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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

MUSS3120 The Supernatural in Opera

20 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Dr Clive McClelland

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The supernatural has had an enduring fascination for mankind, including the gods and monsters of early mythologies, the ghosts, witches and demons of later legends, the gothic literature of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and the vivid cinematic fantasies of more recent times. Why are these phenomena so well-suited to opera? How did composers and producers go about instilling a sense of horror and terror in their audiences? Is opera more effective than other media for creating such a response? This module explores these and other issues through a wide-ranging survey of operas on supernatural themes from the Baroque to the 20th Century.


The module engages students with a topic within the field of musicological research – the supernatural in opera. Students are encouraged and supported to challenge critically existing musicological positions and perspectives on the subject, drawing on interdisciplinary approaches as appropriate, to increase understanding of the specific research topic and, through this, to develop independent research skills for application within and beyond the module.

Learning outcomes
1. Demonstrate in-depth musical knowledge through musicological study of the supernatural in opera.
2. Apply advanced historical, analytical, critical and comparative methodologies to the articulation and development of arguments.
3. Demonstrate evidence of growing independence in research, a deepening understanding of methodology, and a high level of written and oral presentational skills.
4. Develop an awareness of contextual approaches applicable to the repertoire covered.


Taught sessions will usually focus on specific topics from within the broad musicological area of the supernatural in opera, offering a wide ranging yet nuanced investigation of the subject. Lectures will draw on current research alongside musicological and analytical criticism of key works from the repertoire, to explore key theories and concepts and the development of creative practice over time.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours181.75
Total Contact hours18.25
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

4 hours evaluation of notes per lecture or seminar: 36 hours;
8 hours reading and listening per lecture or seminar, including any pre-class work: 72 hours;
Completing assessments: 58.75 hours;
Tutorial preparation: 15 hours.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress will be monitored through in-class discussions and the tutorial, as well as via the shorter piece of work submitted for the module assessment.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
AssignmentEssay of 3600-4400 words OR extended verbal presentation of c.20 minutes75.00
AssignmentVerbal presentation of c.10 minutes OR written assignment of 1500-2000 words.25.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Options for assessment on this module are offered in order that students may choose the type that best suits their learning style. Students must choose either a short verbal presentation (25%) and longer essay (75%), or a shorter piece of written work (25%) and longer verbal presentation (75%); the chosen options must include both verbal and written assessment, and total 100%. The short written assignment may indicatively include submissions such as: a conference proposal/extended abstract and annotated bibliography; a position paper; a literature review; annotated discography; or self-reflective report. The submission must be agreed with an appropriate member of staff and may either link to or stand apart from the extended conference style presentation. The short verbal presentation may likewise link to or stand apart from the extended written submission. The deadline for the 25% submission may vary on a topic by topic basis, and depending on the number of students opting for each sort of assessment, but is usually around wk 7-9. It should always take place in suitable time for feedback for be provided to students in time for them to draw on it in their 75% submission.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 28/04/2023 14:43:21


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