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7ABA0006 Theorizing Literature Across Cultures: Contemporary Debates

Credit value: 20
Module convenor: Dr Caroline Laurent 
Assessment: 1 x 5,000 word essay
Teaching pattern: One two-hour seminar weekly
Pre-requisites: None
Previous module title: Theorizing Comparative Literature across Cultures: Contemporary Debates

Reassessment: Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Module description

How do we examine literatures across cultures, geographies, languages and time? What ideas and systems of thought underpin our choice of texts and questions in this project of comparison? And what are the current most urgent debates in the discipline of comparative literature?

These questions underpin contemporary debates about comparative literature, and will be explored from a variety of perspectives in this module.  United by one overarching theme, each week the seminars will be led by a different member of the Comparative Literature programme, who will draw on examples from their own research to examine current critical issues in comparative and world literature.  This range of approaches will provide students with the opportunity to explore these issues in depth, and to become acquainted with the diversity of cutting-edge theoretical approaches which can be deployed.  Most weeks we will work with both primary texts and critical theory.  

Educational aims and objectives

This module explores contemporary debates in the field of comparative literature.  Students will have the opportunity to analyse and evaluate theories at the forefront of current literary scholarship, and to deploy these effectively to illuminate a variety of texts. The module will also enable students to develop and consolidate the skills required to conduct research and communicate findings at a postgraduate level.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to demonstrate intellectual, transferable and practical skills appropriate to a Level 7 module, and in particular will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a deep and systematic understanding of the field of comparative literature.
  • Evaluate current theoretical and methodological concepts within the discipline of comparative literature.
  • Flexibly and creatively apply this knowledge in the analysis of literary texts, and suggest potential new approaches.
  • Select and deploy theoretical approaches appropriate to the primary texts at hand.
  • Employ advanced skills in independent research, and communicate findings effectively.

Core reading

The following books provide a good introduction to some of the themes of this module:

  • Alexander Beecroft, An Ecology of World Literature: From Antiquity to the Present Day. New York: Verso, 2015.
  • David Damroch, What is World Literature? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.
  • Edward Said, The World, the Text, and the Critic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984.

Additional course costs

None. All texts will be available either on KEATS or via the library.


The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

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