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Unit information: Hero or traitor? Outlaws in Literature in 2021/22

Unit name Hero or traitor? Outlaws in Literature
Unit code ENGLM0052
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Kate McClune
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit examines literary accounts of outlaws, rebels, terrorists and traitors from the thirteenth century to the present. The first half of the course concentrates upon the literary histories of well-known medieval figures that may include Robin Hood and William Wallace, and less prominent figures such as Fouke le Fitz Waryn and the rebellious subjects of shorter Arthurian romances. We then move on to comparative study of more recent depictions of outlaws in the works of Scott, Conrad, and Hamid. A wide range of contemporary non-fiction documents (legal, historical, newspapers) will be used to provide relevant contextual information. In addition to interrogating the notion of outlawry from its literary, legal and historical perspectives, we will use the literary texts to consider the complex distinction between outlaws, freedom fighters, and terrorists. The unit will investigate a range of topics, including the nature of rebellion, betrayal, righteous resistance, and localised warfare. Finally, we will consider the ways in which the reputations of outlaw figures are redeployed in later literary and cinematic depictions, such as ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’, ‘Braveheart’, and ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’. We will also consider the impact of gender and sexuality on the outlaw narrative in books including 'Outlawed' by Anna North.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to

1. demonstrate knowledge and analyse a diverse range of outlaw literature from a broad chronological period

2. apply a critical understanding of the political, historical, and cultural contexts that influence this body of literature

3. evaluate pertinent evidence to illustrate a cogent argument

4. demonstrate skills in textual analysis, argumentation, critical interpretation, presentation and academic writing appropriate to level H/6 using evidence from primary texts and secondary sources that may include but are not limited to medieval poems, films, modern interpretations.

5. engage in independent research

Teaching Information

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Information

  • 1 x 5000 word essay (100%) [ILOs 1-5]


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

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How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.