Beginners' and post-A level students will take the same core language module and all students will choose from a range of optional modules. You will develop your command of French to a high level and use it in increasingly sophisticated contexts. You will also study optional modules drawn from the areas of literature, culture and society, history, politics, visual culture and linguistics.
Final year modules reflect the research expertise of members of staff in the department, including in criminal law, ethics, logic, metaphysics, Buddhist philosophy and advanced topics in the philosophies of art, mind, science, and social philosophy.
Although French and Philosophy are taught separately you may choose a uniting theme for your final year dissertation.
You must pass year four which is weighted at two thirds of your final degree classification.
You'll take one or two modules from this group.
Dissertation in French Studies
This year-long module is based on guided independent study of a chosen topic in the field of French and Francophone Studies for which supervision can be offered by the Department. Topics typically relate to a module taken in the second year, or to a module to be taken in the final year, and it is expected that students have some familiarity with the chosen field.
Dissertation topics in past years have included:
- The feminist and humanist aspects of Christine de Pizan's work.
- How Albert Memmi's philosophy of colonised identity is prefigured in his literary work.
- The representation of women in three novels by Dany Laferrière.
- The representation of women in the films of Jean-Luc Godard.
- The definition of malaise in the context of contemporary socio-economic and political issues in France.
- Presidential Power in the Fifth Republic.
- The urban landscape in surrealism.
- Translating humour from English to French.
Teaching takes place in the form of regular individual meetings with the allocated supervisor, and group meetings with the module convenor, centred more generally on research and writing skills.
Semester 1 is devoted to research, reading and planning, leading to the submission of a dissertation abstract, chapter outline and preliminary bibliography, as well as the presentation of posters. In the second semester, students write up and complete the dissertation under the continued guidance of the supervisor.
Individual and Society
On this module we will look at the changing relationship between individuals and society in a French context. Key sociological concepts relating to the social construction of the individual are explored in order to analyse fiction and non-fiction texts that deal with work and social organisation in contemporary France.
The theoretical starting point of the module is Michel Foucault’s analysis of the emergence of ‘disciplinary’ societies.
Key fictional works include Laurent Cantet’s film L’emploi du temps and Thierry Beinstingel’s novel Retour aux mots sauvages.
Contemporary Representations of Travel
This module will study the different ways travel has been used and represented in contemporary French and Francophone texts, arts and films. From tourism to exploration, from exile to migration, from pilgrimage to business travel, we will question the tacit ideologies found in contemporary travel discourses. We will study more specifically how contemporary discourses of travel have been, or not, adapting themselves to a post-colonial awareness and how it has enabled travellers to represent travel differently. The importance of this field has been steadily growing in between disciplines that range from literary studies to ethnography. The module will use these cross-cultural influences to create an arena in which to develop connections between key disciplines and different forms of arts (literature, ethnography, films and photography).
Subtitling and Dubbing from French into English
This module focuses on the theory and practice of two modes of audio-visual translation: subtitling and dubbing.
The linguistic, technical, and cultural theoretical underpinnings of subtitling and dubbing from French into English will be examined in detail, and students will be able to put the theory into practice using professional dedicated software.
The Everyday in Contemporary Literature and Thought
This module looks at the various ways in which the novel has evolved and adapted to “the contemporary” by responding to the “everyday”. Giving an overview of the various approaches to the everyday in the contemporary novel from the 60s to the present, this module will explore how key authors negotiate, through their writing, the everyday’s indeterminacy and the unstable space it occupies between the social and the individual.
Communicating and Teaching Languages for Undergraduate Ambassadors
In this module students learn to devise and develop projects and teaching methods appropriate to engage the age and ability group they are working with. The module enables students to gain confidence in communicating their subject, develop strong organisational and interpersonal skills, and to understand how to address the needs of individuals.
Citizenship, Ethnicity and National Identity in Post-War France
You'll examine the range of social, political and philosophical questions raised by mass immigration to France in the post-war period. These questions will be tackled through historical analysis of patterns of migration and changing immigration policies, as well as through the study of relevant films, novels and theoretical texts which engage with questions of citizenship, identity and ethnicity.
