College of Arts and Law optional modules

 Indicative module descriptions

African Studies: Advanced Perspectives on Africa

This module deals with cutting-edge debates of relevance to advanced students of Africa, irrespective of the regions of the continent or the disciplines that interest them most. Part reading group, part forum for students to present case studies that particularly interest them, the module is a lively setting drawing students and faculty together into discussion and criticism of current research on Africa. 

Assessment: One oral presentation, and two written assignments of 2,000 words each

African Studies: Media and Popular Culture in Africa

The module offers you the opportunity to engage with popular texts and performances in contemporary African genres. Special attention will be paid to emerging and locally-based genres such as neo-traditional oral poetry; improvised popular theatre; popular print culture; and television and video drama, all of which will be related to contemporary social and political developments in Africa. 

Assessment: One 4,000-word essay or a multimedia format project utilising audio/video recordings, where the text element may be reduced to 2,500 words.

African Studies: Modern Ghana

You will engage with some of the most important questions in the field of African Studies, and find out how these questions might be answered in relation to a specific country, Ghana.  You will establish a chronological framework through the sessions that deal with the reasons for and responses to colonisation, the changing nature of the colonial state, and the emergence and success of anti-colonial nationalist movements. However, whilst Independence in 1957 is often seen as a dramatic break in Ghana’s modern history, this module will also identify elements of continuity into the second half of the twentieth century.  Commercial agriculture, labour migration, urbanisation, increased demand for formal education, and changing marital and family relationships were seen as ‘problems’ by both colonial and post-colonial governments. 

Through a series of individual life histories, and a range of other primary sources, you will learn how ‘real’ men and women identified the economic and social opportunities that were open to them, and responded in ways that reflected their changing understandings of what it meant to lead a successful life.  ‘Modern Ghana’ is defined as the period since 1874, and this module will provide a firm basis for students seeking to undertake doctoral research on Ghana or one of its neighbouring / comparable countries.

Assessment: One 4,000-word essay

African Studies: Slavery and Freedom in Twentieth Century Africa

This module looks at the process of emancipation from slavery in twentieth century Africa. At the beginning of the twentieth century European powers legally abolished slavery in their African colonies. In spite of slavery's legal abolition, emancipation was a protracted process in African societies. Focusing on the experience and agency of slaves and slave descendants, this module looks at the social, economic, and legal frameworks of abolition; forced labour and its reform; labour migration and proletarianisation; the relationship between slave descent, ethnicity, and citizenship; and the gendered aspects of slavery (including concubinage and sexual slavery). 

Assessment: One 4,000-word essay

African Studies: Social Life of the Economy

This module is not available in 2018/19

This module asks fundamental questions about everyday economic life: how humans produce, exchange, distribute and consume resources. After questioning what the economy is in the first place, we explore topics such as money, commodities, gifts and labour, seeking to explain what these mean in different social settings. From this analytical base, we interrogate the on-the-ground effects of major global political-economic changes. 

Assessment: Two 2,500-word essays

Art History, Curating and Visual Studies: Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art

This module considers subjects such as: art and the nature of aesthetic experience; beauty, ugliness and the sublime; symbolism and allegory; the aesthetics of modernism. At its core is an introduction to the German aesthetic tradition, involving a close reading of foundational texts by Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel and their contemporaries in the early 19th century. It will also consider the work of subsequent authors, such as Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno and Mikhail Bakhtin, as well as recent and contemporary theorists and philosophers such as Paul Virilio, Jean-François Lyotard, Boris Groys, Niklas Luhmann, Brian Tschumi, Gilles Deleuze, Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray. Attention will be paid not only to the conceptual arguments put forward by the thinkers in question, but also to the ways in which their theoretical tenets have underpinned the interpretation and criticism of works of art, music and literature.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Art History, Curating and Visual Studies: Enterprising Culture

This module aims to develop your commercial awareness and provide a framework for undertaking enterprising activity in cultural organisations, which is ever more important in a time of funding pressure. The module takes the form of a series of lectures and seminars on how to create a plan for new revenue generating activity within a large organisation, or even a business startup. This will be supported by a series of guest speakers who currently engage in commercial activity in cultural organisations. You will work in groups to develop an idea based on a real-world challenge set by a cultural organisation, before pitching your idea in a Dragon’s Den for feedback and preparing a business plan.

