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SEL3432 : Unbinding Utopia, 1750 - 1832 (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Mr Jonathan Quayle
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


‘Unbinding Utopia, 1750-1832’ traces the development of utopian ideas from the middle of the eighteenth century into the Romantic period. In the eighteenth century, the genre of utopian literature expanded dramatically. Writers, poets, political philosophers, and even revolutionaries took up the concept, exploring its value to society and confronting its limitations. With Europe shaken to its core by the French Revolution of 1789, there were some who believed that utopia might actually be within the grasp of humanity, while others recognised the potential dark side of an idealism that reached for perfection.

Engaging with a range of different kinds of texts, including early novelistic forms, political prose, philosophy, and poetry, we will explore questions around the nature of utopia as it is conceived by the authors. What is utopianism? How and to what ends is utopia depicted in this period? What is the difference between a literary utopia and a utopian text? And how does the writer’s use of literary form relate to the expression of their utopian ideas?

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will begin by developing a theoretical foundation, focussing on the twentieth-century philosophy of Ernst Bloch, which will equip students to engage with utopian texts of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by making connections with theories of utopia.

In weekly discussion and as part of the mid-module assessment, students will be invited to engage with the concept of utopia from a theoretical standpoint, with opportunities to think about the bearing that utopian theory might have on contemporary issues.

In addition to the work of Ernst Bloch (The Spirit of Utopia (1918), The Principle of Hope (1959), The Utopian Function of Art and Literature: Selected Essays (1987)), primary texts may include Samuel Johnson’s The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia (1759), Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall (1762), Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s The Hill of Science. A Vision (1773), William Godwin’s Political Justice (1793), Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Sonnet on Pantisocracy’ (1794), Robert Owen’s A New View of Society (1813), and Percy Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound (1820).

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion140:0040:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading1117:00117:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching21:303:0090-minute conference-style seminars during which students will present and engage in Q&A.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching11:001:00Tutorial in preparation for final assessment.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching92:0018:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops11:001:00Mid-module assessment guidance and presentation skills workshop
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity91:009:00Students will be required to meet nine times in study groups for one hour.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Weekly lectures will introduce students to the primary materials, key critical issues and relevant theories and methods.

In weekly two-hour seminars, students will develop their understanding of the primary texts and key concepts through collaborative critical analysis, discussion, and debate. Study groups, based around work set by the module convener, will help students to prepare for the seminars.

Students are required to attend a small group tutorial in the final weeks of the module to discuss their ideas and receive feedback on their essay plan and approach before preparing for the final assessment.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Examination2M1510-minute presentation and Q&A (including asking questions after other student presentations)
Essay2A85Students write an essay of 3500 words.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Students will be assessed by a mid-module assessment (individual presentation) and a final assessment (essay). In the mid-module presentation, students will demonstrate their understanding of the concept of utopia from a theoretical standpoint, responding to concepts and/or extracts from the work of Ernst Bloch. The final assessment will be a 3,500-word essay, in which students will demonstrate detailed knowledge of the work of two authors studied on the module and key critical issues.

Reading Lists