People and Propaganda: Representing the French Revolution
This module is designed to introduce you to the study of various forms of artistic work in relation to the political and social background of the French Revolutionary decade (1789 - 1799). A variety of works will be studied (theatre, opera, song, iconography, painting) in order to consider the reflection of contemporary events, the notion of politically engaged arts, and questions of cultural administration (theatrical repertory, representation, censorship and privilege).
La République Gaullienne: 1958 to 1969
This module explores how the Fifth Republic came into being and examines the problems of bedding in a regime that revolutionised French political culture without jettisoning the key features of the 'modèle républicain'.
We follow a chronological narrative of French politics between 1958 and 1969, and will also examine themes such as the ‘écriture de la constitution’, the clash of political visions and bipolarisation and its tensions. We conclude with de Gaulle's apparent act of 'political suicide' in 1969.
Language Contact and French
This module looks at various issues relating to the field of language contact, including bilingualism, multilingualism and diglossia.
The module also explores the outcomes of such language contact:
- linguistic borrowing
- language maintenance
- language shift and language death
- the emergence of pidgins and creoles
- the development of language policy and planning
- the shaping of attitudes towards language
These topics will be explored by using examples from several different languages, and by looking at the French language in contact with other languages in France and further afield.
You'll take three modules from this group.
Dissertation in Philosophy
The aim of this module is to provide you with an opportunity to write an 8,000-word dissertation on a philosophical topic, the precise subject of which is by agreement with the supervisor. At the completion of the module, you will have had an opportunity to work independently, though with the advice of a supervisor.
This module will focus on a critical examination of core aspects of Buddhist thinking, with emphasis on some of its basic psychological, spiritual, and metaphysical conceptions.
These include, in particular: the origin and nature of suffering; the no-self thesis; enlightenment; consciousness; experiential knowing; and the doctrine of Emptiness (the lack of inherent nature in all things and impermanence).
Language, Metaphysics, and Metametaphysics
Typically, this module introduces you to some advanced topics in contemporary analytic metaphysics. The module focuses on important topics, which have received recent attention. The topics covered will include:
- metaphysical nihilism (why there is something rather than nothing, and the subtraction argument)
- causation (the counterfactual theory and other accounts)
- the metaphysics of grounding (and concerns with such a notion)
- the metaphysics of absolute and relational space and time, and vagueness and indeterminacy
The module presupposes a certain basic familiarity with general issues in metaphysics and the philosophy of language, but is designed to serve as an advanced introduction to new topics that is completely accessible to the uninitiated.
Philosophy of Criminal Law
There is perhaps no more vivid example of the exercise of state power over individuals than through the institution of criminal law. This power relationship raises a host of important philosophical questions, such as:
- Is there a general obligation to obey the law? If so, what is the basis for this obligation?
- What sorts of acts should be criminalised, and why?
- What does it mean for someone to be responsible for a crime, or for the state to hold someone responsible?
- Is criminal punishment justified? If so, why?
- What is the proper role for the presumption of innocence: Who must presume whom to be innocent of what?
- Is the state ever justified in imposing legal restrictions on offenders even after they have completed their punishment?
- How should the criminal law function in the international context?
We'll look at thinking from across history, from seminal figures such as Plato, Bentham, and Kant, to more contemporary philosophers such as Hart, Hampton, Duff, and others.
No experience of criminal law necessary. Ideal for both philosophers and practitioners.
This module is worth 20 credits.
Philosophy of Sex
- How many people have you had sex with?
- Is there a difference between sex work and working in a supermarket?
- What is love? Do we chose who we love?
- What is gender? What do we mean when we say 'trans women are women'?
These are some of the many philosophical questions which arise when you start thinking about sex and related topics.
During this module we will tackle the conceptual, moral, political, and metaphysical issues raised by sexual activity. