Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)


Department: English Studies


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap 20


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce the study of a range of literatures written over a period of more than two hundred years in response to slavery and the black diaspora. This will involve examination of the historical and intellectual contexts of these cultural productions, literary traditions and critical readings as well as close textual analysis. Analytic, interpretive, critical and persuasive skills nurtured at undergraduate level will be further developed and self-directed research will be fostered.


  • This module will explore a selection of the various literatures in English written in response to slavery and the subsequent black diaspora. The texts will be examined, mainly prose but including some poetry, span over two hundred years, ranging from early slave narratives to contemporary fiction which addresses a past involving slavery. Particular emphasis will rest on literature emergent from North America but a significant proportion of Caribbean and British writing will also ne integral, in part as a refection of the transatlantic nature of the slave trade and the interactions ensuing from it. The work of black and white authors will be placed side by side to facilitate debate about representation and histories of oppression. Preoccupations with memory and themes of haunting, trauma and resistance are shared by many of the texts that will be under consideration. Reading lists will vary from year to year and accommodate some response to the developing interests of the group, but will normally include a selection from the works of such authors as Olaudah Equiano, Phillis Wheatley, Mary Prince, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Edgar Allen Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, Pauline E Hopkins, W E B DuBois, Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, Margaret Walker, Jean Rhys, Robert Hayden, Derek Walcott, Ishmael Reed, Octavia Butler, David Bradley, Toni Morrison, Sherley Anne Williams, Caryl Philips, Charles Johnson and Earl Lovelace. Contextual reading and relevant critical and theoretical frameworks will also be brought to bear, for example those frameworks proposed by Paul Gilroy, Hazel Carby and Henry Louis Gates.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will be able to articulate their in-depth knowledge of the literatures of slavery and diaspora and utilise various critical and analytical frameworks. They will be able to demonstrate
  • A sophisticated awareness of the forces and considerations shaping literary responses to racial slavery and its legacies
  • Insight into the negotiation of subjectivity and of ethnic, national, and gendered identity enacted in a wide range of texts
  • Understanding of complex debates about representation and histories of oppression
  • Appreciation of the development and influence of cultural and literary traditions
Subject-specific Skills:
Key Skills:

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

  • Through a variety of teaching activities and approaches, seminars will facilitate the development of communication and critical skills. Sessions will introduce broad topics and genres, contexts and frameworks to aid conceptual understanding and specific texts for analysis as well as encourage individual interpretation and enquiry. Formative written work and consultation with the module tutor will operate as learning tools, allowing the investigation and testing of ideas and readings. Two summative assignments will assess the competencies and outcomes outlined above and foster advanced independent study.
  • Typically, directed learning may include assigning student(s) an issue, theme or topic that can be independently or collectively explored within a framework and/or with additional materials provided by the tutor. This may function as preparatory work for presenting their ideas or findings (sometimes electronically) to their peers and tutor in the context of a seminar.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 fortnightly 2 hours 18
Independent student research supervised by the Module Convenor 10
Preparation and Reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
One summative essay 3,000 words 40%
One summative essay 3,000 words 60%

Formative Assessment:

One essay, 2000 words max.

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