BA English Language and English Literature / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Theory and Text

Course unit fact file
Unit code ENGL10062
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


On ‘Theory and Text’ we will analyse novels, autobiographies, poems, essays and films, and think of how critical theory can provide us with the tools to interpret, analyse and change the way we look at the world.


The course will be divided into four sections:


  1. The Novel and Empire
  2. Black Feminist Theory
  3. Ecocriticism
  4. Desirable and Undesirable Bodies on the Screen: Feminism, Psychoanalysis and Whiteness


  • To help students reflect on their position as culturally and historically situated readers;
  • To challenge contemporary 'common sense ' approaches to reading;
  • To rigorously examine how thinkers from different historical periods have examined the problems of textuality, power and value;
  • To help students learn how to examine, discuss, and defend a theoretical position;
  • To examine the category of 'the literary';
  • To encourage and facilitate reflection on the relevance of theory in relation to a large variety of texts and genres;
  • To encourage students to reflect on habits of reading, and on how gender, ethnicity and sexuality play crucial roles in discussions of authorship and readership;
  • To familiarise students with key critical notions which will help their criticism in future years.

Learning outcomes

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


  • Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of key theoretical issues such as: narration, intentionality, authority, cultural value, genre, ideology, habits of reading.
  • Show an ability to close read and analyse both primary texts and relevant theoretical interventions.
  • Demonstrate an ability to develop an independent critical position in relation to these.
  • Evidence an ability to enter literary and non-literary texts into a dialogue with theoretical texts.
  • Show an ability to rigorously argue and defend one’s own critical position through textual evidence.
  • Demonstrate an ability to write with a degree of self-reflectivity (i.e. to reflect on one’s own critical language and approach).
  • Demonstrate an ability to see the connection between self-reflective thinking in relation to literary, cinematic, and theoretical texts, and our day-to-day critical practices.
  • Show an ability to transfer the analytical and self-reflective skills acquired on this course to non-academic environments.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students taking this unit will be able to analyse and evaluate arguments and texts. Above all, committed students will emerge from this course unit with an advanced capacity to think critically, i.e. knowledgeably, rigorously, confidently and independently.
Group/team working
Students taking this unit will be able to work courteously and constructively as part of a larger group.
On this unit students are encouraged to respond imaginatively and independently to the questions and ideas raised by texts and other media.
Students on this unit must take responsibility for their learning and are encouraged not only to participate in group discussions but to do so actively and even to lead those discussions.
Project management
Students taking this unit will be able to work towards deadlines and to manage their time effectively.
Oral communication
Students taking this unit will be able to show fluency, clarity and persuasiveness in spoken communication.
Students on this unit will be required to digest, summarise and present large amounts of information. They are encouraged to enrich their responses and arguments with a wide range of further reading.
Written communication
Students on this unit will develop their ability to write in a way that is lucid, precise and compelling.

Assessment methods

Coursework essay 1- 65%

Coursework essay 2-35%

Feedback methods

Written and face-to-face (upon arrangement)

Recommended reading

What follows is a list of indicative texts studied on the course:

  • Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, ed. Thomas Keymer (Oxford: Oxford World’s Classics, 2008).
  • Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Vintage, 1994)
  • The Combahee River Collective Statement’ (1978).
  • Kimberle Crenshaw, ‘Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics’, University of Chicago Legal Forum 1:8 (1989), 139–167.
  • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, ‘Until Black Women Are Free, None of Us Will Be Free:  Barbara Smith and the Black feminist visionaries of the Combahee River Collective.’ The New Yorker, July 20, 2020.
  • Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (New York and London: W.W. Norton &Co, 2019).
  • Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 2019 [1984]).
  • Octavia E.Butler, Kindred (London: Headline, 2018 [1979]).
  • Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, The Grassling: A Geological Memoir (London: Penguin, 2020).
  • Barbara Creed, The Monstrous Feminine (London and New York: Routledge, 1993).
  • Dale Jamieson, ‘The Anthropocene: Love it or Leave it’, in Ursula K. Heise, Jon Christensen and Michelle Niemann, eds, The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities (London: Routledge, 2017), pp. 13-20.
  • Cheryl Lousley, ‘Eco-criticism and the Politics of Representation’, in Greg Garrard, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Eco-Criticism (Oxford: OUP, 2013), 155-171.
  • Todd McGowan, Psychoanalytic Film Theory and The Rules of the Game (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).
  • Tania Modleski, The Woman Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock and Feminist Theory (New York and Abingdon: Taylor Francis, 2016).
  • Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992).
  • Timothy Morton, ‘Attune’, in Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Lowell Duckert, eds, Veer Ecology: A Companion for Environmental Thinking (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2017), 151-167.
  • Ian Watt, Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (London: Chatto and Windus, 1957).
  • Frank Wilderson, Red, White and Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonism (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010).
  • Vertigo (1958) 
  • Suture (2010)
  • Alien (1979)
  • Richard Dyer, White: Essays on Race and Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 1997)
  • Elizabeth Wright, Psychoanalytic Criticism: A Reappraisal (New York and Abingdon: Taylor Frances, 2011, 2nd edition)


Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Daniela Caselli Unit coordinator

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