The Contemporary - EN677

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
5 30 (15) DR J Virtanen




Not available as wild



This module aims to introduce students to a wide range of contemporary literature written in English, where 'contemporary' is taken to refer to twenty-first century work. It will equip students with critical ideas and theoretical concepts that will help them to understand the literature of their own time. Students will consider examples of a range of genres: poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction and the essay. They will also be selectively introduced to key ideas in contemporary theory and philosophy. Over the course of the module, students will be encouraged to read texts in a number of contexts. They will consider writers’ responses to, for instance, questions of migration, environmental change, and financial crisis. They will also consider a range of aesthetic developments and departures, for example: new conceptualism and the claim to unoriginality; archival poetics; the turn to creative non-fiction; the re-emergence of the political essay. The module will not focus on a given national context. Instead it will set contemporary writing against the background of identifiably international issues and concerns. In so doing it will draw attention to non-national publishing strategies and audiences. Overall, the module will aim to show how writers are responding to the present period, how their work illuminates and reflects current cultural concerns. The weekly topics will address both between thematic and formal concerns.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30
Private study hours: 270
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

50% coursework, 50% examination.

Two Essays (2,500 words each) (40%)
Seminar Performance (10%)
Examination (3 hours) (50%)

Indicative reading

Giorgio Agamben. 2009. 'What is the Contemporary?' in What is an Apparatus? Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Kate Evans. 2017. Threads: From the Refugee Crisis. London: Verso
Claudia Rankine. 2015. Citizen: an American Lyric. London: Penguin
Sean Bonney. 2015. Letters Against the Firmament. London: Enitharmon Press
Arundhati Roy.2010., Listening to Grasshoppers. London: Penguin
Zadie Smith. 2013. NW. London: Penguin

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an informed understanding of twenty-first century literature across a number of genres and sub-genres;
2. Demonstrate knowledge of some of the major literary, cultural and political issues that matter to contemporary writers;
3. Demonstrate awareness of some developments in the critical understanding of literature in the contemporary period;
4. Demonstrate a developing sense of the different forms of writing in this period and a growing capacity to analyse them critically.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Apply the skills needed for academic study and inquiry;
2. Synthesise information from a number of sources in order to gain a coherent understanding of texts and contexts; ability to synthesise material from a number of sources in a coherent creative whole;
3. Frame oral criticism of diverse sources thoughtfully and incisively;
4. Demonstrate powers of communication and the capacity to make a case, in spoken and written form, with clarity, organisation and conviction;
5. Enhance confidence in the presentation of ideas designed to stimulate critical debate;
6. Understand, interrogate and pursue a variety of theoretical insights and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives.

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.