Reading the Contemporary - EN842

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 2)
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7 30 (15) DR J Virtanen







'Reading the Contemporary' is a cross-disciplinary module the aim of which is to find out what it means to read the contemporary period through its aesthetic practices. The module will be co-taught by staff from the School of English, the School of Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, with seminars alternating between the Canterbury campus and the ICA (London).

The module has three main objectives. First, it will consider what it means, in a theoretical sense, to think about our contemporary moment. Second, it will address key themes and issues in contemporary culture and will consider how they bear on and are shaped by recent aesthetic forms. Third, through the seminars delivered at the ICA, which will arise directly out of the ICA's programme, students will be introduced to examples of current aesthetic practice.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Teaching will be in the form of a 2 hour weekly seminar. Seminars will alternate between the Canterbury campus of the University of Kent and the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
Seminars at Kent will develop theoretical understanding of the contemporary period.
Seminars at the ICA will concentrate on examples of current artistic practice arising from work currently being curated and performed at the Institute.

Total Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 280
Total Study Hours: 300


This module is the core module for the MA in The Contemporary and will be made available to other students subject to places.

Autumn term in 2019/20

Method of assessment

Essay (5,000 words) – 100%

Indicative reading

Indicative list, current at time of publication. Reading lists will be published annually:

Fisher, Allen (2014). SPUTTOR. London: Veer Books
Martin, Theodore (2017). Contemporary Drift. New York: Columbia University Press
Moten, Fred & Stefano Harney (2013). The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study. USA: Minor Compositions
Rankine, Claudia (2015). Citizen: an American Lyric. London: Penguin

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an informed understanding of prevailing themes and trends in contemporary culture and aesthetic practice;

2. Demonstrate advanced knowledge of some of the key cultural and political issues that matter to contemporary writers and artists;

3. Demonstrate an advanced sense of the ways different art forms inter-relate, and a good understanding of the way those inter-relations can be informed and mediated by theoretical and cultural discourses;

4. Relate developments and concepts in contemporary thought to leading examples of current artistic practice.

5. Demonstrate the ability to formulate research questions and hypotheses to address problems across a range of disciplines within the arts;

6. Demonstrate the ability to interpret arguments, marshal information from published sources, interpret materials from archives, critically evaluate own research and that of others;

7. Demonstrate the ability to use appropriate technology to retrieve, analyse and present information;

8. Demonstrate the ability to construct arguments with regard to different intellectual contexts and different disciplines across the arts;

9. Demonstrate an understanding of how to use constructive informal feedback from staff and peers and assess own progress to enhance performance and personal skills;

10. Demonstrate the ability to work in a self-motived and independent fashion; manage time and workload in order to meet personal targets and imposed deadlines


This module cannot be condoned or compensated for MA in the Contemporary students

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