Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)

Module MELA46230: Science, Technology and the Remaking of 'Nature'

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures

MELA46230: Science, Technology and the Remaking of 'Nature'

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2018/19
Tied to R9T207


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to the key concepts and methodologies in the humanities’ critical engagement with science and technology; to use literature as a point of departure through which to engage with the emerging disciplines of Science and Technology Studies and Digital Studies;
  • To help students grasp the historical role that science and technology have played in transforming our understanding of aesthetic experience;
  • To familiarise students with key research skills for analysing literature through the tools of the scientific and digital humanities;
  • To train students to engage critically with science and technology, and with literature that engages with them.


  • Examining European literature through the theoretical discourses of the history and philosophy of science, plus digital- and science and technology studies, this module will analyse how literary works have engaged with technological invention and scientific discovery, taking inspiration from their promise while also criticising their amenability to ideological exploitation. We shall consider the threats posed by STEM obsession to the contemporary humanities, but also explore what the theories of natural and artificial (technological) selection can contribute to new forms of cultural therapy and the reinvention of cultural studies for a digital age of consilience. A combination of topics taken from across the globe and over the course of history will enable students to explore debates about the relationship between nature, culture and technology, from the early-modern growth of science, through the development of the medical and life sciences, the ‘modern’ and ‘extended’ syntheses of evolution, the ‘science wars’, technological transhumanism and beyond. We will consider the extent to which the modern humanities, for so long thought tied to the age of the book, have always been a form of digital, cultural studies, and whether cultural criticism can absorb the findings of science without irreparably losing its identity.
  • An indicative range of topics and periods for consideration will include scientific revolutions; the Enlightenment and colonial science; evolution and the rise of industrial capitalism; the porous borders between science, technology and fiction; the Anthropocene, citizen science and technological life.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module students should be able to demonstrate:
  • Critical understanding of themes in the scientific humanities (including History and Philosophy of Science, Science and Technology Studies and Digital Studies), and what they can offer students of literature;
  • Advanced knowledge of literary engagements with scientific and technological transformation across different cultures and historical periods.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of this module students should be able to demonstrate:
  • An advanced ability to engage critically with research methods and theories in the scientific and digital humanities, consisting in the ability to apply their insights as critical tools for literary engagement, while also recognising the limitations of these tools;
  • The ability to undertake interdisciplinary research, taking ideas from scientific and cultural studies and putting them into dialogue with one another.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module students should be able to demonstrate:
  • An advanced ability to engage critically with interdisciplinary cutting-edge research;
  • The ability to engage in reflective and self-directed learning;
  • The ability to plan work effectively, with appropriate time-management skills.
  • The capacity to express research findings in clear written form, according to appropriate stylistic conventions;
  • Advanced ability to critically assess, review, and revise one’s own work;
  • Advanced communication skills (expression, awareness and evaluation of own performance).

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

  • • The module will be taught by means of 9 sessions which will be a combination of lectures, seminars and students’ presentations. Students will be required to prepare for each seminar by set reading, and to play an active role in discussing issues that arise. Summative assessment will consist of a multimedia essay.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 2 hours 18
Tutorial 1 0.5 hours 0.5
Student preparation & reading time 281.5

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Students will be asked to submit a 1,000 word extract of an essay draft for discussion with an allocated supervisor. Written feedback will be offered on this draft, which will also serve as the basis of a 30-minute tutorial.

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