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The University of Southampton

ENGL2107 Decolonising Modernity

Module Overview

Literary history is often told in epochs. In particular, it can be useful to understand the world in relation to some or other idea of “modernity”: for example, English literary studies is often organised through conceptions of the early modern, the modern, and the post-modern. But many influential constructions of modernity assume and promote Eurocentric ideas of progress, development, and history. This module invites you to interrogate these ideas. The module begins with work that reveals the cultures of violence and inequity that are instituted by imperialist constructions of modernity and civilisation. You will then learn to work with debates that have been conducted through formulations of ‘postcolonial studies’, ‘subaltern studies’, ‘diaspora studies’, ‘world systems’, ‘history wars’, ‘world literature’ and ‘decolonisation’. Across the module, you will explore fictions of various genres from Africa, the Americas, Australia and other parts of the world, and you will consider the importance of literature to debates about race, law, identity, belonging, political and economic geography, and citizenship.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the significance of literary fiction to debates that bear upon constructions of ‘modernity’.
  • the history of ideas of ‘postcolonial’ and ‘world’ literature.
  • mid-20th century to current debates about the entailments of imperialism, colonialism, and decolonisation.
  • mid-20th century to current debates about race.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • research and understand literary scholarship that bears upon ideas of modernity, race, law, identity, belonging, political and economic geography, and citizenship.
  • debate the meaning of these terms.
  • write about the significance of literature in relation to current scholarly debates modernity, race, law, identity, belonging, political and economic geography, and citizenship.
  • reflect on your own position as a reader and scholar in relation to current affairs and public debate.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • debate big issues with conceptual rigour.
  • write with conviction and care.


The module begins with Franz Fanon’s work on states of violence. Across the semester, we will learn about authors who follow, adjust or break from his theses. The module will engage you with a range of novels, short stories and films, and will give you opportunities to work with narratives that are variously bleak and/or funny, realist and/or magical, tragic and/or romantic, historical and/or futuristic. All will trouble and complicate your sense of what modernity means. Indicative primary reading list: Frantz Fanon, 'Concerning Violence' (1960) Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) Maryse Condé, I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (1986) Rob Sitch, The Castle (1997 film) Kim Scott, That Deadman Dance (2010) Nam Lee, ‘The Boat’ from The Boat and other stories (2008) Ivan Vladislavić, A Portrait with Keys (2006) No Violet Bulawayo, We Need New Names (2014) Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon (2014) Please note that exact reading lists are likely to change from year to year.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods will include lectures, seminars, and workshops on research, using theory, working across disciplines, and writing process and practice. Learning methods will include debating, working in small groups, formulating questions as well as answers, writing in class as well as independently. 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.

Preparation for scheduled sessions100
Follow-up work50
Completion of assessment task100
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Pramod Nayar, Frantz Fanon (London: Routledge, 2013). 

Ben Etherington and Jared Zimbler (eds.) Cambridge Companion to World Literature (Cambridge: CUP, 2018).. 

Pheng Cheah, What is a World? (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015).. 

General/preparatory reading on the ideas and debates that inform this module.

General/preparatory reading on the ideas and debates that inform this module:.

Warwick Research Collective, Combined and Uneven Development (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015).. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3300 words) 50%
Timed Assignment  (3200 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4400 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

Typically, costs of books associated with essential reading for this module will not exceed £50.

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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