In Search of Shelter: Refugee Narratives & the Politics of Displacement - CPLT6660

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


The current refugee crisis has brought widespread attention to the precarious situation of the refugee. While representations of refugees and migrants in literary texts can be traced back to antiquity, the current era of globalisation and international conflict has created a sense of urgency, resulting in an abundance of new literary works that are devoted to the figure of the refugee. Focusing on themes including forced displacement, home and hospitality, this module examines literature by and about refugees from as far afield as Lebanon, Iraq, Korea, Palestine and Vietnam.

This module explores the complexities associated with forced migration and refugee populations. It analyses tensions between the global and the local in the age of globalisation and considers whether we might view the current crisis as an articulation of the religious, cultural and racial tensions between East and West. Perhaps most importantly, the module will consider how literature might be an appropriate vehicle for articulating the humanity of those affected. Finally, students will consider the role of the refugee-as-author and question whether and how personal experiences of the authors might affect both narrative form and reader response.

The current crisis has led to the formation of new fields of study. Over the course of the module, students will engage with key theoretical concepts from mobility studies and border studies; they will also be introduced to the emerging field of refugee and forced migration studies, which examines the phenomenon of the refugee from a range of disciplinary perspectives, including anthropology, law, human rights, politics, literature and film.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Presentation (20 minutes) – 20%
Essay (3,000 words) – 80%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Exodus 1-40. Holy Bible: King James Edition.
Virgil. (1990). The Aeneid. London: Penguin.
Marcellinus, A. Historiae, Book 31. Available Online.
Blassim, H. (2009). 'The Reality and the Record.' In The Madman of Freedom Square. Manchester: Comma Press.
Shire, Warsan. 'Home' and 'Conversations about Home (at the Deportation Centre)' (Published online).
Tan, S. (2006). The Arrival. London: Lothian.
Various authors. (2018). Shatila Stories. London: Peirene Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

Critically analyse literary representations by and about refugees from different social, cultural and political contexts;
Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the historical and political questions that are raised by such representations;
Demonstrate detailed understanding of themes that are pertinent to the study of the figure of the refugee, especially concerning ideas of home, hospitality and the foreign other;
Engage at an advanced critical level with the literary texts discussed through close interpretations of these works;
Demonstrate a strong understanding of the various political agendas that shape such narratives;
Demonstrate systematic knowledge of key theoretical concepts from refugee and forced migration studies, mobility studies and border studies;
Demonstrate a systematic and critical understanding of recent criticism relating to the texts studied on the module.


  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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