Critical Theory (TRU1103)

StaffDr Christopher Stokes - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Critical Theory introduces students to a range of critical and theoretical perspectives, providing a conceptual framework for the English degree. It sets out fundamental modes of critical analysis and inquiry, and it prepares students for engaging with literary and cultural ‘texts’ at levels 2 and 3. It focuses on broad questions such as politics, identity and interpretation, as well as introducing foundational knowledge of key theoretical schools. Also, it introduces students to subject-specific and transferable skills such as using a library, compiling bibliographies, writing academic essays, conducting debates, taking a position, making use of scholarly journals, using web pages and other electronic resources critically.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate a critical understanding of the main currents of literary theory (e.g., historicism, feminism, structuralism)
  • 2. demonstrate a capacity to apply critical/theoretical terms and concepts to the study of literature

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. demonstrate a basic understanding of theoretical ideas relevant to the study of literary and film texts
  • 4. demonstrate a basic ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a basic capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 6. through research for seminars and essays, demonstrate basic proficiency in information retrieval and analysis

Syllabus plan

LECTURE 1 1. Interpretation 2. Language/The Sign 3. Literary Value 4. Ideology 5. Power 6. Gender 7. Sex and Sexuality 8. Postcolonialism 9. Self and Other/Ethics 10. Bodies and Space 11. Nature and Ecocriticism LECTURE 2 1. The Traditions: Postmodern Theory 2. The Waves 3. Atocha Station 4. Translations 5. Prometheus Unbound 6. The Traditions: Feminism 7. Adrienne Rich 8. The Moor’s Last Sigh 9. The Traditions: Psychoanalysis 10. The Traditions: Marxism 11: Theory and History

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 & Teaching activities22Lectures (22 x 1 hour)
Scheduled Learning & Teaching activities22Seminars (11 x 2 hours)
Scheduled Learning & Teaching activities11Workshops (11 x 1 hour)
Guided independent study245Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
In-class short answers
Essay draft1,000w

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
Presentation 1510 minutesall (except 5)mark and oral feedback
Essay352,000 wordsallWritten and oral feedback
Exam503 hoursallMark and written comments

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PresentationPresentation slides and report 1000 words all (exept 5)Referral/deferral period
Essay 2,000wEssay 2,000wallReferral/deferral period
Exam 3hoursExam 3hoursallReferral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Percy Bysshe Shelley, ‘Prometheus Unbound’ in Major Works

Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Adrienne Rich, Poetry and Prose [selections]

Brian Friel, Translations

Salman Rushdie, The Moor’s Last Sigh

Ben Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Exeter Learning Environment (ELE), including eTexts of critical material

Databases in Exeter’s ‘Electronic Library’ (e.g., JSTOR and Project Muse)


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Seminar handouts, lecture slides

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Literature, Criticism, Theory