Module and Programme Catalogue

Search site

Find information on

2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL5666M Ways of Reading: Novels in the Age of Information Excess

30 creditsClass Size: 29

Module manager: Prof Andrew Warnes

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

The course examines the special position that reading long narratives is granted in literary studies. We consider what distinguishes this activity from other ways of receiving information, and we ask how, in an age of huge and unprecedented data excess, it will survive. We also carry out significant reading of our own, examining some significant contemporary US and UK narratives to see how they, too, imagine their readers and how they shape the act of reading. The module attends to the ethical value of our field in the context of the current, rapidly changing, digital world.


On completion of this module, students will possess an increased knowledge of the ways in which the act of reading a novel has been understood in past critical discussions and is understood in current critiques of data excess and digital control. Students will also possess an enhanced understanding of how and why reading has been granted a privileged position over other forms of information reception as well as an ability to question this special position in an objective way. Students will also understand how US and UK novels themselves respond to this history of privileged literary reception, building their cultural understanding of how we read and the difficulties that such reading faces in an age of ever-accelerating information flow.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate a nuanced understanding of leading debates about the ethical and cultural value of reading

2. Critically evaluate the responses novels and literature in general make to ethical and cultural debates about reading

3. Practice independent research skills, including information retrieval skills, the organisation of material, and the weighing of its importance.

4. Exhibit persuasive and professional communication, including the clear articulation of complex ideas toward the development of a sustained argument.


This module surveys a range of recent theories that cite different factors in order to suggest that it is now becoming more difficult for people to read novels. It also introduces other cultural studies that show that people are, at the same time, reading more words per day than ever before, the vast majority on screen. We relate current theories regarding the loss of our attention span or the redemptive power of close reading to earlier historic anxieties about the negative impact of other new media and commercial forms. We relate these historic and current debates to a range of important US and UK novels that rehearse comparable or germane dilemmas, themselves imagining or inviting ways of reading that seem to resist data flow or position readers outside it. The module therefore seeks to build greater self-awareness about the activity and purpose of literary studies in a culture increasingly defined by rapid data flow, excess, and interruption.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours280.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Participation in seminar discussion.
- Presentation and feedback of in week 7 and 8.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
PresentationPresentation and Proposal: Proposal for essay’s key aims and areas; 1000 words in length.25.00
EssayEssay, including summary media thread: 3500 words in length75.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

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: 15/08/2023 12:47:52


Browse Other Catalogues

Errors, omissions, failed links etc should be notified to the Catalogue Team.PROD

© Copyright Leeds 2019