Blasphemy: Sex, Scandal and Religion - RSST6470

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Autumn Term 6 30 (15) Nicole Graham checkmark-circle


In this module we will be looking at famous and obscure blasphemy cases, and asking why an old concept like 'blasphemy' continues to be so powerful today. We will analyse a range of recent cases in a variety of media, including Monty Python’s Life of Brian; The Satanic Verses; the Danish Cartoon Affair; Visions of Ecstasy; the Charlie Hebdo massacres in 2015; public Femen demonstrations; Pussy Riot; Bezhti; and the Gay News controversy over the homoerotic poem ‘The Love that Dares to Speak its Name’. However, we will also be looking at blasphemy in historical and global contexts. How have old British colonial laws been developed in Pakistan and India, for example? When was the last execution and imprisonment for blasphemy in the UK? ‘Blasphemy’ will be explored as a flashpoint for major controversies at the heart of modern democracies. These include the conflict between freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and the conflict between religion and sexual freedom.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40
Private Study Hours: 260
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Essay 1 (1,000 words) – 25%
Essay 2 (3,000 words) – 75%

Reassessment methods
Reassessment Instrument: 100% Coursework

Indicative reading

The University is committed to ensuring that core reading materials are in accessible electronic format in line with the Kent Inclusive Practices. The most up to date reading list for each module can be found on the university's reading list pages:

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 a systematic understanding of the key dynamics underlying public cases of 'blasphemy';
2 Critically analyse the relationship between ideas of blasphemy and the self-understanding of religious communities;
3 Critically analyse the relationship between ideas of blasphemy and secularity, especially freedom of speech;
4 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the relationship between historical context and (changing) ideas of acceptable expression;
5 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the changing legislation on blasphemy and hate speech.

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

1 Demonstrate developed skills in analysing complex and multi-faceted material, with reference to advanced scholarship and primary texts;
2 Demonstrate competence in the use of appropriate IT resources and critical sources in devising research plans, evaluating relevant material, identifying problems, and framing appropriate solutions;
3 Analyse primary and second sources in a variety of media, developing advanced skills in source selection and initiating research plans for acquiring a greater understanding of the material;
4 Analyse sources in their historical and cultural contexts, and demonstrate advanced skills in contextual comparison;
5 Address controversial topics with sensitivity and nuance.


  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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