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EN2L4 Literature in Theory



Dr Christine Emmett (


Dr Tomos Hughes (

Owain Burrell (

Dr Amul Gyawali (

Module outline

Literature in Theory (LiT) aims to examine the very object of study in the students’ undergraduate degree—literature and literary studies. Questions about what we study when we say we study literature will be aligned with an examination of topics such as the institutionalisation of literature as a discipline, issues of literary and cultural “value”, literature’s relationship to other fields of cultural production, as well as its place in the wider constitution of humanities in the university today. The module will provide a set of concerns common to all students in Q300, thus deepening a sense of intellectual community, as well as fostering a culture of critical thinking. Further, it will prepare students to face the challenges confronting the study and practice of humanities today and the crises of the public university globally.

Module delivery

The module will be delivered as a 1-hour lecture (Monday 12-1pm) and 1-hour seminar on a weekly basis

See the Lecture list for the lecture schedule. Seminar times and venues are arranged at the start of the academic year.

The syllabus is comprised of 4 units of 4-5 weeks each, plus an Introduction and Conclusion, taught over the course of the year. Each unit's readings will comprise a set of literary and theoretical readings.


2 x 2000 word essays + 1 independent research essay (examples include research into a publisher, analysis of literary prize winners, research into a literary 'heritage' figure, analysis of paratexts, a 'decolonised' syllabus, etc.)

Deadlines: Essay 1 - Term 2, week 1; Essay 2 - Term 3, week 1; Research essay - Deadline Term 3, week 4.

Essay 35%; Essay 35%; Research project 30%

See Assessments for further information.

Primary texts

The module will involve both literary and theoretical reading.

Works studied include: Jorge Luis Borges, 'The Library of Babel'; Ivan Vladislavić, 'The Reading', Daljit Nagra, Look We Have Coming to Dover!; Raven Leilani, Luster; Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place

Most texts will be available via the library's Reading ListLink opens in a new window. However, you will need to borrow or purchase Raven Leilani's Luster and JM Coetzee's Disgrace.

A full list of this year’s set texts as well as a week-by-week breakdown of topics and readings is here: ‘Syllabus

This module is a compulsory core and only available to Q300 English Literature second-year students.