Module title: Introduction to Public Humanities: Theories, Debates and Engagement

SCQF level: 11:
SCQF credit value: 20.00
ECTS credit value: 10

Module code: CLP11139
Module leader: Anne Schwan
School School of Arts and Creative Industries
Subject area group: Humanities and Culture

There are no pre-requisites for this module to be added

2019/0, 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: Anne Schwan
Module Organiser:

Learning, Teaching and Assessment (LTA) Approach:
Face-to-face teaching will take place in weekly two-hour seminars (LOs 1, 3, 6). Seminars will give you the opportunity to discuss your learning from independent study, to engage in critical debate of forefront issues in the field, and to benefit from tutor expertise in relevant theories and practices. Seminars will be interactive and discussion-based, and while they will be tutor-led, substantial input will be expected of you. Occasionally and where possible, guest lectures from subject specialists and/or practitioners will complement seminars to enhance your understanding of theories and practices in the public humanities and the cultural sector (LOs 3, 4,6). There will also be one guided site visit to a cultural organisation and/or local tourist site (LOs 3,4).

The module will feature one longer workshop session in week 6 to help you prepare for your public engagement project (LOs 2,3,4,5,6). For this project you will work individually or in teams of two to three, engaging in weekly project fieldwork activities (approximately three hours per week) during weeks 7-11. The public engagement activity should involve a modest community engagement project of your choosing (which could also be a digital project). Examples include: a community event or activity such as a reading group, story-telling event, readings, reading-aloud workshop or event for specific communities (e.g. young children or the elderly, hospital patients or care home residents); OR a small oral history project on the role of the arts, literature or literacy for specific individuals or groups. Please note that the public engagement project can be a one-off event or involve several sessions; in any case, you will be spending weeks 7-11 planning, managing and executing the activity in addition to the regular seminar meetings.

The greatest emphasis in the module will be placed on independent learning and study, in the form of assigned reading, independent research, reading and practice.

Formative Assessment:
There is one formative assessment (LOs 2,3,4,5,6) taking place in week 12. It involves an individual or small group presentation based on the public engagement project conducted during weeks 7-11. The presentation should include a brief explanation of the activity and reasoning behind it, the planning and execution of the activity, with an appraisal of its success, challenges and/or failures, with cross-references to the theoretical readings studied on this module. You will receive feedback from your peers and the tutor, using collectively generated criteria in week 6.

You will be offered an optional (individual or group) interview in week 9 in which you can discuss progress on your public engagement project and ask for additional feedback. If you plan to use this project as the basis of the summative assessment the tutor will offer formative oral feedback toward the development of that final summative assessment.

Summative Assessment:
There will be one summative assessment (LOs 1,2,3,4,5,6) for this module, worth 100% of the module grade, due in week 15. You will have the following options: 1) write a 4,000-word critical scholarly research essay 2) produce a 4,000-word plan for a festival or other community project engaging with relevant research, together with a pitch to a potential funder 3) conduct an oral history project accompanied by a 2,500-3,500-word written critical commentary with research 4) produce/select artefacts and a short exhibition guide with a 2,500-3,500-word written critical commentary with research.
For options 3 and 4, the specific length of the critical commentary will be determined by the scope of the project; you will agree this with the tutor in advance of the assessment. Detailed assessment criteria for all assessment options will be available at the beginning of the trimester.

Student Activity (Notional Equivalent Study Hours (NESH))
Mode of activityLearning & Teaching ActivityNESH (Study Hours)
Face To Face Seminar 18
Face To Face Practical classes and workshops 3
Face To Face External visits 3
Independent Learning Fieldwork 15
Independent Learning Guided independent study 161
Total Study Hours200
Expected Total Study Hours for Module200

Type of Assessment Weighting % LOs covered Week due Length in Hours/Words
Project - Written 100 1,2, 3,4, 5,6 15 HOURS= 0, WORDS= 4000
Component 1 subtotal: 100
Component 2 subtotal: 0
Module subtotal: 100

Description of module content:

This module will provide you with an introduction to the exciting interdisciplinary field of Public Humanities, which explores the various intersections between academic study in the humanities, cultural organisations and the wider community. This module is not simply a ‘how to’ guide on community engagement but also invites you to critically reflect on key concepts such as the public sphere, community, and the politics and ethics of public engagement. The module’s aims are thus theoretical, practical and methodological, equipping you with knowledge of some key debates in the public humanities as well as practical ideas for implementation.

The module is organized in three interrelated parts, beginning with the theorization and definition of key concepts such as the public, public humanities, public intellectuals and community. You will consider classic social theory such as Jürgen Habermas’ writings on the public sphere, and critiques of it, and Paolo Freire’s influential work on education and democracy alongside more recent research on participatory culture, citizenship and social justice, with a particular focus on the role of arts, literature and literacy in the community. In the module’s second part, you will begin to consider some practical examples of literature and the arts in the community, from book clubs, reading groups and reading charities to festivals. You will also study the political uses of the arts and humanities in relation to activism and advocacy and cultures of self-determination. The module’s third and final part will be focused around tourism, cultural heritage and practices of commemoration. You will engage with recent research on the aesthetics, politics and ethics of exhibition design and institutional knowledge production in a museum context before moving on to critical reflections on literary tourism and dark tourism. The module concludes with a discussion of the theory and practice of commemoration with a focus on the construction of collective memories in relation to war, terror and trauma in the community.

Weekly sessions will feature specific examples from local and global contexts, underpinned by discussion of theoretical readings on key questions.

Learning Outcomes for module:

Upon completion of this module you will be able to:
LO1: Demonstrate a critical awareness of current issues in the Public Humanities and one or more specialisms.
LO2: Apply knowledge, skills and understanding in the Public Humanities in planning and executing a significant project of research or a public engagement project.
LO3: Critically review, consolidate and extend knowledge, skills, practices and thinking in the Public Humanities.
LO4: Communicate, using appropriate methods, to a range of audiences with different levels of knowledge/expertise.
LO5: Exercise substantial autonomy, initiative and reflection in professional and equivalent activities.
LO6: Demonstrate leadership and/or initiative and make an identifiable contribution to change and development and/or new thinking.

Indicative References and Reading List - URL:

Please contact your Module Leader for details
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