availability, student demand, minimum enrolment, or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.

Session One

  • Video Games: Creative and Critical Writing

    Module code: IS403

    In recent years the gaming industry has been transformed by the addition of auteur-driven indie games to those of AAA studios with Hollywood budgets, as well as by the diversity of technology on which games can be played. We will explore examples of successful imagined worlds (Zelda: Breath of the Wild), powerful storytelling (The Last of Us), literary games (Kentucky Route Zero), indie games (Braid), and classic adventure games (Monkey Island), amongst others.

    We explore the imagined possibilities of play, world-building, narrative, character, game mechanics and game dynamics. This provides an array of opportunities for creative writing in video game design; including composing narratives and shooting-scripts, imagining avatars, and developing fictional worlds. You will be introduced to some game development software, though this module is not designed as a coding course, and is ideal for students looking beyond the surface of video games; wanting to engage with thoughtful critique of an emerging industry.

    This module is a creative writing module, where you will develop a deeper understanding of creating narratives, branching narratives using Twine and essential game mechanics. You will reflect critically on the social implications of game design, taking into account discourses around gender, race and sexuality.

    Local companies within the gaming industry are expected to contribute through guest lectures. The module may also include field excursions to industry professionals.

    Learning outcomes:

    • Understand and experiment with common practices of creative writing across multiple computer/video game genres
    • Reflect critically on the social implications of game design, taking into account discourses around gender, race, and sexuality
    • To communicate the results of critical reflection in a collegial group presentation
    • To evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems when relating the creative aspect of game design to critical reflection on the social aspects of games.

    Teaching method: Lectures and workshops
    Assessment: 70% portfolio, 20% group presentation, 10% observation
    Contact hours: 40 hours

  • The Age of Adolescence: Reading 20th Century Youth Culture

    Module code: IS407

    This module will explore representations of adolescence from the early 20th through to the early 21st century in literature, film and popular culture. We will read texts that range across history, psychology, and writings about juvenile delinquency, but our focus will be on reading novels, short stories, films and graphic novels, that represent the paradoxes of adolescence from the turn of the 20th century: Back to the Future, Ghost World, Spring Breakers, The Hunger Games, and more.

    We will look at the ways in which the adolescent morphs into the teenage consumer in the 1950s in novels such as Colin MacInnes’s Absolute Beginners. We will consider the adolescent as a site of cultural fantasy and cultural fears in relation to class, race, gender, and sexuality and the adolescent’s relationship to radical politics, subculture, suburbia, and nostalgia.

    If you are interested in literary figures and novels that have pushed boundaries on the representation of adolescence, then this module is for you. This module will provide a theoretical introduction for students wishing to explore a career in film production, youth literature and education sectors.

    On this experiential module, we will explore how Brighton has been central for pushing boundaries and creating new waves in the medium of literature and film. We will develop a deeper understanding of the construction of the categories of the adolescent and the teenagers in literature, film and theory. This module may include a field trip to Brighton, following the trail of cult movie Quadrophenia.

    Learning outcomes:

    • Demonstrate knowledge of the history of, and an ability to evaluate, 20th-21st century fiction, film and theory
    • Develop an understanding of the construction of the categories of the adolescent and the teenager in literature, film and theory
    • Analyse literature, film, and other discourses, and to dissect rhetoric and understand meanings
    • Develop an argument from close reading and data interpretation.

    Teaching method: Fieldwork, lectures and workshops
    Assessment: 70% essay, 20% report, 10% observation
    Contact hours: 40 hours

Session Two 

  • Sexual Dissidence: Non-normative Cultural Identities

    Module code: IS405

    In our changing digital world, this module will provide a deeper understanding behind human perception of multimedia such as colour and sound; how perception relates to the capture, display, storage and transmission of media. This module offers the grounding into digital media of computer science and will interest students looking for an insight into digital multimedia production. 

    The University of Sussex has been a pioneer in the study of gender and sexuality for over thirty years. Throughout this module, you will reflect on individuals and cultures that have at one time been considered (and are sometimes happy to be considered) aberrant, not “normal”. The module balances questions of identity (who we are, who we think we are, who others think we are) with questions of desire and sexual aim (who – or what – we are attracted to, if anything). This module asks you to focus on one question throughout: should we understand ourselves, and be understood in turn, as sexual and gendered identities; “straight”, “queer”, “female”, “heterosexual”, etc., or by our attachments; who we love, who we desire?

    Emphasis will be placed on works from Britain or from the British post-colonial diaspora and you will examine mediums including literature, art and film. You do not need any knowledge of theories of gender and sexuality in advance, only an open mind.

    You will reflect critically in group presentations on cultural phenomena that challenges normative notions of sexual and gender identities. The module is thought-provoking and you will explore questions of identity by developing your knowledge of the history of sexual identities from close readings.

    The module may also include a field-trip to the home of filmmaker, theatre practitioner, and writer Derek Jarman (1942 – 1994). This module also takes place at the same time as Brighton and Hove Pride weekend – one of the most iconic LGBT pride events in the UK.

    The University of Sussex has been a pioneer in the study of Gender and Sexuality for over 30 years including the teaching of the first undergraduate course in the UK by Alan Sinfield and Jonathan Dolimore in the 1960’s. Sinfield and Dolimore were radical intellectuals and were hugely influential in the development of queer studies in the UK. This Sexual Dissidence module stems from this and the University of Sussex Centre of Sexual Dissidence, of which explores the progression of cultural identity from the 1960s to the present day.

