Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module MELA45930: Critical Theory and Frameworks

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures

MELA45930: Critical Theory and Frameworks

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.
Tied to R9T207


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide students with an overview of crucial debates in cultural studies and critical theory.
  • To equip them with methodologies and critical tools for the study of literatures and cultures.
  • To familiarise them with key research skills for scholarly areas pertinent to the study of literatures and cultures.
  • To train students to engage critically with content and methodologies.


  • This module will familiarise students with various issues in critical theory and cultural studies by approaching a series of nodes of debate from a variety of different theoretical and disciplinary standpoints. Since individual staff and students specialise in a diverse range of literary traditions and historical periods, this module aims to introduce a broad range of theoretical and conceptual tools for their future engagements with literary and cultural texts. These tools will be derived from different fields, which may include Feminism, Psychoanalysis, Postcolonial Theory, Digital Humanities, Medieval Studies, Foucauldian discourse analysis, and Ecocriticsm. The nodes of debate may vary from year to year in response to staff availability and student interest, but they may include: "Power, Space and Time"; "Gender, Race and Sexuality"; "Psychoanalysis and Subjectivity"; "Archives and Research"; "Culture and Society"; "The Body"; "Crisis, Science, Environments"'. The debates and methods introduced will provide a basis from which to approach medieval and modern texts and their contexts.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module students should be able to demonstrate:
  • Critical understanding of different nodes of debates in critical theory and cultural studies.
  • Advanced understanding of a range of different concepts and methodologies.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of this module students should be able to demonstrate:
  • An advanced ability to engage critically with cultural texts, employing critical frameworks and perspectives learned on the module.
  • An advanced ability to engage critically with different forms of analysis informed by critical theory and cultural studies.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module students should be able to demonstrate:
  • An advanced ability to engage cultural analysis.
  • Developing independent research skills, using a wide range of subject-specific search tools and sources.
  • An advanced ability to synthesise complex material from a wide range of sources in order to produce effective written documents.
  • Competence in appropriate information technology skills.
  • Professional conduct through observation of professional and academic standards, including correct editorial referencing of sources.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • Organisational skills, including 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 11 two-hour seminars during the Michaelmas Term. Students will be required to prepare for each seminar by set reading and questions, and to play an active role in discussing issues that arise. Assessment will test students’ ability to engage with the debates and critical frameworks. The form of assessment is one research essay on one of the topics covered during the module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 11 Weekly 2 hours 20
Student Preparation and reading time 280

Summative Assessment

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

Formative Assessment:

Formative Assesment will take place throughout the course, and feedback will be provided on presentations and class discussion.

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