Module Spotlight: History and Textuality
As an incoming English and History student, I felt a little in the dark. I didn’t know anyone who had studied it at university, and I had no real idea of what to expect. It took me half of Freshers’ Week to even find another person doing the same course as me! English and History is a relatively new course, having only been offered by Warwick since 2018, so there isn’t even a wealth of older students to go to for advice and insight. So to put your mind at ease, if you’re coming to Warwick to study English and History, you’ll be interested in the History and Textuality module. This is a core module for First Year English and History students only, and is where you really get to grips with the overlapping of the two separate disciplines. I personally found its content to be the most challenging out of all my modules, but it was also one of my favourites.
This module is taught by the two convenors of the English and History course, both of whom you will see plenty of. They are fantastic lecturers and always happy to help as and when you need. One of my favourite things about this module was that it was exclusively for those of us doing English and History, because it helped us to get to know each other in those early days and form a close group.
What do we learn about? How is the module structured? In total we studied four core texts – one every five weeks. We looked at: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens; Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (NB: the 1818 edition); Fun Home by Alison Bechdel; and The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald. Each of us enjoyed one text more than another, so there really is something in there for everyone. With these core texts in the back of your mind, you are set a couple of pieces of reading each week. These are academic journal articles related to the topic you have discussed in the lecture that week. They were often quite complex, and for that reason could be time-consuming because it’s important to grasp the arguments in order to participate in the seminars. However, the tutors were always willing to go over the articles if you needed them to.
What was really great about History and Textuality is how it helps you in both English and History. There is a change in the way you approach each subject from A Level, and this module was definitely the most helpful in making that jump. Each week we looked at a different method of studying History, or a different concern about a historical method. When it came to History modules, I felt that I had a much better understanding of some of the theory because of this module. We also spent a lot of time working on close reading and analysis, which was obviously very helpful when it came to the English modules. Having what I had learned in History and Textuality under my belt, I felt much more confident going into other modules in each discipline.
The seminars usually took the form of an open discussion. The tutors would review the reading material to ensure that we had all understood it, and then pose some questions to the group. Once one of us started talking, it would open up lots of counter arguments and contentions to be discussed. We would then begin to link the discussion back to the core text, so at the end of each seminar I felt like I had understood the theory whilst also bolstering my understanding of the core text.
In terms of assessment, we had to write three précis (short summaries of an academic article to demonstrate your understanding) and two 500-word commentary essays throughout the year. These were designed to test that you had really grasped the content, and even though they were difficult at first, I think they were integral to my understanding. We also had to write an extended essay at the end of the year, for which we had a range of questions to choose from. This meant that we could focus our coursework on the aspects of the course we enjoyed the most. Due to COVID, we didn’t have the final exam, but I believe it would have taken a similar shape to the extended essay.
To sum it up, History and Textuality can be a tough and rigorous module, but certainly one of the most important you will take as an English and History student. It has undoubtedly set me up well for the rest of my degree.