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Transgression and Dissidence

  • Module code: EL7009
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: 7
  • Credits: 30
  • Pre-requisites: None
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

The birth of modern literature is bloody, ill-tempered and violent in the flights of its newfound poetic imagination. Terror and sensation define the novel and degeneration underpins imperial encounters with modes of otherness it can neither conquer nor avoid. Modern challenges to conventions of form also spill over and disturb the bounds of experience, consciousness and good taste amid changing social mechanisms; later provocations – obscene and disturbing in terms of theme and content – assume a role in the vanguard of social and political liberations of consciousness, sexuality, and nation: democratic contestations and freedoms are found and founder in apparently darker literary impulses.

          This core module on the English Literature MA examines the transgressive potentiality of literature. It focuses on textual material that explores the limits of human experience, contravenes cultural boundaries and troubles established verities. It also asks how literature, through such transgressions, has provided opportunities for dissent and resistance, and considers the extent to which literature has thereby acted as a catalyst for social and political change. It interrogates a range of critical approaches to literature, transgression and dissent, and assesses the possibilities and limitations of various modes of dissident scholarship.

          Students will engage with five literary texts drawn from different periods and contexts (these might include a Renaissance drama, an eighteenth-century Gothic novel, a nineteenth century sensation novel; a twentieth-century postmodern novel; and a contemporary work of postcolonial fiction); each will be approached through a selection of critical materials that provide complimentary and competing frameworks for evaluating literary transgression and the scope literature offers for political and sexual dissidence. In so doing the module also introduces students to several of the thematic and theoretical preoccupations of the MA course’s optional and special studies modules.

Aims

  • To explore critically      the relationship between literature, transgression and dissidence from different      periods and contexts
  • To develop a      critical understanding of theoretical discussions of transgression
  • To critically reflect      on the ways literary scholarship has contributed to forms of political and      sexual dissidence.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical      understanding of the different ways the terms ‘transgression’ and      ‘dissidence’ have been theorised in relation to literature and literary      cultures
  • Offer sophisticated analyses of      literary texts within the context of theoretical debates surrounding literature,      transgression and dissidence
  • Present their      academic work in progress clearly and effectively to both peers and tutors

Curriculum content

  • Week 1: Tzvetan Todorov, The Fantastic [extracts]; Michel Foucault ‘A Preface to Transgression’; Jonathan Dollimore, ‘The Politics of Containment’
  • Weeks 2 & 3: William Shakespeare, The Tempest (1611), with Stephen Greenblatt, ‘Fiction and Friction’; Alan Sinfield, Faultlines [extracts]  
  • Weeks 4 & 5: Ann Radcliffe, The Romance of the Forest (1791); with de Sade, ‘Reflections on the Novel’, ‘Philosophy of the Boudoir’;  Georges Bataille, Eroticism [extracts]
  • Weeks 6 & 7: Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (1868); with D.A. Miller, The Novel and the Police [extracts]; Marlene Tromp, The Private Rod [extracts]
  • Weeks 8 and 9: Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus (1984), with Judith Butler, Bodies that Matter [extracts]; Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and his World [extracts]
  • Week 10 and 11: Nurrudin Farah, Secrets (1999), with Homi Bhabha,  The Location of Culture [extracts]; Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus [extracts]

Teaching and learning strategy

The module will be taught in a series of two-hour seminars. These fortnightly sessions are flexible so as to allow detailed exploration of literature’s relationship with transgression and dissidence, and how it has been theorised by literary critics and philosophers, and may include presentations by the module leader, short student presentations and peer-led discussions.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive UNISTATS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Seminars 22
Guided independent study 278
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

Assessment for this module comprises two elements:               

The first (30%) is a short essay (1,500-2,000 words) which will be submitted for assessment part-way through the teaching block. Students will answer set questions which will invite them to assess a specific critical or theoretical approach to an aspect of the relationship between literature and transgression and/or dissidence. Students will receive feedback on their submitted short essay in advance of completing the longer essay.              

The second (70%) is a 4,000-word critical essay which will focus on one or more key concerns of the module and will allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the ways literary texts transgress social, formal and conceptual boundaries and, by doing so, provide bases for various kinds of dissent and resistance.

               

In addition to weekly seminar discussion, drafting and preparation of the essays will provide explicit opportunities for formative feedback.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
1) Demonstrate a critical understanding of the different ways the terms ‘transgression’ and ‘dissidence’ have been theorised in relation to literature and literary cultures Assessed formatively by class discussion. Assessed summatively by a critical essays
2) Offer sophisticated analyses of literary texts within the context of theoretical debates surrounding literature, transgression and dissidence Assessed formatively by class discussion. Assessed summatively by a critical essays
3) Present their academic work in progress clearly and effectively to both peers and tutors Assessed formatively by class discussion. Assessed summatively by a critical essays

Elements of Assessment

Description of Assessment Definitive UNISTATS Categories Percentage
CWK Portfolio of critical responses (2000 words) 30
CWK 4000 word essay 70
Total (to equal 100%) 100%

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module

Bibliography core texts

William Shakespeare, The Tempest (1611)

Ann Radcliffe, The Romance of the Forest (1791)

Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (1868)

Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus (1984)

Nurrudin Farah, Secrets (1999)

Bibliography recommended reading

Booker, M. Keith, The Techniques of Subversion in Modern Literature:

          Transgression, Abjection, and the Carnivalesque (Gainsville: University Press

          of Florida, 1991)

Dolimore, Jonathan, Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault

          (Oxford: OUP, 1991)

Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan

          (London: Vintage, 1995)

Gallagher, Catherine and Stephen Greenblatt, Practising New Historicism (Chicago:

          University of Chicago Press, 2001)

Jackson, Michael, The Politics of Storytelling: Variations on a Theme by Hannah

          Arendt, 2nd ed.  (Museum Tusculanum Press, 2014)

Jenks, Chris, Transgression (London: Routledge, 2013)

McNay, Lois, Foucault and Feminism: Power, Gender, and the Self (Cambridge:

          Blackwell, 1992)

Miller, D.A., The Novel and the Police (University of California Press, 1989)

Mookerjee, Robin, Transgressive Fiction: The New Satiric Tradition (Basingstoke:

Palgrave, 2013)

Russo, Mary, The Female Grotesque: Risk, Excess and Modernity (New York:

          Routledge, 1994)

Sinfield, Alan, Cultural Politics – Queer Reading (London: Routledge, 1994)

Stallybrass, Peter and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression

          (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986)

Tromp, Marlene, The Private Rod: Marital Violence, Sensation, and the Law in

          Victorian Britain (University of Virginia Press, 2000)

Wolfreys, Julian, Transgression: Identity, Space, Time (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2008)

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