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Unit information: Critical Issues in Contemporary Literature in 2020/21

Unit name Critical Issues in Contemporary Literature
Unit code ENGLM0071
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Mimi Thebo
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


In this unit, students will read, discuss and analyse key texts (both literary and critical) related to major issues in contemporary letters in two week ‘topics’. This unit will help students contextualise their own writing in the wider world of contemporary literature, understand the critical and theoretical concepts on which those concerns and issues are based and be able to articulate their own responses to those issues and concerns.

Intended learning outcomes

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

  1. Examine how reading influences creative practice.
  2. Analyse the relationship between writing and its commercial and aesthetic contexts, articulating an understanding of the relationship between writing and genre, literary convention, publishing, performance, and different media.
  3. Evaluate the role of readers and audiences in realising texts and the ways that performance can impact an audience’s imaginative experience.
  4. Anticipate and accommodate requirements that may change when creating an original work. Be able to work productively and negotiate creative contexts that are ambiguous, uncertain and unfamiliar.
  5. Use and develop information retrieval and analytical skills, including the ability to interpret, evaluate, synthesise and organise material.
  6. Formulate independent and critical judgements of creative works, and be able to respond to the critical judgements of others with practical and creative solutions and reasoned arguments.
  7. Recognise and articulate their aesthetic sensibility in relationship to appropriate models and develop an understanding of their own processes of intellectual inquiry.

Teaching details

Teaching will be in large 2 hour seminar/workshop style, with the tutor providing an introduction to the various topics in the first week of the topic and going on to lead discussion, which may include students reading their own creative or critical reactions to the material.

Assessment Details

A portfolio of writing to include:

1 x 2500 words summative original creative writing assessment (or equivalent, in the case of poetry/script) [ILOs 1, 2, 3 and 5] (50%)

1 x 2500 word summative essay, relating a key critical issue to the student’s own writing and/or similar texts. [ILOs 4, 5, 6] (50%)

Reading and References

Unit tutor/s will select topics and relevant reading. Below is an Indicative reading list:

Writing and the Climate Catastrophe:

Powers, R. (2018) The Overstory. London: William Heinemann.

Berry, W (2019) World-Ending Fire : The Essential Wendell Berry. Counterpoint

Garrard, G. (ed.) (2014) The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press (Oxford handbooks). (Introduction)

Writing, Gender and Queerness

Evaristo, B. (2019) Girl, Woman, Other. London: Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Books.

Wilson-Yang, J. Q. (2018) Small Beauty. Melbourne, Victoria: Brow Books, from the TLB Society.

Carroll, R. (2012) Rereading Heterosexuality : Feminism, Queer Theory and Contemporary Fiction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

Writing and Colonisation

Obioma, C. (2019) An Orchestra of Minorities : a novel. London: Little, Brown.

Nayar, P. K. (ed.) (2016) Postcolonial Studies : an anthology. Malden, MA, USA: Wiley Blackwell.

Abu-Manneh, B. (ed.) (2019) After Said : Postcolonial Literary Studies in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Writing and Class

Lock, Fran. Dogtooth. Out-Spoken Press, 2017.

De Waal, Kit, editor. Common People : An Anthology of Working-Class Writers. Unbound, 2019.

Each topic will be explored in 2x two hour-long sessions over two weeks.