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Exploring Citizenship & Social Justice through Literature - EDU00089M

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  • Department: Education
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Amanda Naylor
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

The students we imagine might be particularly drawn to this module are those on social justice related masters programmes who have a particular interest in engaging with issues related to citizenship and social justice through the medium of literature. These students may well have previous educational experience in the humanities in general and of the study of literature in particular. Students who have studied literature at school or at undergraduate level will already be familiar with some of the core issues explored in these masters programmes, whether they be questions of class and educational opportunity (the plays of Willy Russell and Kwame Kwei-Armah, for example) or economic migration (the novels of Amy Tan or John Steinbeck, for example), race or gender politics (the poetry of Maya Angelou or Carol Ann Duffy, for example). Such students may well feel attracted to a module which not only offers them a sense of continuity with their previous studies but also enables them to explore issues of social justice and citizenship through a medium with which they are already familiar and which has the potential to engage them, not only intellectually, but emotionally and imaginatively as well.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2021-22

Module aims

Students will be encouraged to apply the tools and theoretical approaches associated with literary analysis where appropriate; but the overriding aim of the module is to help them appreciate how ‘overarching conceptions to do with social justice in education’ – to cite just one quotation from the Masters in Social Justice and Education programme specification – are explored in literature. To take one possible text as an example: an exploration of the failure of the boys in William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies to establish a democratic system of government, might provide the starting point for an interrogation of Jürgen Habermas’ commitment to ‘the potential equality, autonomy and rationality of individuals’.

Module learning outcomes

Subject content

Students will be able to:

  • Reflect in a critically informed manner on the ways in which core issues related to citizenship and social justice are explored through literature

  • Make clear and productive connections between literature and core theoretical writings about citizenship and social justice

  • Enhance their appreciation of the rich global heritage of writing about citizenship and social justice

  • Develop and articulate their own informed theoretical position regarding issues of citizenship and social justice

Academic and graduate skills

Students will develop their ability to:

  • Engage critically with literary texts in the context of core writings on citizenship and social justice

  • Identify, analyse, create and communicate arguments in written and oral form

  • Engage in a range of imaginative and creative approaches to literary texts

  • Participate as democratic members of a learning community

Module content

Two key questions arise: Whose voice is represented here? and Whose voice has been left
out? (In terms of social justice related masters programmes, this is itself, of course, a major
issue which needs to be explored throughout the module – see also Session 1 below). Bearing
that in mind, what follows is a very tentative attempt to suggest a possible textual selection
for the module. We have tried to include a range of voices and to provide equal representation
to prose, poetry and drama:

Indicative/provisional module outline – session by session:

Whose voice?
1. Core issues in literature, citizenship and social justice and the poetry of Luis J
2. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies

Political commitment in literature for young readers
3. Politically committed picturebooks. Corpus of texts given in class.
4. Queering the school story. Murder Most Unladylike, Robin Stevens.
5. The rise of radical Young Adult literature. The Hate You Give, Angie Thomas

Social justice through literature for adult readers
6. Staging Shakespeare with Downs Syndrome actors and issues of self-advocacy.
Growing Up Downs, William Jessop (documentary film linked to on VLE, focused
on a production of Hamlet, William Shakespeare).
7. Tackling issue of consent and sexual violence through twenty-first century, vampire
Romeo and Juliet novels. Choice of Let the Right One In, John Ajvide Lindqvist OR
Juliet Immortal, Stacey Jay OR Shakespeare Undead, Lori Handeland.
8. Politically committed autobiography. Choice of Without You There is No Us, Suki
Kim OR Aquariums of Pyongyang, Kang Chol-Hwan OR The Girl with Seven
Names, Hyonseo Lee.

Where we stand
9. We will be telling our own stories and thinking about where we stand in relation to
the texts that we have read and to core writings about citizenship and social justice.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information



 3,500 word critical essay which explores core issues related to citizenship and social justice within the context of a literary text (novel, play, collection of poems or short stories)


A 750 word piece of creative writing which explores a particular issue related to citizenship and social justice. This should be accompanied by a 2,750 word reflective piece which analyses the creative response and links it specifically to core writings about citizenship and social justice.


Students will be invited to one to one meetings with a module tutor to discuss plans and progress towards completing their summative assignment.

Reassessment will be by component, in line with Departmental policy.



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback in a range of ways throughout this module. This will include oral feedback in class, responses to posts on the VLE discussion board and written comments on work. You will have the chance to obtain feedback on your writing during the module, and you will have a short one-to-one meeting with a module tutor to discuss assessments.

You will be provided physical written feedback on assignment report sheets as well as them being readily available on the VLE. The feedback is returned to students in line with university policy. Please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information

Indicative reading

The aim here is to show that there is no shortage of academic writing about literature, citizenship and social justice – this is just a selection.

Bishop, Rudine Sims. "Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors." Perspectives 6.3 (1990): ix-xi.  

Brook, T. (2007) Civic myths : a law-and-literature approach to citizenship. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Davies, I., L.-C. Ho, D. Kiwan, C. L.Peck, A. Peterson, E. Sant, Y. Waghid (eds) (2018) The Palgrave Handbook of Global Citizenship and Education. London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hepburn, A. (2016) Around 1945 : literature, citizenship, rights. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Kahn, C., Nathans, H. S., Godfrey, M. (2011) Shakespearean educations: power, citizenship, and performance. Newark: University of Delaware Press.

Neelands, J. & O’Connor, P. J. (2010) Creating democratic citizenship through drama education: the writings of Jonothan Neelands. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books.

Nel, Philip. Was the Cat in the Hat Black? : The Hidden Racism of Children's Literature, and the Need for Diverse Books. Oxford UP : New York, NY, 2017.

Rosen, D. (2013) The watchman in pieces : surveillance, literature, and liberal personhood. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Wiles, D. (2014) Theatre and Citizenship: The History of a Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Zumbrunnen, J. (2012) Arisophanic comedy and the challenge of democratic citizenship. Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.