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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL3394 Bowie, Reading, Writing

20 creditsClass Size: 24

School of English

Module manager: Dr Denis Flannery

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

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.

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module is an intensive, theoretically alert, focused consideration of the relationship between David Bowie's work and the field of 'the literary' from 1971-2015. It will involve the close reading of song lyrics, the comparative reading of albums with literary forms such as the novel and the critical essay. It also requires a consideration of how popular music is fuelled by, and in turn inspires, new relationships between cinema, theatre and wider cultures.


- To explore the relationships of influence, inspiration, affiliation, and competition between the work of David Bowie (1947-2016) and a range of literary and theoretical texts from the nineteenth century to the Present day.
- To explore the shifting relationships between literature and popular culture
- To reflect on process of identification, adaptation and resistance between readers, performers, authors and audiences

Learning outcomes
- Detailed knowledge of a representative sample of David Bowie's work from 1971 to 2015
- Detailed knowledge of how Bowie's work from this sample responds to, adapts and recreates a generically broad range of literary works from the nineteenth century to the present day.
- Detailed knowledge of how contemporary theoretical practices and debates about literature, writing, identity and reading respond and relate to the previous two points.

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.


This module explores the place of literature in the work of the singer-songwriter, actor and visual artist, David Bowie (1947-2016). It also sets out to consider how that work embodies, questions, explores (and sometimes explodes) the status of 'the literary'. Focusing on four key moments of Bowie's career from 1971 to 2015, we will explore his relationship to the song as a literary and theatrical form alongside his reading of work by figures such as Bob Dylan, Jean Genet, Lou Reed and Andy Warhol. We will also consider how, from 1974 to 2002, Bowie's making of 'the album' as a genre took place in dialogue with forms of writing that ranged from modernist fiction, poetry and philosophy, to psychoanalysis and the Broadway musical. The module will include a reading of Lazarus (2015), Bowie's own embrace of the Broadway musical as a genre Using the skills of close reading and engaging with contemporary reflections on 'surface' or 'just' reading, the module will read Bowie's work with theory on writing, reading and authorship by figures such as Roland Barthes, Jacques, Derrida, D. A . Miller, Sharon Marcus and Barbara Johnson. Throughout, it will explore questions of time, place and selfhood, sexuality and style, pleasure and politics, violence, psyches, change, and 'the death of the author'.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Film Screenings12.002.00
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. The 5 additional hours will comprise one film screening (of The Man Who Fell to Earth), and collective listening sessions where, together and in complete silence, we will listen to Hunky Dory, Diamond Dogs, Heathen and the original cast recording of Lazarus.

Private study: Reading, seminar preparation and essay writing.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Contribution to Seminars
- Feedback on 1700 word essay

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,750 words66.70
Essay1,700 words33.30
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: 28/04/2023 14:39:52


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