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

Sara Ahmed (2010). The Promise of Happiness. 

Angela McRobbie (2009). The Aftermath of Feminism. 

Jackie Kay (2010). Red Dust Road. 

Zygmunt Bauman (2000). Liquid Modernity. 

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

Ali Smith (2012). There But For The. 

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

Jhumpa Lahiri (2009). Unaccustomed Earth. 

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

Leila Aboulela (2005). Minaret. 

Andrea Levy (2004). Small Island. 

Sarah Waters (2010). The Little Stranger. 

Contemporary Women’s Writing. Journal

Margaret Atwood (2004). Oryx and Crake. 


Assessment Strategy

The two 3,000 word assessments will enable students to develop confidence in their ability to respond critically to new writing. The workload will be spread evenly across the module.


MethodPercentage contribution
Analytical essay 50%
Analytical essay 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework %

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Paperback copies of 8 novels

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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