Marxism, Literature and Culture - EN716

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn 6 30 (15) DR M Docherty checkmark-circle


This module offers students a synoptic perspective on Marxist cultural criticism from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day in Europe, Russia and North America. It begins with an analysis of a selection from Marx’s own writings, with the aim of introducing key terms, such as “alienation,” “ideology,” and “dialectic.” Students’ understanding of these terms and their critical uses for literary and cultural studies will develop during the course of the module, as they encounter a range of important Marxist thinkers and their writings.

Throughout the module students will be invited to interrogate and transgress the boundaries separating literary from critical texts, and theory from practice. They will be invited to consider creative practice and Marxist criticism in dialogue with one another at particular historical moments. Although anchored in the literary and the textual, the module will also offer opportunities to think critically about the term “culture” itself in its broadest senses, encompassing a range of aesthetic and social practices, such as sport and music. Progressing through the great class conflicts of the early twentieth century, the Frankfurt School, New Left and anti-racist decolonization movements of the postwar period, up to the contemporary neoliberal moment, the module aims finally to offer students a set of tools with which to understand their own cultural encounters in the present as well as to reconfigure and re-evaluate the cultural knowledge they have accumulated in stages one and two of their degree programmes.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

10 x 2hr seminars and 10 x 1hr workshops

Method of assessment

Students will be assessed on the basis of two pieces of written work of 3000 words each (worth 45% each), and will receive a mark (worth 10%) for their contribution to seminars

Indicative reading

• Karl Marx (repr. 2000), Selected Writings, ed. David McLellan. Oxford: Oxford University Press
• Angela Davis (1998), The Angela Y. Davis Reader. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell
• Jonathan Crary (2014), 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. London: Verso
• David Harvey (2007), A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press
• Friedrich Engels (repr 2009), The Condition of the Working Class in England. Oxford: Oxford World's Classics
• Theodor Adorno (repr. 2005), Minima Moralia: Reflections from a Damaged Life. London: Verso.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following subject specific learning outcomes:

• A systematic understanding and detailed knowledge of key texts and issues in Marxist cultural history and theory
• The ability to deploy the techniques of Marxist thought in approaching cultural phenomena, including literature
• The ability to evaluate contemporary and historical examples of cultural criticism on their own terms and in comparative relation to other critical approaches
• A conceptual understanding of Marxist thought that will allow them to devise and maintain coherent arguments about literature and culture

On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following generic learning outcomes:

• Ability to use established techniques to initiate and undertake critical analysis of information, and to propose solutions to problems arising from that analysis
• Ability to communicate information, arguments, and analysis effectively in written and oral forms
• Ability to use self-direction and autonomy in approaching and completing a critical task
• Understanding of critical theory and its applications within a range of contexts


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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