Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module MELA42430: Representing Otherness

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures

MELA42430: Representing Otherness

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2019/20 Module Cap


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To complement and contextualise historically and culturally the theoretical paradigms developed in the other core module in the programme ('Thinking Otherness') by relating them to a series of topics focusing on alterity in particular places and periods.
  • To present an overview of the historical evolution of issues of otherness within Europe and in its relations with other cultures.
  • To explore the implications of these topics through selected case studies and representations of otherness through history and culture.
  • To provide a basis for more specialised exploration in the optional modules of the core concepts and issues on which the programme is based.


  • The module will focus on a series of key ‘moments’ in the history of Europe’s relationship to its various others. After an introductory session, the content will typically be divided into three sections, covering the following ways of considering the dynamics of otherness:
  • (a) Exploration/contact/discovery (various centrifugal movements towards the other), for example, the colonisation of the Americas and its consequences up to the present.
  • (b) The other within (e.g. as constructed by various totalitarian discourses), for example, attempts to demonise and eliminate particular ethnic or social groups.
  • (c) The ‘return’ of the other (the centripetal movement associated with the ‘assimilation’ of others), for example, issues arising from the acceleration of immigration into Europe in the late 20th century.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students will have developed:
  • a broad knowledge of a range of historical and cultural processes relating to identities and otherness with reference to Europe, Latin America and the Islamic world;
  • an understanding of historical and contemporary debates on these issues;
  • a knowledge of some of the ways in which the historical processes have been represented in historical discourses and creative media;
  • an ability to place in historical, cultural and geographical context the theories explored in core module 1 ('Thinking Otherness').
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students will be able to use their knowledge of the processes and examples studied in order to reflect critically upon:
  • changing historical discourses of identity and otherness;
  • ongoing debates concerning cultural difference, including in current affairs;
  • modes of representation of otherness in various media.
Key Skills:
  • Essay writing, theoretical reflection and discourse analysis.
  • Independent learning.
  • Techniques of information retrieval.
  • Presentation of written work to high editorial standards.
  • Time management.

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 5 seminars in the Michaelmas Term and 5 seminars in the Epiphany Term. Students will be required to prepare specific tasks and questions in advance of each seminar, and play an active role in discussing the issues that arise. Assessment will test students’ ability to understand and analyse critically the key areas of debate.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 10 fortnightly 2 hours 20
Preparation and Reading 280
Total 300

Summative Assessment

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

Formative Assessment:

Seminar presentation; feedback on a plan and sample piece of writing relating to the summative assignment.

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