Criticism and Theory: Current Debates (EASM106)

StaffProfessor Regenia Gagnier - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to clarify and refine your individual position as a critic and theorist. It will immerse you in recent and current debates and help you understand what is at stake in each. Students themselves devise the syllabus at the first class meeting, based on The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (ed. Leitch 2010), and recent topics have included: world literatures and cultures, the function of the arts in society, the relation of the individual to larger units, the impact of new technology on the senses, the uses of the past, and the critical methodologies of ethnicity, race, gender/sexuality, religion, ecology, nation, class, cosmopolis. The module will prepare students, especially those going on to the PhD or into employment in the culture industries, with critical self-consciousness, sophistication and confidence, whatever your specialist medium, period, or genre. We shall read wide-ranging selections to prepare for discussion in seminar, but your research papers will be intensively researched according to your individual interests.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an advanced ability to apply a number of methodological frames to literary and other cultural forms
  • 2. Demonstrate an advanced capacity to assess the scope and limits of each method
  • 3. Demonstrate an advanced ability to clarify and refine their individual positions as critics and theorists

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate an advanced and autonomous ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary and other cultural forms
  • 5. Demonstrate an advanced ability to digest, select, and organise interdisciplinary material and to trace the development of debate across disciplinary boundaries
  • 6. Demonstrate an ability to make a contribution to the study of literature and culture
  • 7. Demonstrate an ability to devise, research, and execute a programme of critical research

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Through seminar work and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to articulate their views convincingly both individually and in groups
  • 9. Through essay-writing, demonstrate advanced research and bibliographic skills, an advanced and intellectually mature capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and to write clear and correct prose
  • 10. Research for seminars, essays, and presentations demonstrate an advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis
  • 11. Through research, seminar discussion, and essay writing demonstrate an advanced and intellectually mature capacity to question assumptions and to reflect critically on their own learning process
  • 12. Through the planning and organisation of independent research projects, demonstrate independence of thought and confidence in developing ideas and formulating questions

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Collective Construction of the syllabus: Below is simply an example of possible content.
  • Postcolonial Theory/ World Literatures
  • The Humanities in the public university
  • Digital Desires
  • Deep Ecologies
  • The Novel as a Genre
  • Presentations
  • Genders and Sexualities
  • Marxian Theories
  • Genomics and Biotechnologies
  • Presentations

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching22Seminars
Guided independent study33Study group meetings and preparation
Guided independent study70Seminar preparation (independent)
Guided independent study175Reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Collective introduction to a session of your choice15 minutes1-4, 8, 11Cohort feedback via seminars
Individual oral report, preview of research report5 minutes1-4, 8, 11Cohort feedback via seminars
Individual oral report, preview of final essay5 minutes1-4, 8, 11Cohort feedback via seminars

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Research report 302500 words1-4, 7, 9-11Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Formal essay 705000 words1-7, 9-12Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up. Cohort feedback via seminars

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Research report (2500 words)Research report (2500 words)1-4, 7, 9-11Referral/Deferral period
Formal essay (5000 words)Formal essay (5000 words)1-7, 9-12Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Core reading:

  • Vincent Leitch, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (2010).

In addition to assigned selections, all headnotes and bibliographies are useful and strongly recommended. Excerpts other than from Norton will be provided.

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Reading for week 1:

Familiarise yourself with the resources of the Norton, so that you are prepared to express your particular critical and theoretical queries and interests during the first class meeting.

Available as distance learning?


Origin date

June 2013

Last revision date


Key words search

Criticism, theory