Literature and Society - SO737

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


This course will provide students with a sociological understanding of the changing and central importance of literature (in its myriad forms, both fiction and non-fiction) for contemporary society, including the emergence of specific genres which reflect the changing demographics and social and political concerns of Britain, as well as some other societies. These genres and concerns have been articulated through a diverse array of protagonists in contemporary literature, varying in terms of gender, sexuality, religion, and class. Not only do we talk of ‘chick lit’, but we also read and consume books about vampires and zombies as symbolic vehicles of social otherness. Contemporary literature enables us to examine the ways in which texts address the past, changing social norms, the process of self-discovery and revelation, and the changing boundaries of private and public, in increasingly diverse societies. This module will also emphasize the importance of literature in fostering social reflection, through the ways in which important moral and ethical concerns are often addressed in a variety of genres. While most of the texts are relatively recent, this module also includes a small number of older works of ethnography.


Contact hours

22 hours - 11 one hour lecture and 11 one hour seminar

Method of assessment

40% coursework (one essay of 3000 words), 10% seminar participation and a 2 hour exam.

Indicative reading

Terry Eagleton (2013) How to Read Literature
Hanif Kureishi (1990) The Buddha of Suburbia, London: Faber & Faber

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

Able to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the changing role and consumption of literature(s) in contemporary society, in our media obsessed society
Able to demonstrate a critical and systematic knowledge of how different genres address particular social experience and concerns (and capture a specific zeitgeist), give voice to different types of protagonists, and how they are targeted at specific audiences/demographics
Have achieved an in-depth and critical understanding of some of the key texts associated with disparate genres of literature
Be able to critically analyze how social class, ethnicity, gender, age, and sexuality may influence how readers read and understand texts, at different historical moments and places
Have achieved a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of how different types of literature (both fiction and non-fiction) can foster our ability to reflect upon our and others’ social experiences, often by addressing key moral and ethical concerns in society
Be able to demonstrate a systematic understanding of the relationship between printed literature and other cultural forms and media, especially in a context of media technologies and cultural globalization


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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