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The University of Southampton

ENGL3089 Literatures of Islands and Oceans

Module Overview

We tend to assume our world is shaped by the geographies of continents and nation-states. This module allows us to grasp the significance of other spaces. Exploring how islands and oceans, ports and ships, deep water and coastal zones have been imagined, we will understand the ways in which long traditions of literatures written in English have been configured by offshore and liminal geographies. This focus will further enable us to understand the broad and intricate historical, political and cultural importance of islands and oceans.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • a long history (early 18th century to the present) of writing in English that has engaged with island and ocean geographies,
  • the relationship between colonial and postcolonial texts about islands and oceans,
  • the different mythical and contemporary resonances that island and ocean geographies have within different cultures at different times,
  • critical theory around island and oceans—particularly works that challenge national and continental based approaches to cultural production.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • write with sensitivity about cultural and social experiences which may be different to your own,
  • discuss complex issues in a clear and sophisticated way that is sensitive to the views of others,
  • bring together different genres of writing, and discuss them in depth,
  • work in a small group towards oral presentations,
  • deliver formal and informal oral presentations in a concise and clear manner.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • conduct independent research using tools and resources available via the library and the internet
  • present both written and oral arguments about literature that place it in a broad historical, cultural and theoretical context.
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • conduct comparisons of texts from different periods in history and produced from different geographical locations,
  • reflect upon the ways in which the representation of islands and oceans impacts the representation of gender, class, race and nation,
  • draw upon critical theory engaged with island and ocean geographies towards more general analysis of literature,
  • develop questions about literature that apprehend the importance of extra-continental sites of cultural production.


Through essays, short stories, novels, poetry and film, we will move across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans; around enclosed seas, to remote islands, along beaches and straits, into archipelagoes; and through imperial, colonial and postcolonial times and places. We will begin in the early 18th and end in the 21st century: but while following a chronology of texts, we will become attentive to varying temporalities, from the rhythm of life aboard ship to the non-epochal time of coral formation and the deep ocean. We will work to understand the many ways in which both material and abstracted islands and oceans have been central to discourses of race, modernity, labour and liberty; and to ideas of the human and non-human. Across the module, we will work with the concepts shaping literary, cultural and interdisciplinary maritime studies, such as ‘the anthropocene’, ‘the archipelagic’, ‘eco-criticism’, ‘heterotopia’, ‘islandology’, ‘the sublime’, ‘tidalectics’, and ‘wake work’.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • lectures • teacher and student-led seminar discussions • workshops on theory, research and writing Learning activities include • participating in and leading small and all-group discussions • in class research and writing exercises • independent research and writing 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.

Completion of assessment task40
Wider reading or practice8
Preparation for scheduled sessions58
Follow-up work8
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Primary readings. Primary readings for this module will include essays, prose fiction (novels and short stories), poetry and film. From year to year, this may include works by Daniel Defoe, Olaudah Equiano, Jonathan Swift, Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad, W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, W. S. Graham, Rachel Carson, Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Amitav Ghosh, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Romesh Gunesekera, Tim Winton, Jane Campion and/or Isaac Julien. Southampton is the UK’s leading university in the field of maritime studies. It is particularly wealthy in resources in this area across disciplines, including Humanities. The library’s collections are continually updated to expand and support maritime-related study.



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Essay  (2000 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (2 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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