Assessment: 4,000-word business plan

Classics and Ancient History: Aspects of Byzantine History

This module deals with different aspects of Byzantine history and culture. Topics vary from year to year.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Classics and Ancient History: Byzantine Archaeology and Material Culture

The module surveys the history of archaeological practice as it concerns the post-Roman East, and explores key aspects of the Late Roman and Transitional (‘Dark-Age’) archaeological record, different archaeological strategies, and how archaeological literature can be used to understand some of the major long-term changes that characterise the period AD 300-800. It focuses in particular on interpretative themes such as Christianisation, invasions, demographic changes, the transformation of urban culture, and changes in rural settlement, agriculture and artisanal production.

Assessment: Written assignment

Classics and Ancient History: Byzantine Art and Architecture

This module ensures a thorough grounding in the monuments of Byzantium, and an understanding of the methodological issues and problems confronting modern scholars. Lectures provide a chronological survey of the monuments from the foundation of Constantinople in 324 until the end of the Byzantine empire (1453).

Assessment: Written assignment

Classics and Ancient History: Empire and Identity

This module is in two parts, both linked by questions of how contact with the Roman empire changed peoples' perceptions of themselves and how this was represented in particular through their material culture. The first part considers the ‘Romanisation’ debate of the last hundred years, from the ‘top-down’ view of Haverfield and his successors, who brought to bear their own experiences of European colonialism and imperialism, through to more recent ‘bottom-up’ analyses employing post-colonial and related analyses, to the current position where the term can be seen as counter-productive. The second part looks at the construction of ‘barbarian’ identities in the later Roman period (mainly the 4th and 5th centuries). It considers the construction of ‘ethnicity’ in the 20th century, from Kossinna on, and its relationship to material culture (if there is any). The recent discussions of the construction of ‘identity’ rather than just ‘ethnicity’ are considered. Particular use is made of the rich textual and archaeological evidence for the (Visi-)Goths.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Classics and Ancient History: Herodotus and Ancient Worlds

This module explores the theory and practice of historiography in the ancient world, with particular emphasis on the role of Greek-speaking peoples and the cultures with which they came into contact. The module is centred on Herodotus' Histories, enabling you to develop strategies for reading and understanding the rhetorics of history, in conjunction with study of the cultural contexts which produce them. The module investigates the different ways in which texts produce, and are produced by, cultures, and the interfaces between civilisations that generate them. It investigates the connections between theories of history, reception and hermeneutics, and the development of cultural identity and historical consciousness.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Classics and Ancient History: The Economies of the Late Roman, Byzantine and Frankish East

This module introduces the economic history of the post-Roman East (4th-15th cc.). Lectures first review critically a range of approaches to pre-modern economies and explore their value for historical enquiries; then the study of parameters of long- and short-term change (environmental, demographic and technological); key trajectories (e.g., in land-use, artisanal production, trade, redistribution, and monetisation); evolving forms of land tenure and taxation; the state’s involvement in the economy; the roles of the Church and the law; and the impact of the Italian mercantile republics. In the seminar component you will have the opportunity to consider this predominantly empirical history in the light of the more theoretical approaches, and in the light of the burgeoning archaeology of the Eastern Mediterranean, confronting some of the problems of the relationship between theories, texts, and archaeology.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Cultural Heritage: Critical Approaches to Heritage

This module seeks to introduce the core values of heritage and looks at the evolving national and international charters and systems that underpin the delivery of heritage protection. It looks at heritage in all its forms: tangible and intangible, official and unofficial and critically examines how heritage works and happens. 

Assessment: 4,000-word assignment

Cultural Heritage: Heritage Conservation Management

Everyone responsible for a part of the heritage is working with a finite resource which must be managed appropriately to ensure its long term survival. Key concepts such as stewardship and sustainability are considered in this module. The premise that creative conservation can only be achieved through economic viability and accountability runs through the sessions. Core training is provided in conservation and planning legislation, visitor management, integrated management of historic properties, collections management and carrying capacity.

Assessment: 4,000-word assignment

Cultural Heritage: Issues in World Heritage Management

World Heritage is a fiercely contested area. The sheer diversity of site types, the cultural and political obstacles that are placed in the way of managers and the difficulties of reconciling local, national and international perspectives make these sites among the most challenging to work on. This module seeks to explore the common themes and issues that crop up in World Heritage management, and will use case studies and discussion groups to explore how these difficulties can be tackled. Among the more challenging areas to be tackled will be how intangible heritage can be managed and how to approach the issues of conserving natural heritage.

