Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Introduction to Readings in Literary Tradition and Popular Culture

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Faculty of Arts

DESCRIPTION Students will select those parts of the study-unit which are more closely related to their own area of research.

In keeping with the unifying thread which has been outlined in the general description of the MA in "Literary Tradition and Popular Culture," this study-unit aims to question and rethink the distinction between canonical texts and popular ones from several theoretical prisms and perspectives. While bearing in mind the distinctive connotations that the terms “literary tradition” and “popular culture” each bring into play, the study-unit will also seek to explore the complex engagement of these two conceptual categories with one another and the spaces of theory and critique that they share.

The first part of the study-unit will be dedicated to the phenomenon of the Western literary canon. After tracing its origins and historical evolution, the ideological assumptions underlying the current debate over the evolving notions of canonicity and its relationship with world literature will be addressed. The second part of the study-unit will provide a survey and a critique of the various competing definitions of popular culture. It will then concentrate on the engagement with popular culture of a broad spectrum of such schools of thought as feminism, marxism, psychoanalysis, structuralism and poststructuralism.

While maintaining a solid grounding in the conventional methods of literary criticism and analysis, the study-unit will also draw on non-traditional approaches towards the afterlives of canonical literary works as they are recast, remediated, rewritten and reauthored from several angles of interpretation. By the end of the study-unit, students will be provided with a sound theoretical background which they can then apply in their readings of canonical literary texts as they cross multiple boundaries of time and space as well as the confines which presumably separate high culture and low culture.

Study-unit Aims:

- The primary aim is to provide a key introduction to the terrain which will be charted in the individual study-units by presenting a critical survey of competing definitions of canonicity and popular culture as well as a series of key concepts in literary theory and cultural theory;
- The study-unit aims to question and rethink the distinction between canonical texts and popular ones from several theoretical prisms and perspectives while keeping in mind the specific features and connotations of these two conceptual categories;
- The study-unit aims at tracing the trajectory of canonical texts as they cross the boundaries of time and space as well as the confines of genres and disciplines;
- The study-unit aims at generating discussion on the current debate on the role of the Humanities and on the evolving notions of literary studies, cultural theory, canonicity, and popular culture.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Critically appraise conflicting and competing methodological approaches and interpretative procedures;
- Draw on the key concepts and the terminology of literary theory, comparative literature and popular culture in their research;
- Apply clearly defined methodological approaches in their readings of literary and non-literary texts;
- Read texts as part of a complex web of intertextual literary and cultural relationships;
- Provide in writing and also in seminar discussion consistent, well-focused analyses of the texts which are being discussed.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Draw links between literary and non- literary texts from a wide range of disciplines and cultures;
- Draw on their improved expressive potential in their critical engagement with such fields as history, philosophy, translation and film studies;
- Discuss in a scholarly fashion in their written assignments and in seminar discussion their ideas on canon formation and its relationship with popular culture;
- Demonstrate critical skills in their readings of both literary and non-literary texts in more than one language and one tradition;
- Collegially interact in debate with other postgraduate students;
- Embark on their own explorations of the terrain charted in the programme with more confidence and scholarly rigour;
- The interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and transhistorical approach promoted by the programme will give students great flexibilty in a number of interrelated areas within the Humanities.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Text/s:

- Storey, John, Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction (Longman, 2009).
- Storey, John, Cultural Theory and Popular Cultural: A Reader (Longman, 2009).
- Easthope, Anthony and Gowan, Kate, A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader, (Open University Press, 2004).

Supplementary Readings:

- Strinati, Dominic, An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture (Routledge, 2004).
- Bloom, Harold, The Western Canon. The Books and Schools of the Ages (Warner Books, 1995).
- Papadima, Liviu (ed.), Damrosch, David (ed.), D'Haen Theo (ed.), The Canonical Debate Today. Crossing Disciplinary and Cultural Boundaries (Rodopi, 2011).
- Damrosch, David (ed.), Melas, Nathalie (ed.), Buthelezi Mbongiseni (ed.), The Princeton Sourcebook in Comparative Literature: From the European Enlightenment to the Global Present (Translation/Transnation) (Princeton, 2009).
- Kolbas, Dean, Critical Theory and the Literary Canon (Westview Press, 2001).

Note: A comprehensive study pack will be prepared for students at the start of the study-unit.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Seminar

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Long Essay SEM1 Yes 100%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.