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Textual Studies (PH304)

Some texts ask us to read in complex ways, not just as people with literary knowledge and sensitivity, and not just as philosophical thinkers. We need to do both of those things. How do we do that? One assumption of this module is that, at the very least, we have to spend dedicated time with a given text, getting inside the way it uses its linguistic and other resources to communicate, to question, to give pleasure, and, perhaps, to initiate something new.

A further assumption is that engaging with such texts is important – they show people who have responded acutely and creatively to the complexity of being human. What are we? What are we capable of? Can we identify and express what is most valuable to us? In this module we are open to the resources needed—passion, reason, memory, bodily and imaginative experience, cultural awareness, a sense of humour—to understand and respond adequately to works of literary and philosophical significance.

Textual Studies is specifically for final-year Philosophy and Literature students and is taught jointly by tutors from Philosophy and English and Comparative Literary Studies. The module aims to draw on and consolidate the experience, reading and training of Philosophy and Literature students over the course of their degree. The work of the module falls into two parts: seminar work and an independent essay on a topic of the student’s choice. The seminar carries out in-depth study of a small range of texts. Authors studied have included: Plato, Augustine, Rousseau, Coleridge, Dickinson, Nietzsche, Woolf, and Nabokov. Students simultaneously work on a research essay, guided by tutorials with both tutors.

Recent themes studied include:

• Media of thought and communication: writing, speech, visual image
• Creativity, destruction, re-making
• Death, suffering and immortality
• Love, madness, and transformation
• Memory, time and self-knowledge
• Chance, control and meaning

Blue Book No.5 by Dayanita Singh (copyright)

Module Director:

Eileen John 


This module runs for the full year and is worth 30 CATS.