Assessment: 4,000-word assignment

History: Beyond the Book

‘History’, the National Council on Public History reminds us, ‘exists beyond the walls of the traditional classroom’. While the word ‘historian’ might for many conjure the image of a bearded professor at the front of a lecture theatre, historical knowledge is in reality produced and consumed in a variety of different settings. While public history remains firmly rooted within the assumptions of the historical discipline, the practice of public history demand forms of collaboration and interaction which are unfamiliar to many academics, and which raise questions about the role of the historian and of history in public life and the concept of shared historical authority. Why should ‘academic’ historians take ‘non-academic’ forms seriously and engage with different ways of talking about the past? 

This module allows you to reflect on the nature and practice of public history, and to consider how history is ‘used’ and ‘made’ beyond conventional academic settings. You will have an opportunity to consider the way in which historians inform public policy; history in the classroom; the politics of museums and archives; and community and popular histories as well as thinking about how history is depicted across different forms of media.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

History: Global Histories - Comparisons and Connections

This module offers an introductory survey of global history arranged in a chronological manner. It draws on chronological depth unique in the UK and considerable regional breadth in order to present you with a truly global perspective. Content will range from the decline and fall of ancient empires through the spread of new religions across the multiple shifting political formations in Afro-Eurasia, to early modern voyages of exploration and intellectual movements, and the age of revolutions which gave birth to nations in the midst of global political ruptures. The emphasis is on providing points of cross-cultural, cross-regional ‎comparison and to develop your awareness of key connections, such ‎as trade networks, cultural flows and exchanges, forms of migration, shifting political structures and ‎the emergence of modern states, nations and empires.

Seminar topics will typically include (subject to staff availability): Decline and Fall of Ancient Empires; Empire and its Holy Cities: Caliphate and the East; The Silk Routes; The Long Fourteenth Century: The Rise and Eclipse of a Pre-Western World System; Age of Exploration; India from Colony to Empire; Empire, Development and Decolonisation; Neoliberal Globalisation.

Assessment: Written assignment

History: Historical Methods

This module introduces you to major developments in historical approaches and to some of the major schools of, and recent directions in, historical research. We will focus on the application of ideas to historical practice then and now.

Assessment: Written assignment

History: Introduction to Early Modern History

In the first semester, this module offers a broad introduction to early modern history, and in particular to some of the main historical and historiographical debates which are key to understanding sixteenth- and seventeenth-century society, culture, politics and religion.  This will include important concepts surrounding religious and popular belief, the early-modern state, gender and sexuality, material culture, and the non-European world. As such, it will provide you with a broad knowledge base to draw upon as you begin thinking about the area of early modern history you would like to focus on for your dissertation.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

History: The Making of the World - Themes in Global History

This module is conceived around some of the major processes that shaped history and the key concepts that historians use to make sense of the past. Using case studies of considerable regional breadth and chronological depth, you will familiarise yourself with the building blocks of past and present societies. These key processes and themes include: the importance of the environment in human history; issues of space, geography and the formation of border regions; time and temporality; religion and notions of value; and historically and culturally diverse constructions of subjectivity and social order including gender, sexuality, class, race, and ethnicity. The module ends with an in-depth look at a key text bringing many of these themes together, Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land.

Seminar topics will typically include (subject to staff availability): Boundaries and Geographical Space in Global History; Environmental Humanities: Energy and Politics in the Age of the Anthropocene; Religion and the Market: Ideas of Value in the Pre-Modern World; Race, Ethnicity and Social Hierarchy; Gender and Sexuality in Global History; Material Cultures; Temporality, Empire and Globe.

Assessment: Written assignment

History: Writing Early Modern History - Sources and Approaches

This module introduces in more detail the hands-on study of early modern history by interrogating a range of important sources, from ecclesiastical documents and court records, state papers, printed books, diaries and letters to maps, music, visual and material culture and digital humanities.  These sessions will familiarise you with important practical and methodological issues, as well as giving a sense of how these kinds of material have been used by historians to enhance our understanding of the past.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Modern Languages: Reading Languages for Researchers

These modules allow you to learn graduate academic language skills in one year so that you will be able to read texts in French, German, Russian, Italian or Spanish. The aim is to ensure that you gain the ability to read academic texts representative of the research literature in your area of specialism, with the aid of a dictionary.

