module specification

SJ5001S - History of Critical Thinking Part 2 (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title History of Critical Thinking Part 2
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass)
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 40%   1000 word essay
Coursework 60%   1500 word essay
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Tuesday Afternoon

Module summary

 History of Critical Thinking Part 2 asks students to engage with a number of topics which frame their study of literature in relation to both the contemporary world and the history of critical thinking and address questions of interpretation, signification, perspective and truth. Students will follow a number of separate but related syllabuses which will respond to developments in contemporary critical and academic debates. The module aims to provide students with a number of focussed critical discussions about making meaning from and through literary texts. The module may include such topics as decolonising the imagination; and language, meaning and mind.

The module examines a number of ideas about literary and aesthetic meaning in relation to claims to truth, and does so with reference to works written during and about a number of historical periods. Students will study texts and ideas from the modern and postmodern eras. Theories of meaning that arise in these periods also form part of the discussion, such as humanism, liberalism, structuralism, psychoanalysis, feminism, postcolonialism and postmodern criticism.

Some of the material encountered on the module will be challenging.  However, it will be presented and worked through in an accessible way.  Theories will be explained clearly and also explored and elucidated through readings of literary texts that involve or are open to interpretation by them.  Various other media and genres will be used to illustrate, elaborate and explore ideas engaged with on the module. 

The module syllabus accompanies discussions on other level 5 modules such as The Craft of Fiction, Writer’s World, Genre Fiction and Victorians to Moderns and anticipates work done on level 6 modules, especially Why Literature Matters.

Module aims

History of Critical Thinking part 2 aims to:
● examine key ways in which literary signification and interpretation have been understood
● critically discuss particular philosophical and theoretical ways of thinking about literature
● explore literary texts and literary theory in terms of four critical problems which literature poses: the nature of image, truth, self and language in literary texts
● engage with equivalences and extensions of literature and literary theory (e.g., digital culture, philosophy, art)



John Macleod, Beginning Postcolonialism; Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks; Edward Saïd, Orientalism; Ella Shohat, Robert Stam: Unthinking Eurocentrism; Bill Ashcroft et al, The Empire Writes Back; Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams; de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics; Roland Barthes, Mythologies; Jacques Derrida, On Grammatology.

Learning and teaching

The module will be taught in weekly sessions that combine lectures, seminar discussion and small group activities, plus additional scheduled online or face-to-face tutorials. Lecture summaries will be available on Weblearn along with other electronic resources that support the course. Students will have weekly set reading that will include novels, short stories, poems, poetry, literary criticism, literary theory, critical theory and philosophy. Class teaching may be enhanced by activities such as guest speakers and screenings.


Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

1. identify and understand some key critical topics in the contemporary discussion of literature critically evaluate literary texts
2. use and explain literary and critical theories
3. compare, evaluate and judge different forms of criticism, theory and philosophy
4. relate literature and literary theory to wider intellectual and cultural forms and practices

Assessment strategy

Formative activities and assessment:

● periodic reading comprehension and summary exercises
● individual or small group seminar presentations
● contribution to online activities/blogs/message boards
● staff feedback on seminar discussions
● staff feedback on written assignments
● peer evaluation by students

Summative assessment:

Assessment one
– 1000 word (approx) written assignment
Assessment two
– 1500 word written assignment


Baudrillard: Simulations (New York: Semiotexte, 1983)
Barry, P., English in Practice: in Pursuit of English Studies (London: Arnold, 2003)
Derrida, J. Positions (London : Athlone, 1981)
Eagleton, T., Literary Theory, An Introduction (Oxford, Blackwell, 1996)
Easthope, A. and McGowan, K., A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader (Buckingham: OUP, 2004)
Kearney, R. and Rainwater, M. The Continental Philosophy Reader (London: Routledge, 1996)
Lodge, D., The Modes of Modern Writing: Metaphor, Metonymy and the Typology of Modern Literature, (London: Edward Arnold, 1977)
Wright, E., Psychoanalytic Criticism (Oxford: Polity, 1998)

Web Resources:

The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy:

Critical Theory Resources: