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Unit information: Institutions of Culture in 2015/16

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Unit name Institutions of Culture
Unit code MODLM0022
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Stephens
Open unit status Not open



MODLM0002 Cultural Encounters

School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

What is culture? This unit introduces students to the key ideas and institutions (national, socio-economic, political and commercial) that have shaped our understandings of the cultural ‘canon’, from the advent of ‘belles lettres’ and the emergence of literature as both a practice and a discipline to the contemporary commercial pressures of the film industry. The unit examines the institutional dynamics – and the conceptions which underlie them – that shape how culture is produced, received, and understood. Students will engage with major theorists of culture (such as Matthew Arnold, Karl Marx, and Michel Foucault), and gain awareness of how these theorists’ work emerged from, and engaged with, historical experiences and expressions of culture and cultural institutions. They will develop a historical knowledge and context of understanding with which to interrogate culture in their other, optional units. Through their discussions, students will be able to analyse the institutionalisation of culture and problematise how culture is defined, thus reflecting on the discipline of cultural studies. This will also prepare them for the TB2 unit 'Cultural Encounters', which will take these ideas in new directions by foregrounding the idea of instability and exchange within and between cultures.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will demonstrate:

a) a detailed understanding of the emergence of cultural models, through key ideas and institutions (national, socio-economic, political, commercial).

b) an ability to assess and challenge the theoretical frameworks applied to cultural criticism, and engage in debates about the nature of culture and literature.

c) an ability to respond to questions or problems by presenting their independent judgements in an appropriate style and at a high level of complexity.

d) an ability to apply this knowledge to the discussion of texts and case studies and build extended arguments and comparative analyses, in seminar discussions and their summative assessment, in both oral and written form.

Teaching Information

Seminar-style teaching. Students will be encouraged to debate ideas, and to give formal (assessed) presentations as part of the unit. This will allow students to develop their own analysis and receive feedback from staff and fellow students on their ideas.

Assessment Information

Summative assessment will be split between a student presentation (30%: learning outcomes a-d), and a 3,000 word essay (70%: learning outcomes a-d).

Reading and References

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement (1790)

Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (1869)

Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)

Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (1979)

Michel Foucault, Politics, Philosophy, Culture (1990)

Harold Bloom, The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (1994)