Fiction and Power - CPLT5020

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


This module looks at a group of politically inspired literary texts, comics and films, some of which were produced under the totalitarian regimes which held sway in Europe between 1917 and 1989. Others deal with the Middle East conflict, and the Islamic revolution in Iran and Mao's Cultural Revolution in China, or power relations in other contexts. Most explore ways of challenging and subverting authoritarian power structures and of articulating a critique in what Bertolt Brecht called 'dark times’. But we also focus on less obvious negotiations of fiction and power, especially with respect to the various forms of power to which these texts are subject, in which they participate, and on which they reflect metafictionally. The approach is comparative in various ways as the texts range historically and culturally, as well as across genres and language barriers (Arab, Czech, English, French, German, Italian, Greek, Polish, Russian and Chinese).


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40

Method of assessment

Essay 1 (3,000 words) – 40%
Essay 2 (3,000 words) – 40%
Presentation (20 minutes) – 20%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Grant, L. (2000). When I Lived in Modern Times. London: Granta Publications.
Hanne, M. (1994/1996). "Narrative and Power", in: The Power of the Story. Fiction and Political Change. Rev. ed. Providence, RI: Berghahn.
Ionesco, E. (2015) (1959). Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros and Other Plays). Trans. Derek Prouse. New York: Grove Press.
Kundera, M. (1995) (1984). The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Trans. Michael Henry Heim. London: Faber and Faber.
Satrapi, M. (2008) (2003). Persepolis. Trans. Anjali Singh. London: Vintage.
Sijie, D. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (2000)
Solzhenitsyn, A. (2000) (1962) A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Trans. Ralph Parker. London: Penguin.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module Level 6 students will be able to:

Demonstrate full awareness of and ability to analyse critically discursive power relations in context (political, ethnic, gendered, etc.);
Demonstrate an excellent understanding of the interplay between ideology and the imagination, politics and literature;
Demonstrate an excellent understanding of the interrelation of fact and fiction;
Demonstrate an excellent understanding of literature in its function as a catalyst and product of identity formation;
Demonstrate a full awareness of literature in its function as a vehicle of cultural self-reflection;
Select and synthesise very complex material and develop and defend coherent, persuasive and well-presented arguments both in class and in writing in a comparative context;
Demonstrate an improved ability to undertake the comparative analysis of literature of outstanding quality.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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