    The module requires no background, however it would be helpful for those going on to study literature, film, media, art history, history, amongst other academic disciplines and would appeal to those interested in Gender Theory.

    Learning outcomes:

    • Demonstrate knowledge of the history of sexual identities through readings of culture and theory, and to understand the distinction between theories of identity and theories of sexual aim
    • To reflect critically on cultural phenomena that challenge normative notions of sexual and gender identities, and that provide evidence of non-normative sexual aims
    • To communicate the results of critical reflection in a collegial group presentation
    • Develop an argument from close reading and historical context.

    Teaching method: Fieldwork, seminars and workshops
    Assessment: 70% essay, 20% presentation, 10% observation
    Contact hours: 40 hours

  • Literature and the Sussex Environment: Joseph Conrad to Victoria Woolf

    Module code: IS406

    It is urgent that we question the relationship between ourselves and the natural environment. In this module we will explore the relationship between writing and our urban, cultural, and natural environments.

    The environmental humanities pay particular attention to the relationship between the arts and ecology (including questions of climate change), and challenge the centrality of the human. Questions of the environment provide this module with a framework to explore just some of the places and landscapes habited or imagined by writers and artists.

    The module uses fieldwork to help us locate the literary imagination in real places. This may include (but will vary each year) Henry James and Joseph Conrad in Rye, Virginia Woolf in Newhaven and at Monk’s House, Graham Greene in Brighton, and Raymond Williams in Seaford. These literary figures are known for taking inspiration from the local environment, including Rye, Newhaven, Brighton and Seaford. You will engage with these immediate surroundings, writing on location and drawing inspiration from places infamous in Locative Literature. These will be presented in both a portfolio and report, as wither a creative writing or critical piece.

    Throughout this module, you will develop critical knowledge and awareness of the “inextricable” relations between literature and the environment and will acquire a critical and conceptual vocabulary for analysis of contemporary and traditional forms of literature, from an ecological perspective. This module may include guest lectures from novelists and writers based at the University of Sussex and the local area.

    This is ideal for critical and creative writing students, particularly students with an interest in literature in the environment and critical thinking; literature and ecology; writing and climate crisis; creative and critical writing; psychogeography; the poetics of “place”; animality; landscape.

    Learning outcomes:

    • Develop critical knowledge and awareness of the inextricable relations between literature and the environment
    • Develop an enhanced understanding and appreciation of specific literary works in the context of contemporary environmental questions and problems
    • Acquire a critical and conceptual vocabulary for the analysis and interrogation of contemporary literature, and of more traditional forms of literary criticism, from an ecological perspective
    • Develop an understanding of the possibilities of creative writing vis-à-vis ecology and the environment.

    Teaching method: Fieldwork, lectures and seminars
    Assessment: 70% portfolio, 20% presentation, 10% observation
    Contact hours: 40 hours

  • Children’s Literature

    Module code: IS408

    Our most loved books are often those we read in childhood, and these stay with us through later life – this module will provide a space to think differently when addressing these key texts by analysing the relationships between children’s literature and contemporary culture.

    This module challenges previous notions and sentiments of our most loved books, students will thoughtfully critique and question the politics of best-loved works in children’s literature.

    George Orwell commented “the worst books are often the most important, because they are usually the ones that are read earliest in life.” How, then, should we read the books we love? Can we be critical and remain enthusiastic? Students on this module will read some of the much-loved works of children’s literature and ask in what ways they are utopian, and in what ways toxic? What are the politics of even the simplest of stories? Are they liberating or conservative? What about terms of race, class, and gender?

    This module challenges previous notions and sentiments of our most loved books. Students will thoughtfully critique and question the politics of best-loved works in children’s literature.

    This module is ideal for students with a background in English, Art and History as we look at a variety of mediums. We will consider the role of illustration, watch classic film adaptations, and read seminal works by authors including Lewis Carroll, Neil Gaiman, C. S. Lewis, Beatrix Potter, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and J. K. Rowling. Through small group seminars, you will discuss the key themes addressed apply these to your own written and spoken analysis of texts studied during the module.

    Learning outcomes:

    • Demonstrate an understanding of the relationships between contemporary cultural contexts and children’s literature
    • Participate in seminar discussions on themes addressed by the module
    • Display an ability to discuss relationships between texts studied during the module
    • Develop and demonstrate original written and spoken analysis of texts studied during the module.

    Teaching method: Fieldwork, seminars and tutorials
    Assessment: 65% essay, 25% presentation, 10% observation
    Contact hours: 40 hours


About the School of English

The School of English at Sussex combines world-leading research with innovative, creative teaching in English and American Literature, English Language and Linguistics, and Drama, Theatre and Performance.

Since the University’s founding, English at Sussex has challenged conventional critical and cultural models. Our faculty are distinguished scholars, many of whom have won academic prizes and research awards. Our degrees are widely recognised as inventive, inviting interdisciplinary study.

We share a commitment to understanding and rethinking the ways in which language creates and shapes our world: imaginatively, structurally, and through performance.

  • 14thin the UK**

  • 91%of our English students were satisfied overall with their courses

  • 1stin the UK for career prospects***

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* The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019, ** The Guardian University Guide 2020, *** The Complete University Guide 2018


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