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Unit information: Popular Representation and Institutions of Culture in 2021/22

Unit name Popular Representation and Institutions of Culture
Unit code MODL20026
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Hurcombe
Open unit status Not open

MODL10116 (Comparative Literature: What is it and how can we practise it?) and

MODL10017 (Introduction to Visual Cultures), or equivalent



School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The right to political representation is perceived as a defining characteristic of European liberal democracy, yet over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first century it has competed against authoritarian and totalitarian political systems that have used populist rhetoric to claim legitimacy based on a notional and abstract will of the people. At the same time, even liberal democracies have exercised power over colonial and post-colonial countries in ways that disregard or manipulate the right to political representation. In various ways all political systems have erected institutions of culture aimed at shaping the mindset of the people they claim to represent and from whom they draw their legitimacy, while simultaneously being shaped by distinctive pre-existing socio-cultural formations, such as the power of culturally specific kinds of elites. The aim of this unit is to examine and compare through a set of national case studies the various types of political systems that have existed in modern European history, with a particular focus on their socio-cultural embedding, on their discursive attempts to achieve popular legitimacy, and on the institutions of culture they have designed in order to secure consent and consolidate their power, including in their projection beyond national borders.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit the students will be able to:

  1. Apply an advanced understanding of the interrelations between political discourse and socio-cultural formations in specific European political systems in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries
  2. Analyse how nations have designed and controlled institutions of culture to shape the mindset of their citizens or people and affirm their political legitimacy
  3. Appraise the discursive and cultural mechanisms whereby nations have sought to export their political models beyond their borders and evaluate the results of these policies on the shaping of local institutions of culture
  4. Demonstrate a firm grasp of theoretical and critical scholarship in the relevant fields of study.
  5. Develop their skills in presenting and explaining their thinking orally
  6. Formulate sophisticated and independent reflections on the unit’s content in writing at a level appropriate to level 5/I.

Teaching details

  • One two-hour interactive lecture per week
  • Single-honour students will have an additional fortnightly one-hour tutorial on material related to the unit, but not assessed
  • One two-hour seminar per week, including presentations, class discussions and small group work

Assessment Details

  • 1 x group presentation (25%), testing ILOs 1, 2, and 5.
  • 1 x 3000-word essay (75%), testing 3, 4, and 6.


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