Module title: Cultural and Literary Theory: Debates and Applications

SCQF level: 09:
SCQF credit value: 20.00
ECTS credit value: 10

Module code: CLP09129
Module leader: Anne Schwan
School School of Arts and Creative Industries
Subject area group: Humanities and Culture


2018/9, Trimester 2, Face-to-Face,
Occurrence: 001
Primary mode of delivery: Face-to-Face
Location of delivery: MERCHISTON
Member of staff responsible for delivering module: Elsa Bouet
Module Organiser:

Learning, Teaching and Assessment (LTA) Approach:
Each lecture not only explores the ideas of a particular body of theoretical work, but also demonstrates the kinds of research explorations that specific theories enable today in the disciplines of Cultural and Literary Studies. Lectures and tutorials will model good research practice at an advanced level and open up new realms for your own investigation.

The module is designed to encourage active learning and collaboration. A large module, it is taught in four different learning contexts: a face-to-face ‘lecture’ (LOs 1,2,3,4), interactive elements in the large lecture space (LOs 1,2,3,4), a tutorial in a small group (LOs 1,2,3,4), and online independent and collaborative learning with Moodle (LOs 1 and 2). The weekly tutorials feature smaller groups and emphasise student support and clarification of module concepts, alongside hands-on analytic engagement with subject-specific artefacts, including literary texts and film. Teacher- and peer-supported in-class collaborations act as scaffolding to help you reach the higher cognitive learning outcomes, particularly LO4.

Academic literacy skills are embedded in tutorials and Moodle, including referencing and advanced skills in argumentative writing, crucial to a wide range of employment sectors.

The module content foregrounds awareness of diversity: the theoretical works under scrutiny were often specifically inspired by recognition of inequities based on class, race, gender, sexual orientation, and other identifications. In many cases theoretical works seek to explicate the social and ideological environments perpetuating prejudice, and even articulate new understandings of what viable resistance to such inequity would comprise. The module also raises awareness of international contexts; for example, elements of postcolonial theory are themselves built into the module as content.

Formative Assessment:
Although there are no formal formative assessments on this module, in the weeks leading up to each summative assessment, we employ in-class formative feedback to help you prepare for summative assignments. You will be asked to engage in textual analysis of selected theoretical passages to model the kinds of work you will be expected to perform in the summative assessments. You will also be invited to discuss selected passages from literary texts and scenes from film or tv in relation to specific theoretical concepts to help you prepare for the final summative assignment.

You may be asked to present your ideas for your final essay in small groups in the tutorial. You will receive formative feedback, designed to help you with your preparation of the final assessment.

Summative Assessment:
The coursework ethos follows a ‘scaffolding’ strategy, culminating in a long, final essay or video essay (LOs 1,2,3,4). Both assessments are student-centred and student-defined: you choose the focus of your assessments.

In the first summative assessment, you write a short essay on one particular body of theory you self-select from a range of given options. In this essay, you identify some of the key terms and assertions of the theory at hand, and demonstrate awareness of common critiques. This assessment will not require you to apply the theory, but rather to solidly master its premises, claims, and flaws (LOs 1,2,3). The skills you will acquire through the first assignment will lay the foundations for the sustained application of theory featuring in the final assessment (LOs 1,2,3,4), although you may choose different theoretical approaches for both assignments. The final assessment consists of a written essay where you are asked to select a theoretical approach and apply it to a chosen text, film or artefact. Alternatively, you may choose to submit a 3-4 minute video essay, accompanied by a 400-word reflective commentary and bibliography.

Feedback on summative assessment is delivered in multiple ways. Traditional marginalia on your scripts are complemented with collective feedback to the class.

Student Activity (Notional Equivalent Study Hours (NESH))
Mode of activityLearning & Teaching ActivityNESH (Study Hours)
Face To Face Tutorial 10
Face To Face Lecture 20
Independent Learning Guided independent study 170
Total Study Hours200
Expected Total Study Hours for Module200

Type of Assessment Weighting % LOs covered Week due Length in Hours/Words
Essay 40 1,2,3 7 HOURS= 0, WORDS= 1500
Essay 60 1,2,3,4 13 HOURS= 0, WORDS= 2500
Component 1 subtotal: 40
Component 2 subtotal: 60
Module subtotal: 100

Description of module content:

This module is designed to introduce you to some of the key theoretical approaches, concepts and debates in cultural analysis and/or literary studies. You will encounter a range of influential critical theories, and in each case will be invited to assess their potential usefulness for your own research interests. The module’s assessments give you opportunities to apply your theoretical knowledge by analysing literary texts or cultural artefacts, inviting you to use theoretical tools to uncover key aesthetic, social, economic, and political dimensions of your chosen text. The module is focused on helping you become confident with critical tools, and ready to apply them in your own independent research, for example in the context of the final-year dissertation. The module also aims to give you an understanding of the connections between different theoretical perspectives.

By the end of the module you will have a sophisticated, detailed critical understanding of at least one theoretical approach, that is you will be conversant with its primary tenets. You will be aware of how that theory has been refined and altered over time, and you will be able to engage with the primary critiques levelled against it by critics. You will have identified possible literary texts or other cultural artefacts which would reward scrutiny through this theoretical lens.

The specific module content will vary to take optimal advantage of the contemporary theoretical developments and staff research expertise. Indicative subsections of this module are likely to include: Marxist theory; Ferdinand de Saussure’s theory of the sign and Roland Barthes on signs and mythologies; Michel Foucault on panoptic surveillance and cultural constructions of sexuality; Frantz Fanon and Edward Said on postcolonial theory; Judith Butler and gender performativity; theories of masculinity; transgender studies. To help inspire you, and where possible, some weeks of the module may feature special guest experts, who will deliver lectures on their own theoretical passions.

Learning Outcomes for module:

Upon completion of this module you will be able to
LO1: Demonstrate critical understanding of some of the broad theoretical positions within Cultural Studies and/or Literary Studies.
LO2: Demonstrate substantive and detailed understanding of one particular theoretical approach.
LO3: Critically evaluate the validity of specific theoretical methodologies in particular contexts and demonstrate awareness of common critiques.
LO4: Apply theoretical knowledge to a chosen literary text or cultural artefact.

Indicative References and Reading List - URL:
CLP09129 Cultural and Literary Theory: Debates and Applications