Theory in Practice: Readings in Contemporary Theory and Literature (805Q4B)

30 credits, Level 7 (Masters)

Spring teaching

What is 'theory'? Although it goes in and out of fashion with the speed of rising or plunging hemlines, the use of theory, literary theory, or literary criticism as a way to read literary texts is always useful. And contrary to popular opinion, it's not the application of an arcane or secret language to garner a secret knowledge. Rather, it is a self-conscious and informed method of analysing the presuppositions behind the apparently natural way we read; indeed, sometimes it's a method of reading in itself, derived from a philosophy or theory of language, as is the case with Bataille or Derrida. Theory sounds dull, but really it's a creative practice, as is reading, which Walter Benjamin likened to telepathy.

This module seeks, through a number of case studies, to address a number of critical paradigms that have proved significant in the post-war period. In particular, notions of materialism, materiality and historicity will be set in tension with ideas about relativism, deconstruction and 'play' as very different ways of construing some iconic American texts. Alongside the close reading of primary and secondary texts, discussions in class will be directed towards such subjects as: the construction/reflection of subjectivity in language and discourse; the relation of the literary text to sociality; the effects and efficacy of modernist/avant-garde/postmodern literary techniques; and the writing of race, gender and class.

Teaching and assessment

We’re currently reviewing teaching and assessment of our modules in light of the COVID-19 situation. We’ll publish the latest information as soon as possible.

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 278 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We’re planning to run this module in the academic year 2021/22. However, there may be changes to this module in response to COVID-19, or due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. It may not be possible to take some module combinations due to timetabling constraints. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.