Guilt and Redemption in Modern Literature - CP306

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 2)
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4 15 (7.5) DR P March-Russell







The 'knowledge of good and evil' is unique to human beings. It informs the individual’s conscience and determines the moral systems on which societies are based. The violation of moral codes is expected to induce the experience of guilt, while the lack of any sense of guilt is considered to be psychopathic. As the manifestation of an internal, and sometimes also external, struggle of varying intensity, guilt is an almost universal concern of literary texts; as is the quest for redemption, the alleviation of guilt and despair – through atonement, forgiveness or denial. In this module, we will analyse and discuss literary texts which explore the frequently fuzzy edges of the experiences of guilt and redemption as a human quandary and as perceived against changing conceptions of morality. Texts included in the reading list engage with questions of personal and collective guilt incurred with hubris, cruelty, the violation of animal rights, and genocide, etc.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Presentation (15 minutes) – 20%
Essay 1 (1,000 words) – 30%
Essay 2 (2,000 words) – 50%

Indicative reading

Any edition of the following:

Albert Camus, The Fall
J. M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals
Boubacar Boris Diop, Murambi
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
Robert Musil, The Confusions of Young Törless
Bernhard Schlink, The Reader
Jean-Philippe Stassen, Deogratias
Michel Tournier, The Ogre

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

- Demonstrate a good knowledge of a range of influential writings from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries dealing with major ideological preoccupations and, more specifically, issues of guilt and redemption;
- Confront and examine major realities of modern life and shaping ideas and ideologies in the works of writers whose stature, significance and impact is international;
- Exhibit a broad understanding of the ways in which creative literature can convey ideological, moral and ethical purpose;
- Discuss and evaluate the capacity of fictional literature, in comparison with discursive literature, to contribute to political and moral thought;
- Benefit from close and careful reading of the literary text;
- Demonstrate an evaluative comparison of literary texts with similar themes.

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