BA Religions, Theology and Ethics / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Literature and Theology

Course unit fact file
Unit code RELT31131
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course will examine the relationship between theology and literature by reading and discussing theological texts as well as novels, short stories, and poems. Students will come across popular works and genres they are familiar with and be introduced to new authors and styles; prior familiarity with the specific texts and topics is not necessary to engage with and enjoy the course. We will consider how and why contemporary theological movements have turned to literature as a key source, highlighting where literature raises critical questions and challenges to theology. In particular we will think about how specific theological movements have engaged with literary texts for questioning how race, gender, sexuality, global location, and traumatic experiences are represented in society and in theological thought. Students will be equipped with the critical skills to identify the theological and ethical questions emerging from different literary modes, including speculative fiction, historical fiction, autobiography, and genre-blending forms. Students will be encouraged to think about the role that particular texts have played in shaping their own worldviews and learning, and whether discussing The Hunger Games or The Handmaid’s Tale, Andrea Levy or Alice Walker, students will be encouraged to develop their own critical theological readings of literary texts. Students do not need to have studied theology or literature before, as they will be familiarised with relevant secondary material on literary texts and on the relationship between theology and literature.


  • To introduce students to the use of literature as a key theological source.
  • To equip students with the tools to examine the theological and ethical themes emerging from different literary genres and texts.
  • To develop students’ critical reflection on issues of representation of social issues and human experiences in literary and theological texts.

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  • Outline how feminist, womanist, postcolonial, and trauma theologies have engaged with literature and specific literary texts
  • Discuss literary and theological representations of particular social issues and human experiences
  • Assess the theological and ethical dimensions of contemporary literary texts.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of different theological approaches for working with literary texts
  • Analyse both primary and secondary sources in forming their own reading of a literary text.
  • Provide a nuanced assessment on literary and theological representations of particular embodied experiences and historical events
  • Develop a reflective critical position on theological and literary texts

Practical skills

On successful completion of this course, students will have developed their skills in:

  • Essay writing 
  • Taking effective notes during lectures
  • Presenting the results of their work in a scholarly manner with appropriate referencing
  • Participating in discussion
  • Research and essay planning
  • Peer feedback

Transferable skills and personal qualities

On successful completion of this course, students will have developed their skills in:

  • Conducting independent research
  • Reflecting critically on how interaction with literary and cultural sources shapes worldviews
  • Using reflexivity to undertake self-evaluation

Employability skills

¿ Enhance your ability to recognise different perspectives while assessing critically the evidence for positions and arguments ¿ Managing deadlines ¿ Responding to a brief

Assessment methods

2 Reflective Learning Logs 0%
Essay 1 (Approaches) 50%
Essay 2 (Critical reading) 50%


Feedback methods

Written feedback on Reflective learning logs Formative
Written feedback on Essay 1 Summative
Peer feedback on Essay plans in seminar 11 Formative
Written feedback on Essay 2 Summative
Oral feedback on class discussion Formative
Additional one-to-one feedback during office hours or by appointment  Formative


Recommended reading

Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands: la frontera. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987.

Eric Boynton and Peter Capretto (ed), Trauma and Transcendence: Suffering and the Limits of Theory. New York: Fordham University Press, 2018. (Library has online version).

Katie G. Canon, Katie’s Canon. New York, Continuum, 1995.

Anna Fisk, Sex, sin, and our selves: encounters in feminist theology and contemporary women’s literature. Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, 2014.

Stephen D. Moore and Mayra Rivera (ed), Planetary Loves: Spivak, Postcoloniality, and Theology. New York: Fordham University Press, 2011.

Shelly Rambo, Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 2010.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Clare Radford Unit coordinator

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