Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Literatures of Surveillance
Academic Year
Semester 1
Reading List

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment single-point assessment  Write an essay of 4,000 words in response to ONE question chosen from a list of circa 8 questions. Your essay should include substantial discussion of at least TWO texts studied on the module, selected from the Module Booklet. (Where appropriate, in the case of excerpted sections of longer texts in the Module Booklet, you are invited to extend discussion to the full text.) OR Write a creative response plus critical commentary (3000 words of fiction and a 1,000-word critical commentary, or 90-120 lines of poetry and a 1,000-word critical commentary, in response to a supplied prompt) Both parts of the portfolio will be submitted together.  100%
Supplementary Assessment resit assessment  resubmit failed or missing elements: Either 1 x 4000 word essay or 1 x 3000 word creative piece (or pro rata for poetry) plus a 1000 word commentary  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate a thorough knowledge of a range of literatures, including novels, graphic novels, films and video games, that explore issues of totalitarianism and surveillance.

2. Engage with theoretical and critical debates on different modalities of surveillance.

3. Produce critical work that engages in close textual analysis and employs relevant critical and theoretical approaches.

4. Understand the ways in which cultural, philosophical and historical contexts are relevant to the interpretation of the literatures studied on this module.

5. Demonstrate enhanced skills of independent thought and research, and of working as part of a group.

6. Respond, under examination conditions and in a nuanced fashion, to questions that require analytical unpacking.

7. Demonstrate knowledge of the approaches and elements involved in fiction and poetry.

8. Employ these elements in the planning and writing of fiction and poetry.

9. Identify and correct common writing faults.

10. Communicate knowledge and understanding of the elements of a critical commentary, including bibliography.

Brief description

This module explores the representation of surveillance politics and practice in a wide range of dystopian, speculative and realist literature, as well as graphic novels, film and documentary. Since ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s dramatic revelations in June 2013, most of us are aware that we have become increasingly transparent to the state, corporations and each other, our personal interactions, sexual orientations, political opinions and physical and mental health watched over by algorithms. How have different imaginative media attempted to process the private and national impacts of mass inspection? What are surveillance’s tropes? How does gender affect our experience of being watched? In what ways do art, literature, film and video games seek to build resilience to, or resist, surveillant paradigms? Bringing literary and cultural analysis together with recent developments in surveillance studies, this module explores the ways in which cultural practice engages with one of the defining issues of our age.


This module delivers skills that are specific to the study of English literature alongside transferable skills pertinent to students’ broader academic and professional development.


Session 1: Welcome to the Panopticon – Discipline
Jeremy Bentham, The Panopticon Writings (2011) (extracts)

Session 2: Listening stations
George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) (novel)

Session 3: Gendered surveillance 1
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) (novel)

Session 4: Gendered surveillance 2
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) (novel)

Session 5: Under the eye of the police
Philip K. Dick, “Minority Report” (1956) (short story)

Session 6: Synopticon and self-surveillance
Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly (1977) (novel)

Session 7: Resistance
Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police (1994) (novel)

Session 8: Revelations
Selected Poetry

Session 9: Seeing and unseeing
China Miéville, The City and The City (2009) (novel)

Session 10: Sharing is caring – social media
Dave Eggers, The Circle (2013) (extracts from novel)

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written communication in assessed work, oral communication in seminars.
Improving own Learning and Performance Improving writing in response to essay feedback, and improving reading and research skills.
Information Technology Undertaking research for portfolios and background reading for seminar topics.
Personal Development and Career planning Through critical self-reflection; transferrable communication and research skills.
Problem solving Addressing the technical challenges of writing about the themes and theory of surveillance in literature.
Research skills Undertaking research for essays, and background reading for seminars.
Subject Specific Skills Ability to compare and contrast texts; ability to discuss surveillance theory; ability to conduct literary analysis.
Team work Participation and collaboration in workshops and seminars.


This module is at CQFW Level 6