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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: English Studies

ENGL45630: Anti-Capitalist Poetics: Writing and Resisting the Modern World-System

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2021/22


  • Students must hold a good BA degree in English or a related subject to be eligible for entry onto the MA programmes in the Department of English Studies


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To explore anti-capitalist poetics across a range of modern and postcolonial fiction and non-fiction.
  • To investigate the intersection of anti-capitalism with postcolonialism, feminist struggle, and Utopian imaginaries.
  • To invite students to consider resistance and critique not only as political and sociological phenomena but also as issues of writing, form and representation.
  • To study the formal and generic features of dominant Western discourses (e.g., bourgeois political economy, and colonial and nationalist historiography) along with the formal strategies developed to challenge them.


  • Encompasses three broad areas: documentary and testimonial poetics, subaltern poetics, and speculative poetics.
  • Embraces a chronologically, geographically and generically broad range of writing from the nineteenth-century critique of political economy, through early twentieth-century Marxist modernisms, mid-twentieth-century industrial workers’ testimonies, South Asian subaltern historiography, ethnography and revolutionary memoir, to contemporary world-literature and science fiction.
  • Includes writers such as Karl Marx, the objectivist poets (Zukofsky, Oppen, Niedecker), Nanni Balestrini, Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, Roberto Bolaño, Nnedi Okorafor, Namwali Serpell, and Ursula K. Le Guin.
  • Combines close readings of specific literary and non-literary writing with attention to relevant historical and intellectual contexts.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will gain an in-depth understanding of the history and range of anti-capitalist writing, not least as it intersects with questions of postcolonialism, feminism and post-capitalist imaginaries.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate familiarity with key works of postcolonial and world literatures, as well as the historical and intellectual contexts in which they were produced.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • Advanced critical skills in the close reading and analysis of literary and historical texts;
  • An ability to offer advanced analysis of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature;
  • An ability to articulate and substantiate at a high level an imaginative response to literature;
  • An ability to demonstrate an advanced understanding of the cultural, intellectual, socio-political contexts of literature;
  • An ability to articulate an advanced knowledge and understanding of conceptual or theoretical literary material;
  • An advanced command of a broad range of vocabulary and critical literary terminology.
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • an advanced ability to analyse critically;
  • an advanced ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in structured and systematic ways;
  • an advanced ability to interpret complex information of diverse kinds through the distinctive skills derived from the subject;
  • expertise in conventions of scholarly presentation and bibliographical skills;
  • an independence of thought and judgement, and ability to assess acutely the critical ideas of others;
  • sophisticated skills in critical reasoning;
  • an advanced ability to handle information and argument critically;
  • a competence in information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access;
  • professional organisation and time-management skills.

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

  • Students are encouraged to develop advanced conceptual abilities and analytical skills as well as the ability to communicate an advanced knowledge and conceptual understanding within seminars; the capacity for advanced independent study is demonstrated through the completion of two assessed pieces of work.
  • 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 2hrs 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
Essay 1 3000 words 40%
Essay 2 3000 words 60%

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