British and Irish Poetry after 1930: From Auden to Prynne


It took British Poetry a long time to assimilate European modernism. This course takes the 'low, dishonest' 1930s as a starting point in exploring British poetry's international allegiances, first embracing European movements such as Surrealism and Expressionism, replaced in the 1950s by the more unassuming and insular style of poetry exemplified by The Movement; but in the 1960s, under US influence, modernism resurged into what became known as the 'British Poetry Revival'. From this point there was a clear split between styles of poetry: the conflict over the control of the Poetry Society became know as the 'Poetry Wars'. Increasingly from the 1970s, it seemed that different schools of poetry hardly talked to each other.

This course will look closely at the culture and context of poetry production, the material objects of poetry (books, magazines, manifestoes), and the occasional tensions between poetry factions; and it will then survey the increasingly divided terrain of British poetry, and how negotiable this situation is.  Although individual poets are important, this course will be also about historic and political contexts, stylistic continuities, influences (both national and international), and disjunctions. In each week, the first hour will give contexts in the form of lectures, while the second hour will be occupied with detailed analyses and close readings of individual poems and texts, with the opportunity for students to give presentations on poems or poets from this period. 

Programme details

Courses starts: 22 Sep 2022

Week 0: Course Orientation

Week 1:  The Auden style. Engagement and non-intervention. Politics and fear between the wars.

Week 2:  Surrealism and the Avant-Garde in the 30s. Magazine and manifesto culture. Edith Sitwell.

Week 3:  The New Apocalypse: Britain's Expressionist movement. Dylan Thomas, Lynette Roberts.

Week 4:  Wartime poetry: the return of HD and Eliot.

Week 5:  The Movement: Larkin, Donald Davie and others. Rosemary Tonks, Stevie Smith.

Week 6:  Hughes, Plath, and their contested legacy. 

Week 7:  Poetries of place. Geoffrey Hill, Roy Fisher, Basil Bunting and others.

Week 8:  Heaney and workshop culture.  The Group. Paul Muldoon.

Week 9:  The Poetry Wars.  Maggie O'Sullivan and others. 

Week 10: Prynne, the Cambridge School, Denise Riley. Contemporary poetry culture: academia.


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £238.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Giles Goodland

Giles Goodland has published several books of poetry, and has taught for the OUDCE for several years. He also  works as an editor and researcher for the Oxford English Dictionary.  He gained a Doctorate (D.Phil) at Oxford for his thesis on Modernist Poetry in Britain in the 1940s. 

Course aims

To present an overview of major trends and styles  in mid and late twentieth-century poetry. 

Course Objectives

1. To present a non-partisan but entertaining view of the intertwining strands of modernisms and insularity, political engagement and withdrawal,  difficulty and accessibility, seen in British and Irish poetry since 1930. 

2. To encourage students to engage in detailed discussion of texts and issues, resulting in the production of relevant coursework.

Teaching methods

Teaching will be a mixture of lecturing, discussion, and close reading of texts. In the first hour of each class, I will summarise the important themes and give examples. The second hour will be in a seminar or discussion format as we engage with poems and texts that will have been sent to students in advance. 

Texts will be provided in advance. Each week a pre-recoded lecture will be made available for students. This will be followed by a live meeting with guided group discussions focused on specific aspects of the texts. Prior to submitting the main assessment, students will also have the opportunity to discuss the topics in class, and contact the tutor individually, should they require further guidance. Classes will be followed by the opportunity for further discussion vis the course website.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

1. be aware of varying styles of twentieth-century British (and Irish) poetry,  the reasons for differences between them, the major poets of the period, and their legacies;

2. understand some of the reasons for changes in poetic styles;

3. have an appreciation of how and why poetry changes over time. 

Assessment methods

I will encourage students to make presentations during the 10-week course, but this will not be obligatory. Students will be assessed by an essay on a poet or poetic theme of up to 1,500 words. 

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


Each course will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

No specific knowledge of twentieth-century poetry will be required, but a general familiarity with and enthusiasm for poetry and poetic styles would be helpful.  More important will be an open mind towards what a poem can offer. 

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)