BA Philosophy and Religion

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Interdisciplinary Literature and Theology: Empathy, Ethics, Liberation

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


This course examines the interdisciplinary conversation between theology and literature by reading and discussing theoretical perspectives from theologians, ethicists, and literary scholars, alongside novels short stories, and poems. We will consider different interdisciplinary approaches to the relationship between theology and literature; and examine how these different disciplines contribute to contemporary debates over empathy, ethical action, and liberative theologies. Central to the course is understanding how liberative perspectives in feminist, womanist, postcolonial, disability, and queer studies engage with literature to raise questions of how to represent specific lived experiences in literary and theological texts. The class enables students to develop the critical skills to identify theological and ethical questions emerging from different literary modes, as well as perspectives on reading and interpreting literature as a community. Students will be encouraged reflect on how specific texts have shaped their own worldviews and to develop their own theological and ethical 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 interdisciplinary study of literature and theology.


•    To introduce students to the use of literature as a key theological source.
•    To equip students with the tools to examine the interdisciplinary debates surrounding empathy, ethics, and liberation theologies in relation to theological and literary 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, queer, 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:
•    Effective written communication
•    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 ¿ Managing deadlines ¿ Responding to a brief

Assessment methods

Assessment task
Formative or SummativeLength Weighting within unit (if summative) 
Reflective Learning LogFormative500 words 0% 
EssaySummative 2800 words70%
Reflective PortfolioSummative 1200 words30%

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. 

Gayatri Spivak, In other worlds: Essay in cultural politics. New York, London: Routledge, 1988. 

Emilie M. Townes, Womanist ethics and the cultural production of evil. New York: Palgrave, 2006. 
(Library has online version) 

Heather Walton, Literature, Theology, and Feminism. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2019. (Library has online version)

Heather Walton, Imagining Theology: women, writing and God. London, T&T Clark, 2007.

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Wren Radford Unit coordinator

Return to course details