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Unit information: Representations: (Re)-Making the World in 2020/21

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Unit name Representations: (Re)-Making the World
Unit code HUMS10011
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Forbes
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Humanities
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit aims to introduce students to a variety of theoretical perspectives on representation in the arts and humanities. The theoretical issues under consideration may include metaphor, allegory and figurative perspectives; 'objective' representation and questions of interpretation; realism and discourse; signification and absence; ideology; the creation of stereotypes; the creation of meaning; and the use of critical perspectives to name and/or re-make the world.

Normally, these issues will be considered within the unit under one thematic heading, which might vary from year-to-year, e.g. race, slavery, gender, the Islamic world, old age or childhood. The issues will usually be considered through 5 'case studies' of representation, which might include (as examples) a novel or memoir, a painting, a philosophical or theological essay, a film and a television programme.

In addition to the theoretical questions that are introduced, students will have an opportunity to consider practical questions arising from the unit, and particularly issues about representation within arts/culture in society and about the perspectives that are normally heard or which may go unrepresented in the academy. These perspectives will be considered in part through contributions to the teaching on the unit by external experts such as members of local community organisations and professionals from related disciplines, e.g. a novelist, a television producer, an activist or a lawyer specialising in issues related to culture.

The assessment for the unit will allow students to specialise in either the academic or practical questions raised, and will provide an opportunity to undertake group work.

The unit will, where relevant, include an introduction to relevant issues – such as managing difficult situations and health and safety – for those undertaking working in/with the community.

Intended Learning Outcomes

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

1. An understanding of theoretical issues underpinning how representation has been debated and articulated in different arts/humanities disciplines;

2. an awareness of how non-Western perspectives have challenged and re-framed questions about representation in arts/humanities disciplines in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries especially;

3. an ability to relate these theoretical groundings to practical questions about representation as they are debated and understood in non-academic settings and communities, and to questions about voices, communities or perspectives that may often go unheard in the academy;

4. the skills to apply what they are learning in the classroom to a range of settings, including in workplaces and through engagement with non-academic perspectives.

5. Students may also have acquired skills necessary for effective team working and for working collaboratively with external organisations and complex non-academic communities.

Teaching Information

The unit will normally be taught principally through one 1-hour seminar per week, as a whole group, plus one 2-hour workshop which may be taught in smaller groups. There will normally be contributions to teaching in the seminars from external participants, e.g. from representatives of local community organisations and professionals from related fields, alongside input from academic tutors. There will be an emphasis in the unit on potential for group work, including with external community partners.

Assessment Information

For this unit, students will complete one written assignment of 2,500 words (100% of the unit mark) or equivalent.

This assignment will be one of:

1. A creative response to the themes of the unit, which may be in the form of a piece of creative writing, photographs, a short film, a piece of music, jewellery or another form to be agreed by the unit tutor (equivalent to 1500 words), and which is accompanied by a reflective commentary of 1,000 words showing how the work responds to theoretical, practical and ethical questions prompted by the unit. This assignment will normally emphasise learning outcomes (3)-(4) and (5), but the student should also draw on knowledge and understanding acquired through tasks related to ILOs (1)-(2).

2. A group project, in which students will present a report engaging with the theoretical issues prompted by the unit and emphasising ILOs (1)-(2), but drawing also on knowledge and skills acquired through tasks in the unit designed to facilitate ILOs (3)-(4) and (5). This may be in the form of a report mapping issues of representation with a community organisation or similar. Each student will be required to hand in their preparatory notes for the report, which will form part of the assessment.

The assessments will be marked initially through peer assessment, designed to facilitate ILO (5) and to add to students’ evolving understanding of undergraduate marking criteria. The unit convenor will then moderate a selection of the assignments to ensure parity across the unit. A numerical mark will thus be provided for the assessment through peer feedback, but the unit will be assessed on a pass/fail basis. Satisfactory engagement with the peer assessment process will be a requirement for successful completion of the unit.

Reading and References

John Berger, Ways of Seeing (London: Penguin Classics, 2008)

Homi Bhaba, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 2004)

Stuart Hall, Cultural Studies 1983 (London and Durham: Duke University Press, 2016)

bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress (London: Routledge, 1994)

Bouaventura De Sousa Santos (ed.), Another Knowledge is Possible: Beyond Northern Epistemologies (London: Verso, 2007)