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Unit information: John Berger and the 20th Century in 2020/21

Unit name John Berger and the 20th Century
Unit code ENGL20123
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Malay
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Poet, painter, novelist, critic, playwright: John Berger was many things throughout his long career. Born in 1926, he also lived through many major events: two world wars, the fall of the Berlin wall, the rule of Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher, the space race, the invention of the computer.

This course does two things: it reads John Berger’s work as a way of reading the 20th century, and it looks at the 20th century through the prism of Berger’s work. It offers different ways of seeing both the writer and his century, and how many of the issues Berger responded to are still very much the major issues of our day.

Students will be given the opportunity to submit a draft or outline of their final, summative essay of up to 1,500 words and to receive feedback on this.

Intended learning outcomes

By the successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Critically assess John Berger’s literary writing;
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of how Berger’s ideas developed in relation to events and ideas in the 20th century;
  3. Identify and evaluate pertinent evidence in order to illustrate/demonstrate a cogent argument;
  4. Demonstrate skills in academic writing appropriate to level H/6.

Teaching details

1 x 2 hour seminar

Assessment Details

1 x 4000-word summative essay (100%) ILOs 1-4.

Reading and References

  1. Ways of Looking
  2. A Painter of our Time
  3. The Seventh Man
  4. Hold everything Dear
  5. To the Wedding
  6. Selected Essays