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World-Literary Energetics: Exertion, Extraction & Exhaustion - ENG00078H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Claire Westall
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21
    • See module specification for other years: 2022-23

Module summary

The module will bring to students some of the most recent critical debates about world literature and theorization of the world-literary system. It will bind together questions of physical exertion including sporting exertions, with concerns about resource extraction, thereby linking human and non-human forms of exhaustion.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2020-21

Module aims

  • To introduce students to thinking about the world-literary system, and specifically the intellectual and theoretical developments necessary to approach the systemic attributes of thinking in ‘worlded’ terms.
  • To help students consider different forms of human and non-human ‘energy’, and to consider their interactions
  • To enable students to approach resource-related fiction and writing and to use related critical debates to reconfigure or deepen their thinking about postcoloniality, globalisation and the capitalist world system
  • To move students further into debates about eco-criticism and resource imaginaries that will be familiar to them from contemporary political debates but may be new to them in literary-critical terms. And, in doing so, move beyond the ground laid by postcolonial eco-criticism in the 2000s
  • To encourage students to think across geographic boundaries and through relational inequalities, and to do so by concentrating on literary and other cultural depictions of resources.
  • To enable students to develop new ways of approaching comparative literary studies, and to get to grips with new developments in what might be called ‘Energy Humanities’

Module learning outcomes

Subject content

  • Knowledge of the recent World Literature debates as well as background and on-going critical and theoretical debates about energy, resources and the humanities
  • Conceptualisation of a world-literary system and what a systemic approach to literary studies might bring to debates about World Literature
  • Close examination of a range of novels, and other literary and cultural texts, that are bound to resource management (e.g. Food, Water, Oil/Petrol as well as labouring, sporting and suffering human bodies)
  • Familiarity with debates about literary and other cultural texts as ‘resources’ produced within specific energy regimes

Academic skills

  • Critical appreciation of a range of resource-related texts
  • Ability to contextualise such texts in advanced theoretical terms, specifically in relation to debates about World Literature
  • Development of advanced, analytical and research based writing skills

Other learning outcomes (if applicable)

  • Direct engagement with current political events and debates and a growing, nuanced and thoughtful bridging of the current political landscape and the field of literary studies

Module content

The module will use a wide range of primary texts, and these will include poems, prose fiction, graphic narratives, films and documentaries. Students would benefit from having existing knowledge of debates about imperial, postcolonial and/or world literature (including previous modules in these areas). However, keen new comers to these debates are also welcome. Humans are energetic creatures, increasingly bound to endangered and endangering forms of energy provision. For this module you’ll need to be energetic and recognize the literary-critical energetics coming at you.


Task Length % of module mark
3000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

  • You will be given the opportunity to hand in a 1000 word formative essay in the term in which the module is taught (usually in the week 7 seminar).  Material from this essay may be re-visited in your summative essay and it is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. This essay will be submitted in hard copy and your tutor will annotate it and return it two weeks later (usually in your week 9 seminar).  Summary feedback will be uploaded to your eVision account.
  • All students will have the opportunity to give an in-class individual presentation during a seminar in weeks 2-9.


Task Length % of module mark
3000 Word Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours  
  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Week 2 Cricket & Sugar

Michael Anthony, ‘Cricket in the Road’ (1973)

Raywat Deonandan, ‘King Rice’ (1999)

Elahi Baksh, ‘The Propagandist’, (2000)


Week 3 Bananas & Bio-political hazards

Miguel Angel Asturias, The Banana Trilogy (1950-60)

i.e. Viento fuerte (Strong Wind; 1950), El Papa Verde (The Green Pope; 1954), and Los ojos de los enterrados (The Eyes of the Interred; 1960)


Week 4 The Age of Coal

Emile Zola, Germinal (1885)


Week 5 Coal & Collapse

David Peace, GB84 (2004)

The Battle of Orgreave (dir Jeremy Deller 2001)


Week 6 Iron Men

Ted Hughes, The Iron Man (1968)

The Iron Giant (dir. Brad Bird 1999)

Iron Man (dir. John Favreau 2008)

Living is Winning (dir. Linda Burns 2008)


Week 7 Oil/Water

Helon Habila, Oil on Water (2011)

Steve Dunn & Sharon Wheeler, Oil & Water (2011)


Week 8 Cricket, Oil & ‘Terror’

Joseph O’Neil, Netherland (2008)

Out of the Ashes (dir Tim Albone 2011)

Timeri Murari, The Taliban Cricket Club (2013)


Week 9 Electricity & Epilepsy

Ray Robinson Electricity (2006)

Electricity (dir Bryn Higgins 2014)

The Selfish Giant (dir Clio Barnard 2013)

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.