EN3MAT-Margaret Atwood

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: English Part 1
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Madeleine Davies

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

Type of module:

Summary module description:

'To refuse above all to be a victim.' Margaret Atwood is Canada's most influential contemporary writer. Atwood consistently engages with issues of power ('who can do what to whom and get away with it') and her work engages with a range of contemporary debates including ecological, feminist, and ideological discourses. On this module we discuss dystopia, speculative fiction, 'Ontario Gothic' and the uncanny, ideology, postmodernity and questions of language and narration, engaging with the texts via close analysis and critical/theoretical readings of the texts. The novel explores only Atwood's novels (including The Handmaid's Tale, Surfacing, Cat's Eye, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin and Oryx and Crake) but her poetry and critical essays are discussed as appropriate. Students will demontrate their developing knowledge of Atwood's work, and their engagement with it, in a Learning Journal that will be submitted at the end of the Spring Term. There is no exam on this module and assessment is completed with an assessed (summative) essay submitted at the beginning of the Summer Term.

This module is designed to provide students with knowledge and understanding of selected novels of Margaret Atwood, and to equip students with a critical awareness of debates circulating around her work. The module will address a range of issues including the construction of Canadian national identity within the texts, genre splicing, ‘the body politic’, considerations of ‘life writing’, of writing as code and as ‘process’ and ‘product’, and questions of narration and ‘voice’. Students will be encouraged to engage with a wide range of critical readings of the selected texts, and theoretical ideas and approaches.

Assessable learning outcomes:

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

  • exercise skills of close textual analysis, and demonstrate an understanding of the texts selected for study

  • demonstrate an awareness of broader critical and theoretical issues raised by the study of Atwood’s writing, particularly in relation to ‘identity’ formation, postmodernist inflection, and ideological meaning generation

  • engage critically with ideas discussed in seminars and secondary literature

  • construct and express coherent critical arguments in writing.

Additional outcomes:

Oral and written communication skills will be developed, together with critical, interpretative and analytical abilities. Students will also learn to use the VLE Learning Journal resource efficiently and as an aid to developing engagement with the issues of this module.

Outline content:

The module addresses selected novels of Margaret Atwood, Canada’s most influential contemporary writer. Central to the module will be debates around Atwood’s articulation of anxieties involved in questions of national identity, power relationships, ‘history’, and modes of ‘vision’. Emphasis will be placed on Atwood’s innovative narrative strategies, modes of social criticism, and discourses upon gender dynamics. Texts selected for study may include Alias Grace, Cat’s Eye, Oryx and Crake, Sufacing, The Blind Assassin, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Edible Woman. The texts are, however, selected annually and are therefore subject to change. Seminar discussion will revolve around readings produced by close textual analysis intersected with readings produced by broader critical and theoretical interventions.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Three seminar hours weekly, for which students are required to undertake preparatory reading. Students are also entitled to a half-hour tutorial on their formative work. 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
Seminars 30
Guided independent study 170
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 50
Project output other than dissertation 50

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

The module is assessed via an online Learning Journal completed weekly throughout the term in which the mdoule is taught and submitted at the end of the same term. This element comprises 50% of the assessment for the module. A 2500 assessed (summative) essay worth 50% completes the assessment for this module: this essay is submitted at the beginning of the Spring Term. There is no exam for this module.

Formative assessment methods:

Formative Assessment Methods - students select two entries from their online Learning Journal and these comprise the formative assessment. Full feedback will be given on these entries but no indicative mark is given at this stage.

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 is must be resubmitted by 22 August.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Students are required to buy the primary texts for this module (ie. those texts studied in seminars). The library has some copies of these texts but most students prefer to buy their own copies of the novels. All secondary material is available in the Library.

    Last updated: 5 November 2018


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