You will be taught by a mixture of tutor-led and workshop sessions, typically alternating between the two. Tutor-led sessions give instruction on the grammatical and lexical features of the language, based on a progressive reading of the prescribed material. In the workshop sessions, you will do exercises, including translation of texts into English, under the guidance of the tutor. 

Assessment: Two one-hour class tests, one at the end of each term

Modern Languages: Sexuality, Gender and Representation

This module focuses on issues of sexuality and gender representation in theoretical, visual, and literary texts, as well as case studies, drawn from a range of disciplines. It encourages students to reflect critically upon and interrogate received categories of sexuality and gender identity that are constructed, articulated, performed and represented in a variety of texts and socio-cultural contexts. Discussion also centres on representations and embodiments of sexuality and gender that seek specifically to dismantle or to disturb received categories. The module considers sexual and gendered identities as they intersect with other aspects of individual subjectivity, such as race, ethnicity. 

Assessment: 4,000 word essay

Modern Languages: Theories, Issues + Methodologies of Gender and Sexuality

The fields of Sexuality and Gender Studies are characterised by an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural focus. This module aims to introduce you  to a range of theoretical and methodological issues and debates that have characterised the development of sexuality and gender studies in the twentieth century. You engage with the study of sexuality and gender as both analytical categories and approaches within the social sciences. This module also introduces you to feminist theory, focusing on the ontological, epistemological and methodological issues that arise in feminist scholarship.

Assessment: 4,000 word essay

Music: Fieldwork Methods

This practice-led module will build the skills needed to conduct an independent ethnographic research project. Throughout the module you will become acquainted with the various methods available for fieldwork and learn to assess their strengths and weaknesses in relation to varying research contexts. Topics addressed may include: project design and planning, ethics, audio-visual documentation, interviewing, fieldnotes, transcription, and online/virtual ethnography. Instruction and assessment will be hands-on, applying theoretical readings to concrete materials and activities.

Assessment: 4,000-word research prospectus and a series of applied fieldwork assignments

Music: Introduction to Global Popular Musics

This module aims to familiarise you with a field of study that has been emerging from the intersection of ethnomusicology and popular music studies. Assigned readings, discussions, and assessments will seek to situate popular music in a global context while also attending to the ways that global processes impact local musical actors, scenes, and styles. Particular attention will be paid to ethnography and its application to the study of popular musics. Topics and cases to be explored include diasporic popular musics, musical migration, recording and production, global music industries, musical labour in the ‘creative industries’, local music scenes, urban contexts, and media theory. This module will also provide an orientation to relevant fields of study (including ethnomusicology and popular music studies) through an engagement with foundational disciplinary texts as well as current debates.

Assessment: Written assignment and in-class presentation

Philosophy: various

Modules available typically include:

  • Bioethics
  • Epistemology
  • Ethics and Global Ethics
  • God, Freedom and the Meaning of Life
  • Human Rights
  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of Cognitive Science
  • Philosophy of Health and Happiness
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Philosophy and Mental Health
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Topics in Global Justice

For more information, see our Philosophy postgraduate modules.

Theology and Religion: various

Modules available typically include:

  • Approaches to Studying Islam (modern)
  • Approaches to Studying Islam (traditional)
  • Auschwitz in History and Memory
  • Contemporary Issues in Sikhism
  • Feminism in the Muslim World
  • God in Christian Philosophy
  • Historical and Contemporary Debates on the Holocaust
  • Holocaust and Genocide: Comparative and Interdisciplinary Perspectives
  • Islam in Europe
  • Islamic Philosophy
  • Jewish Religious Responses to the Holocaust
  • Muslim Thinkers of the Western World
  • Political Islam
  • Religion in Contemporary Global Politics I and II
  • Religious Nationalism
  • Sikh Perspectives on Interreligious Relations
  • The Bible and Sacred Space
  • “Women” and Wellbeing: Soulful Dimensions

For more information, see our Theology and Religion postgraduate modules.

Please note that the optional module information listed here is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year and depending on your particular programme of study. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.