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The University of Southampton

ENGL2103 Sweatshops, Sex workers, and Asylum Seekers: World Literature and Visual Culture after Globalisation

Module Overview

What can the voices and narratives of sex workers and asylum seekers depicted in world literature and visual culture tell us about the conditions and pressures of life in the contemporary world? How might considerations of narrative technique, genre, and imagery help us to make sense of these stories? And in what ways might these narratives enable us to map the profoundly unequal circulation of money, information, and people in the contemporary world system? This module seeks to address these questions through readings of a range of iconic literary and cultural narratives that tell stories about the postcolonial world. You will expand and develop your conceptual knowledge and close reading skills through an engagement with some cutting-edge novels and films about the pressures of the modern world. In doing so, you will also consider the extent to which these narratives can help us to imagine meaningful alternatives to predominant ideas about global culture and free trade.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the key texts studied, including issues of language, form, and genre
  • the location of these texts within wider national and global contexts
  • an appreciation of the interactions between recent literary and cultural texts and ideas of globalisation
  • the contribution made by these texts to an understanding of migration and neoliberalism
  • key issues within the secondary criticism on this topic
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • read confidently and critically across a range of literary, theoretical and critical texts
  • reflect on the relationship between texts and contexts
  • trace the representation of globalisation in different places, contexts and cultural forms
  • evaluate different critical approaches to the subject
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • debate topical issues with rigour
  • Write with conviction and care.


The module begins with readings of key essays on world literature and globalisation and a screening of Stephanie Black's film Life and Debt. We then proceed to read a variety of novels, films, and related texts from the contemporary period, enabling you to examine the ways in which narratives of sweatshops, sex work, and asylum are rendered in a range of forms and genres. Topics of study will include: sex work and homeworking in recent South Asian fiction; asylum and sex work in postcolonial fiction and film; narratives of austerity in postcolonial film; oil extraction in recent West African fiction; and narratives of disaster capitalism in contemporary world literature. The precise syllabus will vary from year to year, but indicative texts include: Novels Monica Ali, Brick Lane Indra Sinha, Animal’s People Abdulrazak Gurnah, By the Sea Nuruddin Farah, Gifts Helon Habila, Oil on Water Films Stephanie Black (dir.), Life and Debt John Schlesinger (dir.), Midnight Cowboy Stephen Frears (dir.), Dirty Pretty Things Abderrahmane Sissako (dir.), Bamako

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

This module is taught via weekly one-hour lectures and seminars. This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.

Independent Study120
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Combined and Uneven Development Towards a New Theory of World-Literature. Deckard, Sharae; Lawrence, Nicholas; Lazarus, Neil; Macdonald, Graeme; Mukherjee, Upamanyu Pablo; Parry, Benita; Shapiro, Stephen. Liverpool University Press, 2011.

Globalization and Literature: A Reader. Ed. by Liam Connell and Nicky Marsh. Routledge, 2011



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2200 words) 60%
Essay  (2200 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3300 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3300 words) 100%

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

Costs of books for required reading on this module should not exceed 50 pounds.

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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