Identity, Trauma and Sexuality in 20th and 21st Century Narratives - ENGL8000

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Autumn Term 7 30 (15) Carine Freville checkmark-circle


This module focuses on the links between identity, trauma and sexuality as represented in narratives from the 20th and 21st century, comprising both texts (autobiographical and fictional) and films. Whether they were written by anglophone or francophone authors, the works chosen as the module's corpus all have deep connections to France, and often specifically to Paris. The module will use as a starting point theories of trauma, drawing from the psychoanalytical writings of Freud on trauma and memory regarding the compulsive repetition of traumatic experiences and the splitting of the psyche. Since the corpus includes examples of 'life writing’, the module will also raise issues linked to the study of autobiography and fiction (Judith Butler, Paul John Eakin, Estelle C. Jelinek, Philippe Lejeune, Françoise Lionnet,) and how this informs the writing of traumatic experiences (Cathy Caruth, Leigh Gilmore, Dominick LaCapra, Dori Laub and Felman Shoshana, Kalí Tal). Moreover, we will analyse key theoretical concepts in the study of identity and sexuality, and explore how these may be used to subvert societal norms and power relations, as well as how France – and more specifically the metropolis of Paris – acts as a significant geographical and imaginary space in these works.


Contact hours

20 contact hours

Method of assessment

Main assessment method:
Essay (5,000 words) – 100%

Reassessment Method:
Like for like

Indicative reading

Baldwin, James (2001), Giovanni's Room, Penguin Modern Classics (9780141186351)
Bouraoui, Nina (2007), Tomboy, trans. Marjoire Attignoll Salvodon and Jehanne-Marie Gavarini, University of Nebraska Press (9780803262591)
Darrieussecq, Marie (2010), Tom is Dead, trans. Lia Hills, Text Publishing Company (1921799447)
Kofman, Sarah (1996), Rue Ordener, rue Labat, trans. Ann Smock, University of Nebraska Press (9780803277809)
Rhys, Jean (2000), Quartet, Penguin Modern Classics (9780141183923)
Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013), directed by Abdellatif Kechiche

Learning outcomes

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

1. Demonstrate wide-ranging knowledge of the role of trauma in the development of individual identity;
2. Demonstrate an ability to relate literature and film to psychoanalytical, historical, cultural, philosophical, political and artistic contexts connected to Paris and beyond;
3. Demonstrate sophisticated analytic skills when approaching literary texts, including close critical analysis of various literary and artistic forms;
4. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of critical approaches to gender studies.

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

1. Apply sophisticated close reading techniques to a range of literary texts and forms and to make productive and complex comparisons between them;
2. Display strong presentation skills, team work and an ability to participate actively in group discussions;
3. Show an increased capacity for self-directed research and the ability to discuss, evaluate and deploy secondary critical and theoretical perspectives creatively, making use of appropriate scholarly sources;
4. Frame and identify appropriate research questions and to construct original, clear and well-substantiated arguments.


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  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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