Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)


Department: Philosophy


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2007/08 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to some significant contemporary theories that seek to explain gender.
  • To introduce topics, debates and concepts that are central to this recent field, through structured group discussion of influential journal articles, chapters and monographs.
  • To promote an advanced critical understanding of different theoretical constructions of gender.
  • To provide students with the knowledge and skills required to pursue self-directed research on a specific topic, under the direction of a member of staff.
  • To introduce students to debates at the cutting edge of philosophical research, where there is considerable scope for original contributions, with a view to encouraging PhD research in the field.


  • The first seminar will provide students with an overview of the theoretical landscape that propose understandings of gender. It will begin with a discussion of what is meant by the terms 'gender' and the historical background that led to its formalisation. Following this, topics, questions and debates that are central to the field will be outlined. The remaining seminars will address six topics that have been the focus of considerable recent attention:
  • cultural perspectives: the 'Anglo-American' perspective
  • cultural perspectives: the 'French' perspective
  • psychoanalytic theory
  • biological determinism and social determinism
  • post-structuralist feminist theory
  • queer theory and trans-theory
  • One-to-one supervisions will provide more focused teaching on one of these topics, which students will explore in depth through their formative and summative assignments.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will:
  • Acquire an appreciation of contrasting views regarding how research in theories of gender ought to be pursued.
  • Understand several broad issues that comprise a context for all recent research on the construction of gender.
  • Relate some of these issues to a more specific research question.
  • Acquire an advanced, in-depth knowledge of recent research in at least one of the areas listed in <12>.
  • Recognise both the importance of interdisciplinary philosophical research and some of the difficulties it involves.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • Identify key issues, questions and debates concerning recent theories of gender.
  • Identify and make use of relevant literature.
  • Critically review some of the recent theories proposed in <12> in a clear, structured fashion.
  • Identify a philosophical problem, formulate a philosophical position and employ advanced critical skills and conceptual knowledge to address the problem and defend the position.
  • Write an essay with an appropriately focused research question, a clear, knowledgeable discussion of the topic area, and a structured argument. Essays will display evidence of critical understanding and innovative philosophical thought.
Key Skills:
  • Students will be able to:
  • Identify and locate research materials.
  • Write in a clear, rigorous, argumentative style.
  • Manage their time effectively.
  • Pursue interdisciplinary research.
  • Use their own initiative to choose a research topic.
  • Exercise self-discipline, responsibility and autonomy in pursuing a research project.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Seminars provide structured group teaching, addressing issues that are central to recent interdisciplinary research in gender. Seminars also provide the opportunity for group discussion, allowing students to clarify points and refine their views, through interaction with the seminar leader and their peers. Through seminars, students will further develop their argumentative abilities and learn to put forward their views in a clear, structured manner.
  • One-to-one supervisions are tailored specifically to the research projects of individual students, providing a valuable opportunity for them to clarify and discuss ideas. One-to-one supervisions will also assist students in locating relevant library resources, formulating appropriate and concise essay topics, and working out argument structures. Supervision sessions are also used to offer critical feedback on draft summative essays, prior to submission.
  • Students are required to attend the weekly student-led Taught MA in Philosophy Work-in-Progress Seminar, where they will be encouraged to present their ideas to peers and seek feedback. They are also encouraged to attend relevant EIDOS (postgraduate philosophy society) talks and departmental Research Seminars.
  • Students will write a formative essay, which reviews a key text or philosophical position discussed in seminars, makes some of its presuppositions explicit and outlines at least one potential objection. Feedback on the formative assignment will assist students in preparing the summative assignment.
  • For the summative essay, students will be required to focus on a specific research question, demonstrate advanced knowledge of the relevant literature, develop a critical understanding of relevant ideas and arguments and put forward a philosophical position in the form of a clear, structured philosophical argument.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 7 Weekly 2 hours 14
One-to-one Supervisions 4 As required 1 hour 4
Preparation and Reading 282
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One essay of 2000 words.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University