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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ARTF3058 Reading Sexual Difference

20 creditsClass Size: 18

Module manager: Dr Eric Prenowitz

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

Pre-requisite qualifications

At least 20 credits from any ARTF-coded module or appropriate equivalent in a relevant discipline. In the latter case, students are advised to get in touch with the module leader to discuss eligibility prior to enrolment.

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This is a module in reading, as if sexual difference were some 'thing' that could only be read, actively interpreted, and never simply observed from a neutral, transcendental, scientific viewpoint. As if we've always already been in it, inescapably, not knowing whether it's one of our attributes or vice versa. So we'll try to crane our head out the window and get some kind of an angle on the question. Of course we will be interested in what philosophers have to say (or not) about it, and indeed sexual difference can be seen as underpinning or grounding all philosophical discourse. However, as such, it must also constitute a challenge to the very foundations or possibility of philosophy itself: maybe it's precisely what philosophy, or science, can't quite comprehend...? The passage from seeing to reading will thus be a passage beyond theory. Not that science or philosophy is necessarily for boys and poetry for girls. And yet our 'literary' penchant is anything but neutral: we would like our study to itself be inscribed in and with sexual difference. We will spend most of our time reading in detail (along with) some of the important thinker-writers on the topic.


On completion of this module, students:
- will be able to think critically on the topic of sexual difference, and on other cultural studies issues or themes from a perspective informed by the problematics of sexual difference.
- will be familiar with the key critical concepts developed since the end of the 19th century to explore and account for the effects of sexual difference in human culture in the broadest sense.
- will be able to provide an account of the history of modern thought on sexual difference.
- will be able to read and discuss key works of major thinker-writers on the subject, such as Freud, Lacan, Cixous, Butler, Irigaray and Derrida.
In methodological terms, students will:
- have developed skills in critical-creative close analysis.
- be able to take sexual difference into account in making detailed analyses of literary texts and other forms of creative expression.

Learning outcomes
Students will -
- gain an in-depth understanding of the on-going debates around sexuality, gender and sexual difference.
- be familiar with the terms, stakes and critical implications of this debate.
- develop strong interpretative and close-reading skills, both in the analysis of the effects and inscriptions of sexual difference in culture and cultural manifestations, and more broadly in the analysis, informed by these debates, of cultural forms, institutions and artefacts.
- be familiar with some of the key theoretical interventions of such thinkers as Freud, Cixous, Rubin, Butler and Irigaray.

Skills outcomes
- Verbal and written fluency in constructing a logical and coherent argument
- Using bibliographies and databases.


The module will begin with Freud, who wrote the book on sex. The rest of the module, like the rest of the history of thinking about sex-and-gender, will move through a series of remarkable riffs on Freud’s propositions, some close in, others at a considerable distance, by authors such as Butler, Cixous, Derrida, Irigaray, Lacan, Rubin. The path we cut through the rich and expanding-as-we-speak field of thinking about and experiencing sexual difference will of necessity be partial, but our texts are all classics in their way and thrilling reads.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

- 140 hours reading and seminar preparation
- 40 hours essay preparation.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Attendance at seminars/tutorials - register taken
- required seminar contribution and oral feedback
- Mid-term essay

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2000-3000 words60.00
Essay1000-1500 words40.00
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: 29/04/2024 16:10:27


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