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module specification

SJ6004 - Why Literature Matters (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module title Why Literature Matters
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 240
150 hours Guided independent study
90 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 20%   1500 words
Coursework 30%   2000 words
Coursework 30%   2000 words
Practical Examination 20%   Presentation
Running in 2022/23

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Monday Afternoon

Module summary

Why Literature Matters introduces and develops a series of related discussions about the personal, worldly and critical stakes involved in reading and writing literature. Students will follow a number of separate syllabuses, some related to staff specialisms and publications that require them to engage with the value of reading, writing and creative/critical practice in relation to other spheres of experience and action. The module thus provides students with opportunities to draw together questions of value and purpose relating to their programme as a whole. 

Syllabus topics may include but are not limited to the following, which may change from year to year: literature, ecology and place; literature and transnational identity; literature and the sacred; literature, activism and politics; literature and pedagogy.

The module will be taught in weekly sessions comprising a lecture and seminar and is assessed by a variety of written coursework and a final presentation.

This module aims to develop students’ understanding of the critical contexts in which literary production, distribution and reception take place; to allow students to contrast modern, contemporary and canonical theories of literary value; to develop students’ critical writing skills about literature together with their personal sense of commitment to literary values.

Prior learning requirements

Completion and pass (120 credits) of previous level.


The module will typically address the following topics, which may vary from year to year.

Literature, ecology and being: philosophy of literary and creative attention; naturalistic and environmental models of signification and interpretation, such as biosemiotics (LO1/LO4).

Literature and the sacred: the role of poetic and creative imagination in the practice and literature of mysticism, spirituality and faith in a variety of religious contexts; theories of literary materiality, philosophical problems of referentiality, and the ontology of fictional worlds (LO1/LO2/LO4).

Writing, activism and geopolitics: political change through creative writing, including case studies; censorship and free speech; representation and diversity in writing and publishing; activism within publishing ecology (LO2/LO3).

Literature and pedagogy: the role of literature in education and acculturation; fictional constructions of childhood and young adulthood (LO2/LO4).

All syllabus topics are discussed and assessed in the end of year student conference (LO5).

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Scheduled teaching ensures that independent study is effective and addresses the learning outcomes and assessment tasks. Students are expected to, and have the opportunity to, continue with their studies outside of scheduled classes. There will be a range of learning strategies deployed and individual learning styles will be accommodated. The module’s learning outcomes, its contents and delivery, have been scrutinised and will be regularly reviewed to ensure an inclusive approach to pedagogic practice.

The module and course utilise the University’s blended learning platform to support and reinforce learning, to foster peer-to-peer communication and to facilitate tutorial support for students. Reflective learning is promoted through assessment items and interim formative feedback points that ask students to reflect on their progress, seek help where they identify the opportunity for improvement in learning strategies and outcomes, and make recommendations to themselves for future development. Throughout the module, students build a body of work, including reflections on progress and achievement.

The School’s programme of employability events and embedded work-related learning within the curriculum supports students’ personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able, as they progress from year to year, to understand the professional environment of their disciplines, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions.

Learning outcomes

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

Cognitive intellectual abilities
LO1 discuss literary practice and interpretation in relation to critical, metaphysical or theoretical principles;

Knowledge and understanding
LO2 discuss the relationship between literary content, author- and/or reader-identity, and ideological commitment;

LO3 outline and appraise accounts of literary value and creative practice;

Subject specific skills
LO4 critically appraise a variety of theories of literary signification and value;

Transferable skills
LO5 articulate own and others’ ideas accurately and persuasively in speech and writing.

Assessment strategy

Assessment comprises three pieces of written coursework addressing the various syllabuses and allowing students to make connections between them. Coursework options will include opportunities for students to produce both critical and creative work. There is also a final presentation session, typically in the form of a student conference.


Core textbooks
Darnton, J., (2002) Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from the New York Times, Times Books
Detwiler, R., and Jasper, D., (2007) Religion and Literature: A Reader, John Knox Press
Mariani, P., (ed.), (1991) Critical Fictions: The Politics of Imaginative Writing, Bay Press
Scheingold, S. A., (2010) The Political Novel: Re-Imagining the Twentieth Century, Continuum
Westling, L. H., (ed.), (2014) The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Environment, Cambridge University Press

Other textbooks
Attridge, D., (2004) The Singularity of Literature, Routledge
Auerbach, E., (trans. Trask, W.), (2003) Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, Princeton University Press
Ayers, D., (2008) Literary Theory: A Reintroduction, Wiley-Blackwell
Dines, G. and McMahon, H. J. (eds), (2014) Gender, Race and Class in Media: A Critical Reader, SAGE
Iovino, S. and Oppermann, S., (eds), (2014) Material Ecocriticism, Indiana University Press
Knox, F. Bugliani and Lonsdale, D., (eds), (2015) Poetry and the Religious Imagination: The Power of the Word, Ashgate
Lamarque, P., (2010) Work and Object: Explorations in the Metaphysics of Art, Oxford University Press
Morton, T., (2010) The Ecological Thought, Harvard University Press
Oreskes, N. and Conway, E., (2014) The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, Columbia University Press
Stallings, G. C., Asesnsi, M. and Good, C. (eds), (2014) Material Spirit: Religion and Literature Intranscendent, Fordham University Press
Wheeler, W., (2016) Expecting the Earth Life/Culture/Biosemiotics, Lawrence and Wishart

The Paris Review

Electronic Databases:
Cambridge Core