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:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Madeleine Davies

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

Type of module:

Summary module description:

Critical Theory is the philosophy of literary study and this module opens up theoretical ideas connected with language, writing, race, gender, and ‘being human’. The module outlines the major developments in literary theory over the past century and explains the central concepts associated with Liberal Humanism, Structuralism, and Post-Structuralism (including Post-Modernism). Seminars discuss the ideas raised in the lectures and these ideas derive from a collection of critical essays (see below): debates include how language may be a barrier to ‘meaning’ rather than a conduit of it; how race has been constructed via discourses of power; how intersectional feminism troubles the ideas of earlier feminist thinkers; how the tenets of ‘being human’ are eroded within the technological contemporary; and how ideology complicates the idea of the individual subject. Seminar debate is lively on this module and the ideas can change attitudes towards what text does and towards how it does it (‘what it says depends on how you look at it: nevertheless, how you look at it depends on what it says’). This module informs all subsequent work at Part 2 and at Part 3 level and is particularly helpful to your work on the dissertation.

The Module has a comprehensive Handbook presenting all the materials, seminar preparation documents, and information necessary for the module. The Handbook is free.

Students who enjoy extending their thinking and who are keen to challenge their own ideas and beliefs will find this module extremely rewarding.


Building on the critical and theoretical work undertaken in Part 1 (‘Research and Criticism’), 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 new perspectives initiated by 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:

‘Critical Issues’ explores a range of critical debates that have proved formative to modern literary study. A collection of essays is presented in a Module Handbook, including ideas generated by, for example, Ferdinand de Saussure, Jean Baudrillard, Virginia Woolf, Hazel Carby, Franz Fanon, and Sojourner Truth. This material is supplemented by additional essays and ideas framed by Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle in An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (this is the only text that students are expected to buy). The module equips students with an advanced understanding of a set of crucial debates and provides a valuable launch-pad for Part 3 study.

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 assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

50% of the mark is produced from an online Learning Journal. This involves 10 x 500-word entries, 1 entry uploaded every week while the module is in progress.

50% of the mark is produced by a 2000 word assessed essay submitted online on the first day of the term following the end of 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 Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (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.

    Assessment 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).

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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