Capital Culture: Money, Commerce and Writing (Q3185)

30 credits, Level 6

Autumn teaching

What are the interconnections between literature and capitalism, and how can literary texts help us to understand them? We explore this question through reading a wide variety of literary and other texts drawn from the period of the rise of modern capitalism. We trace the responses of many kinds of writers to the emergence of modern commercial society including the celebration of trade and empire, concerns about social change, and the representation of labour and the critique of capitalism from Romantic poets, Gothic novelists, and other writers.

Topics addressed include:

  • the commodity and the fetish
  • labour, slavery and alienation
  • subjectivity in capitalism
  • sex and money
  • consumption and consumerism
  • the role of art and the artist in commercial society
  • different ideas of value (economic and aesthetic).

Texts studied will include visual art, alongside novels, poetry, short stories, autobiography, journalism, essays and economic writings. Short extracts from the works of Adam Smith and Karl Marx will provide theoretical perspectives.


33%: Practical (Workshop)
67%: Seminar


100%: Written assessment (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 24 hours of contact time and about 276 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2022/23. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to COVID-19, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: