Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module THEO3781: Performative Theology

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO3781: Performative Theology

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • • Preliminary knowledge of Christian theology, and an informed interest in literature and the arts.


  • • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • • None


  • To understand the role of the arts (particularly the literary arts) in the development of theological ideas.
  • To develop close reading skills.
  • To understand the interaction between some areas of literary theory and Christian theology.


  • This module will examine the relationship between form and content in the creation of theological meaning, located specifically in Christian theology. It will refer to work across the arts, including visual arts, film and music, but will focus principally on literary forms. A close reading of texts including confession, first-person account, epistle, diary, journal, memoir, song, poem, and new media, will show that by subverting accepted theological forms, or by creating new forms out of circumstantial necessity or opportunity, theological meaning is not merely conveyed by the literary forms in which it is written, but is in part created by them.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Familiarity with a range of works in different forms will enable the reader both to expand their grasp of layers of meaning in theological texts, and to make a theological reading of texts not usually included in the theological canon.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to identify and discuss texts in terms of genre, voice, orality.
Key Skills:

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

    • Lectures will examine specific texts in relationship to their literary form, the exploration of key theological themes in interrelated art forms, and reading and interpretation methods.
    • Seminars will include student presentations, and will allow for a range of readings of any given text to be explored.
    • Essays (with an option of creative writing) will develop subject-specific knowledge and understanding.
    • Examinations will assess subject-specific knowledge and understanding, along with student skills in presentation of information in written form.

    Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

    Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
    Lectures 20 1 per week in the first two terms 1 hour 20
    Seminars 10 1 per fortnight 1 hour 10
    Preparation and Reading 170
    Total 200

    Summative Assessment

    Component: Essay or Creative Writing Component Weighting: 33%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    CHOICE OF: a) Seminar presentation, with submission of written draft, OR: b) creative writing with critical essay 10 minute presentation; 1000 words OR 400 words creative writing, plus 1100 words critical essay (1500 words in total) 100%
    Component: Examination Component Weighting: 67%
    Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
    Examination 2 hours 100%

    Formative Assessment:

    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