Undergraduate prospectus

Course Information

Contemporary Writing and Critical Theory

Module summary

Module code: COML1090
Level: 6
Credits: 30
School: Liberal Arts and Sciences
Department: Humanities and Social Sciences
Module Coordinator(s): Daniel Weston


Pre and co requisites



• Enable students to investigate literary developments that have arisen in the twenty-first century across a variety of forms (poetry, prose, drama).
• Review a range of perspectives from critical theory and evaluate their contribution to readings of contemporary literary texts.
• Equip students with awareness of relevant historical contexts for studying twenty-first-century literature and appraise what it means to study the contemporary.
• Apply critical theory in practice when reading literary texts.
• Develop students’ skills of academic argument, essay writing and research.
• Enhance students’ knowledge of issues in literary publishing and prize culture today.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:
1 Critically appraise developments in a range of literary forms taking place in the twenty-first century.
2 Critically examine a range of perspectives drawn from literary and critical theory and reflect on their values.
3 Use critical theory to develop informed readings in the practice of analysing literary texts.
4 Show awareness of the historical contexts that influence twenty-first-century writing and of considerations necessary to the study of contemporary literature.
5 Show an awareness of issues surrounding publishing and literary prizes in the twenty-first century.
6 Research and write well-argued essays that draw on theoretically informed critical practices.

Indicative content

The module brings together a survey of twenty-first-century developments in literature across multiple genres and an appraisal of literary and critical theory. It encompasses texts from poetry, prose fiction, and drama (as well as screen adaptations of some of these), and looks to read them in theoretically informed ways, always approaching the course’s dual focuses in tandem. The course opens by addressing the questions of what contemporary literature is, when it begins, and what characteristics it possesses. It then turns to blocks of study in which a primary text is paired with a theoretical perspective that seems particularly apposite in discussing and analysing it. Whilst precise content may vary from year to year to suit the individual cohort and reflect student feedback, literary texts that may be covered include Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, John Burnside’s Black Cat Bone, and Gregory Burke’s Black Watch. Theoretical perspectives covered will likely include new historicism and cultural materialism, feminism and gender studies, ecocriticism, postcolonialism, and others. Towards the close of the module, students will be asked to consider the way in which the contemporary canon is formed and the role that publishers and literary prizes play in this process.

Teaching and learning activity

Learning and teaching activities will take the form of lectures, seminars and screenings, supported by guided independent study. Lectures will convey key information to students that can then be deployed in interactive and practical applications in seminars. Students will be asked to present findings from their independent study to their seminar group, thus allowing them a role in determining the direction that their work takes. A virtual learning environment will be used not only to house resources but also to foster collaborative learning beyond the classroom.


Essay 1 - 40%
LO - 1-6
Pass mark - 40%
2500 words.
Essay analysing one or two primary texts in tandem with evaluating perspectives from critical theory.

Essay 2 - 60%
LO - 1-6
Pass mark - 40%
3500 words.
Longer essay comparing two texts (either two from the course, or one from the course and another not studied on the course).