EN2CRI-Critical Issues

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: English Part 1 or A-Level (A*, A or B)
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Madeleine Davies

Email: m.k.davies@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

Literary theory is a type of critical 'philosophy' and it produces fascinating debates. The study of literary theory allows us to read texts in new ways and to understand why what we all tend to take for granted about literature actually masks a matrix of unexpectedly thorny problems. On this module we ask whether language is the straightforward medium of communication we assume and whether words actually misdirect 'meaning'; we ask whether 'personal identity' is ever a possibility within ideology, and we question whether 'the real' is less 'real' than we may have been led to believe. Our debates involve contesting everything we thought we knew about 'truth', gender, identity, history, and even about 'being human' as we work our way through the ideas of key theorists and thinkers. Lectures outline the core ideas of a theorist/topic and seminars open out the main issues. Debate is always lively as long-held ideas about text, authorship, readership and identity are examined in the light of the ideas developed by some of the most important thinkers of the modern age. 

Building on the critical and theoretical work undertaken in Part 1, this module aims to develop students’ understanding of some of the most important concepts in modern literary study, through an examination of critical debates and the way some recent critics and theorists have responded to them.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that students will be able to:

•demonstrate an understanding of key concepts, issues and debates in the contemporary study of literature
•offer detailed and comparative close analysis of texts studied on the module
•engage critically with the ideas presented in lectures, seminars, or secondary materials
•organize and articulate a coherent written argument, both in coursework essays and under timed examination conditions.

Additional outcomes:
Students will be encouraged to develop skills of oral communication and effective participation in group work. They will also enhance their IT competence through the use of relevant web resources and databases and the word-processing of assessed work. Students will also gain a more confident and discriminating awareness of their own critical procedures, which should carry over into their literary studies elsewhere on the degree programme.

Outline content:

The module will explore ideas of language, ideology, gender, race, postmodernism, and 'being human'. Lectures will outline some of the ways in which these concepts have been interpreted, with reference to works by specific writers, critics and theorists, including Hayden White, Sojourner Truth, Virginia Woolf, Ferdinand de Saussure, John Fiske and Franz Fanon. A Module Handbook is distributed in both hard copy and electronically and this contains the primary material together with reading tips, seminar topics, and general guidance. Students bring this Handbook to seminars every week where we discuss, examine and debate the views of particular writers, critics or theorists. Bennett and Royle’s An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory will be used to situate the debate within the context of wider critical issues and students are very strongly advised to purchase a copy of this book.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
A combination of lectures and structured seminar discussion, for which students are required to do preparatory reading. Students are also entitled to a half-hour tutorial on their formative essay. With the consent of the module convenor, students may also undertake a placement, through which they will learn how to apply the knowledge and skills gained in studying for this module in a professional context outside the University.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10 1
Seminars 10
Tutorials 0.5
Practicals classes and workshops 1
Guided independent study 139.5 38
Total hours by term 160.00 40.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 67
Written assignment including essay 33

Other information on summative assessment:

Summative Assessment Methods (%) - work which always contributes towards the overall module mark:

An 2000 word assessed essay submitted at the end of the Autumn Term.

A written exam in the Summer Term contributing 67% to the total mark for the module.

Formative assessment methods:
Formative Assessment Methods - work which provides opportunities to improve performance (e.g. through feedback provided) but which does not necessarily always contribute towards the overall module mark:

Students write one formative essay, of approximately 1500 words. Feedback will also be provided on the assessed essay of 1800-2000 words, or the equivalent placement report. Feedback on written exams will be available on request from the Director of Teaching and Learning.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of at least 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-examination in August. Coursework will be carried forward if it bears a confirmed mark of 40% or more. Otherwise it must be resubmitted by 25 August 2018 

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    A Module Handbook is distributed which contains all the primary reading for the module. If a student needs a replacement Handbook, we charge a small fee to cover the cost of re-printing.

    Students will need to buy one book for this module, Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle's An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (see online reading list).

    Key Readings List:
    You can view a Key Readings list for this module here: http://readinglists.reading.ac.uk/lists/D36F7279-B627-0E91-7263-7624F7895512
    N.B. Reading lists may change before the module starts.

    Last updated: 11 April 2017

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