Second-Year Modules (Level 5)
- The Scene of Reading
This module explores the theme of reading in literature, film, and the visual arts, and in theoretical writings past and present. Literary texts will range from the early modern to the post-modern novel, and will be taken from European and other literatures. The figure of the reader in film and the visual arts will also be examined, while recent theories of narrative, reading and reception will allow students to reflect upon their own processes as readers and spectators.
- Approaches to Fairy Tales
This module offers an introduction to the study of fairy tales in a broad comparative context. We will study the various forms and media in which fairy tales have been handed down to us from oral transmission to film; the differences between national variants of tales; some of the key types of tales; and reasons for the modern world's infatuation with them. Most importantly we will discuss major critical approaches to the fairy tale including psychoanalytical and feminist interpretations of meaning and of impact on readers and audience.
- Experiments in Contemporary Women's Writing
The module examines contemporary women's writing, focusing on experimental works across genres and cultures (mainly UK, US, Europe, Europe's former colonies). It explores within a comparative framework the interweaving of women's writing with culturally specific debates about identity, society, feminism / post-feminism. Themes are selected each year froma range including: life-writing; trauma and testimony; women and language; women and genre; magic realism, myth and the fantastic; exile and migration; bodies, sexuality and desire; mothering; monstrosity and the abject.
- Madness, Past and Present
This module examines how madness has been constructed and represented in western culture from the late Middle Ages to the twenty-first century. It looks at the medical and popular notions of madness prevailing at crucial historical moments, and analyses the ways in which the main themes related to madness (fragmentation, folly, lovesickness, alienation, melancholy, delusion, derangement) have been explored and exploited in a wide selection of genres, such as autobiography, diary writing, the novel, the short story, epic poetry, theatre and film.
- Art in France: Manet to Early Picasso
This module explores early modernist painting in France from Manet to the beginnings of Cubism. It focuses mainly on the works of Manet (from his Déjeuner sur l'herbe 1863), Monet, Morisot, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Picasso's early paintings (including Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1906-7). Paintings will be discussed both as an aesthetic and a social practice. Topics studied include: the spectacle of the modern city, gender and representation, the dialogue between art and literature, the influence of non-European art forms, realism v modernism. No prior knowledge of art history is needed.
- Homeward Bound: From The Odyssey to O Brother Where Art Thou?
This module explores the extraordinary influence of Homer's Odyssey upon a rich collection of texts from different genres, periods, and cultures. Students will develop an understanding of themes of travel, hospitality, and storytelling, and literary modes including the epic, the realist and the comic.
- Colonial Literatures, Post Colonial Perspectives
This module will introduce students to a selection of novels and short fiction written within the context of the European colonisation of South Asia, South East Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas (within any given year a maximum of three of these regions will be studied). The focus of the module will be upon non-European authors, and by extension upon the experience of colonialism from a non-European perspective. Texts will be contextualised in relation to the history of European colonisation within the relevant regions, and will also involve some consideration of post-colonial theory and its broader relevance to the discipline of Comparative Literature.
- Facts and Fictions of Climate Change
This module studies climate change through a humanistic lens, and questions how humans attempt to know, experience, and express the phenomenon of climate change. Focusing on a variety of genres (climate fiction novels, journalism, political documents, documentary films), the module investigates the construction of "fact" in cultural engagements with climate change. How do we attempt to know climate change, and more broadly, to imagine the ends of the earth and of geological time? Through an exploration of such questions, students will consider how literary study and humanistic thought can contribute to current political and scientific conversations on the issue of climate change.
- German Thought I: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud
This module introduces students to three of the major thinkers in nineteenth- and twentieth-century German thought, all of whom have exerted a global impact: Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. Topics explored will include Marx's theories of political economy, ideology, and culture; Nietzsche's philosophy of language and his critique of religion; and Freud's ideas about the unconscious in their relation to both psychoanalytic practice and to broader theories of culture. Texts will be taught in English translation.
- Grand Tours: Nineteenth-Century Adventure Stories and Their Twentieth-Century Afterlives
This comparative module will introduce students to the immensely popular and influential form of the nineteenth-century adventure story. Through detailed examination of both European and American works, we will consider the ways in which the adventure story fulfills the traditional imperatives of works for young readers (i.e. to both educate and entertain) through its combination of fantasy and realist modes. The extent to which such stories justify their widespread reputation as imperialist and misogynistic will also be considered. We will also study subsequent adaptations (especially film versions) of the texts, which both reflect and contribute to the reception of the original works as well as providing insights into twentieth-century preoccupations and attitudes. Texts will be studied in translation and associate students are welcome.
- Latin America: Key Concepts
This course examines, from a global perspective, the historical processes that gave rise to modern Latin America and shaped its diverse societies. Focusing on a range of seminal texts, the module explores the intellectual debates that have accompanied the building of the nation-states we know today, and provides an insight into the multiple political, ethnic and cultural traditions that characterise the countries of the region. The course also provides key theoretical and analytical concepts specific to the study of Latin American cultural history.
- Memories of WWII In French Literature, Film and Art
This module introduces you to French experiences of the 'annees noires' (the 'dark years') of the German Occupation of France and more especially to the ways in which these have been remembered, represented and interpreted in the art, film and literature of post-war France. It examines the reasons for this period's uneasy status as 'unfinished history' and explores some of the creative representations and reinterpretations of events that have been produced from the aftermath of war through to the present day. The module also involves the study of contemporary theories about cultural memory, from France and elsewhere. It considers how these theories have evolved and explores productive ways of drawing upon them to interpret the primary works studied.
- Colonialism and Culture in Latin America
This course examines the emergence and development of a colonial discourse on Latin America from the early colonial period to the 1960s, a discourse developed both outside that continent and inside it. This is done in the light of a history of social and ethnic conflict inherent to colonial society and never resolved by the post-colonial states. The module focuses on the ways in which these issues have been addressed in works ranging from European accounts of the encounter between conquerors and conquered, through nineteenth-century foundational narrative, to approaches in recent Cuban film.
- Russian Short Stories: The Twentieth Century
While the novel has enjoyed a privileged status for much of the twentieth century, for important periods the short story dominated Russian culture. After defining and analyzing the specific features of the short story form, its theorizations, long critical neglect and the prejudice against it as a fragmentary form, this course focuses on periods where short stories came to the fore in Russia: the beginning and end of the century and the period of World War Two.
- To Be Continued: Adaptations of Global Literary Classics
This module explores the diverse ways in which canonical texts from around the world have been adapted for new audiences into a wide range of media including graphic novels, theatre, fashion and film. We challenge common assumptions about the inferiority of adaptations, which are shown instead to offer considerable insights into the contexts from which they emerge and the source texts from which they are derived. A theoretical overview is followed by examination of three case studies based on works such as Romeo and Juliet, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Chinese classic Journey to the West. Students will apply their knowledge to a real-world setting by devising an exhibition.
- Witnessing: Positioning Yourself in the Present
If you're interested in commenting on the contemporary world, or fancy yourself as a writer or journalist, 'Witnessing' offers you the chance to engage with the present while exploring how it relates to the past. Class study will examine the theory and practice of witnessing across a range of texts (journalism, theory, literature and poetry) and cultures (Europe, Middle East and Africa). Questions of subjectivity/objectivity, cultural perspective, political and historical context and ethical stance feed into your writing of your own witnessing text - you choose what you want to focus on. Learning is structured around the questions that you bring to seminar discussion; your writing opens up your enquiry.