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2008/09 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL3352 An Impossible Profession: Representing Teachers and Teaching

20 creditsClass Size: 10


Module manager: Dr Denis Flannery

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2008/09

Pre-requisite qualifications

Grade B at 'A' Level in English Language or Literature or equivalent or an achieved mark of 56 or above in a Level 1 module in English.

PLEASE NOTE:- This module is restricted to Level 3 students.

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

"An Impossible Profession" is a module for students who have wished to find out what western culture says about an activity -- teaching -- of which they will all have had experience and in which many will participate in their future careers. Its initial ambition is to look at how teaching and teachers are represented in literary texts. The peculiar proximity of teaching and the literary, though, the widely-held belief that literature can in some way teach us something and the centrality of literary technique to successful and renowned pedagogy, all mean that we cannot simply look at teaching solely in the literary and its related fields. Instead we have to consider ways in which teaching, literature, theatre and cinema create each other's practices, borrow each others' strategies and compensate for each others' failures. Seminars, which will cover a range of challenging and fascinating texts from Robert Baden-Powell's 1907 instructions to scouts and their leaders, to Cormac McCarthy's contemporary dramatic fictions to Gus Van Sant's Cinema invite full spoken and written particpation as we reflect on the module's issues together. The module's mode of assessment will enable students to develop their skills of close reading, theoretical considertaion and cinematic analysis.


On completion of this module students will have obtained a deepened awareness of the different kinds of relationship that can exist between the practice of teaching on the one hand and the practices of literary, theatrical and cinematic representation on the other. Students will have also augmented their critical and analytical skills with respect to different kinds of texts (fiction, theory, theatre and cinema) and further developed their skills in essay writing, group interaction and oral presentation.

Learning outcomes
Students will have developed:
- the ability to use written and oral communication effectively;
- the capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse;
- the ability to manage quantities of complex information in a structured and systematic way;
- the capacity for independent thought and judgement;
- critical reasoning;
- research skills, including the retrieval of information, the organisation of material and the evaluation of its importance;
- IT skills;
- efficient time management and organisation skills;
- the ability to learn independently.

Skills outcomes
Skills for effective communication, oral and written.
Capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse.
Ability to acquire quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way.
Capacity for independent thought and judgement.
Critical reasoning.
Research skills, including information retrieval skills, the organisation of material, and the evaluation of its importance.
IT skills.
Time management and organisational skills.
Independent learning.


Sigmund Freud once listed psychoanalysis, education and government as "impossible professions", ones in which, Freud claimed, "one can be sure beforehand of achieving unsatisfactory results". Literature is another field of human activity where the idea of the "satisfactory result" is, at best, elusive. It is also true that teaching and the literary rarely stray far from each others' sights. Readers often come to literary texts and, indeed, argue for their very value, on the assumption that, in some way, literature can teach us something. At the same time, literary texts often take as their points of major focus the figure of the teacher, the dynamics of the student-teacher relationship and modes of survival within educational worlds and institutions. As well as these forms of connection acts of teaching are often compared to, or dependent on, different forms of rhetorical mastery and literary technique. Along with giving students the opportunity to explore these three interrelated forms of relationship between teaching and the literary text, this module also looks at what happens to theatre and cinema when they make the figure of the teacher or the representation of an educational world their point of focus. The majority of the texts where this is considered are American yet the module aims to present a transnational view of these questions by reading texts from England and France along with those from the United States.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Teaching will be through weekly seminars (10 x 1 hour) plus up to 5 additional hours (content to be determined by the module tutor). The 5 additional hours may include lectures, plenary sessions, film showings, or the return of unassessed/assessed essays.

Private Study: Reading, preparation for seminars/essay and exam.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Contribution to seminars.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,250 words50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)2 hr 50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 17/11/2009


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