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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL5846M Literature and the Politics of Language

30 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Professor Tony Crowley

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

Pre-requisite qualifications

As for MA programme

This module is not approved as an Elective


-To explore the relations between literature and the politics of language from the Renaissance to the present;
-To investigate how specific literary texts engage with linguistic debates concerned with identity, power, and value;
-To understand the continuing significance of language issues in literature.

Learning outcomes
Students will:
-Understand the history of a number of debates around the English language from the Renaissance to the present and the ways in which particular literary texts engage with and intervene in such debates;
-Gain knowledge of the main approaches to the politics of language;
-Be able to analyse how literary texts use language issues to explore questions of identity, power and value.

Skills outcomes
Masters (Taught), Postgraduate Diploma & Postgraduate Certificate students will have had the opportunity to acquire the following abilities as defined in the modules specified for the programme:
- the skills necessary to undertake a higher research degree and/or for employment in a higher capacity;
- evaluating their own achievement and that of others;
- self direction and effective decision making;
- independent learning and the ability to work in a way which ensures continuing professional development;
- to engage critically in the development of professional/disciplinary boundaries and norms.


This module will explore the relations between literature and the politics of language from the Renaissance to the present and investigate how specific literary texts engage with linguistic debates concerned with identity, power, and value. In the course seminars we will read theoretical and literary texts together in order to elucidate particular issues. Topics may include:

English and the contest of language - Ben Jonson, The Poetaster (1601) and Mikhail Bakhtin, ‘Unitary Language', from The Dialogic Imagination (1981);
Women and legitimate language - R.B. Sheridan, The Rivals (1775) and Pierre Bourdieu, ‘The Production and Reproduction of Legitimate Language', from Language and Symbolic Power (1992);
Familiar and foreign words - James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Rey Chow, ‘Not Like a Native Speaker: The Postcolonial Scene of Languaging and the Proximity of the Xenophone', from Not Like a Native Speaker: On Languaging as a Postcolonial Experience (2014)
Translating the language of history - Brian Friel, Translations (1981) and Chinua Achebe, ‘The African Writer and the English Language' (1975) and Ngugi wa Thiong'o, ‘The Language of African Literature' (1986).
Language and Power - Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale (1985) and V.N. Volosinov, ‘Theme and Meaning', from Marxism and the Philosophy of Language (1929);
The (im)possibility of dialect writing - Niall Griffiths, Kelly and Victor (2003) and Asif Agha, ‘The social life of cultural value' (2003).

Texts for purchase:
Burke, Lucy, Tony Crowley and Alan Girvin (eds.), 'The Routledge Language and Cultural Theory Reader' (London: Routledge, 2000).

Teaching methods

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

Private study

In common with other School of English MA modules, students enrolled on this course will spend most of their study time pursuing private study. This will involve reading set texts and secondary materials; pursuing library research; constructing a bibliography; drafting the essay; and editing the essay before final submission to ensure that it meets the appropriate academic standards (including referencing).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Unassessed work: Students will be expected to complete and bring to each class a prep sheet related to the materials under discussion. They will submit a 500 word proposal for their assessed essay towards the end of the semester (to include title/question and draft bibliography) for comment and discussion.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayOne 4,000 word essay100.00
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


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