The University of Southampton

ENGL2079 Contemporary Women’s Writing

Module Overview

How can we interpret and understand contemporary women’s writing in a period which has been characterised as post-feminist, post-colonial and post-modernist? In order to address this question we will focus on representations of gender identity as it intersects with sexuality, race and class and we will also consider the ways in which gender is inflected by space, place, ethnicity and religion. In other words, we will examine the ways in which gender, as one component of identity, is being transformed in the age of what Zygmunt Bauman has called ‘liquid modernity’. Are the rigid and oppressive categories of the past (in relation to gender, nation, class and sexuality) giving way to a more inclusive multi-cultural sensibility, or does contemporary women’s writing highlight new forms of difference and exclusion which are emerging in an age of global capitalism?

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• provide an introduction to 21st century women’s writing • enable you to engage with theoretical debates around gender and sexuality • enhance your understanding of cross-cultural engagements within contemporary women’s writing • develop your confidence in engaging with new writing

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the range and diversity of writing in this field
  • theoretical debates around post-feminism and queer theory
  • the complex interrelationships between gender and globalisation
  • the interplay between 21st century women’s writing and its intellectual, social and material contexts
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • think independently about literature
  • communicate effectively and have an understanding of the different demands of oral and written presentation of ideas
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • think and write independently and in response to the present moment, in ways which might be relevant for a career in journalism
  • think laterally about the connections between texts and their multiple contexts
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • develop and defend original arguments about contemporary texts
  • make effective connections between the contexts, concerns and critical reception of 21st century women’s writing
  • understand the intersections of gender, politics, race and religion


The module will introduce you to postfeminist, post-colonial and queer theory, and to thinkers such as Sara Ahmed and Angela McRobbie who are theorising gendered subjectivity in a global context. We will also explore the historical turn which has been a marked feature of twenty-first century women’s writing, and will ask why contemporary writers are so often compelled to revisit and rewrite the past. We will focus primarily on fiction (including short stories) and memoirs, and you will be encouraged to relate the texts on the course to your wider reading of contemporary women’s writing.

Special Features

In its engagement with the popular field of 21st century women’s writing, the module will offer a good preparation for students with an interest in publishing and journalism.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • 1 x lecture each week • 1 x seminar discussion each week • Guidance and feedback sessions on assignments • Essay consultations Learning activities include • Private study • Discussion with colleagues and tutor • Presentations • Accessing and evaluating appropriate online resources • Writing reviews • Essay writing

Independent Study260
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Sarah Waters (2010). The Little Stranger. 

J. Jack Halberstam (2005). Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. 

Jhumpa Lahiri (2009). Unaccustomed Earth. 

Jackie Kay (2010). Red Dust Road. 

Leila Aboulela (2005). Minaret. 

Sara Ahmed (2010). The Promise of Happiness. 

Angela McRobbie (2009). The Aftermath of Feminism. 

Contemporary Women’s Writing. Journal

Andrea Levy (2004). Small Island. 

Ali Smith (2012). There But For The. 

Zygmunt Bauman (2000). Liquid Modernity. 

Margaret Atwood (2004). Oryx and Crake. 

Anastasia Valassopoulos (2009). Contemporary Arab Women’s Writing. 

Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howie and Rebecca Munford (eds) (2006). Third Wave Feminism. 


Assessment Strategy

The first assessment, writing the book review, will help students to develop confidence in their ability to respond critically to new writing. The essays will offer space for more detailed engagement with the contexts and concerns of 21st century women’s writing.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 65%
Take-away exam 35%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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