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Literature & Extinction - ENG00114H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Sarah Bezan
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

How do we make sense of the overwhelming scale of the sixth mass extinction? As you will learn in this module, storytelling presents us with ways to meaningfully engage with environments that are rapidly changing as a result of human-accelerated species losses. Through an exploration of contemporary representations of extinction - from literature and film to digital arts and natural history museum exhibits - we will examine the global and local scope of extinctions as well as their aesthetic, literary, natural historical, and socio-political contexts. In particular, our analysis of extinction fictions will illuminate the ways in which racial, colonial, and sexual/gendered violence has indelibly shaped the future of biological and cultural life on earth.

This analysis takes into consideration the repurposing of aesthetic traditions like the Romantic sublime along with genres including science fiction, the ecogothic, and zombie comics. Through in-class exercises and an ‘Extinction Show and Tell,’ you will be offered an opportunity to critically and/or creatively reflect on extinct species such as the Hawaiian ‘o’o bird, Tasmanian tiger (thylacine) and great auk, as well as endangered and extinct species native to the Yorkshire landscape.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aim of this module is to introduce you to primary texts dealing with representations of extinction and enable you to analyse them in relation to their aesthetic, literary, natural historical and socio-political contexts.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with literature, digital and other artefacts dealing with human and animal extinction.

  2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with the secondary literature, your own and others’ academic writing, and the theoretical tools and concepts presented in this module.

  3. Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields dealing with migration, extinction and genocide.

  4. Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
3000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

  • You will be given the opportunity to submit a 1000 word formative essay for the module, which can feed into the 3000 word summative essay submitted at the end of the module.

  • Your essay will be annotated and returned to you by your tutor within two weeks. Feedback on the essay will be uploaded to eVision.

  • Your summative essay is submitted via the VLE by 12noon on Monday of week 1 of the following term. Feedback on your summative essay will be uploaded to eVision to meet the University’s marking deadlines


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

Key texts studied on this module may include:

  • Larissa Lai, Salt Fish Girl (2002).
  • Donna Haraway, Excerpts from A Cyborg Manifesto (1985).
  • Julia Leigh, The Hunter (1999)
  • Maria Lux, Famous Monsters (2019) comic book
  • Jeremy Page, The Collector of Lost Things (2013)
  • Margaret Atwood, Life Before Man (1979)

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.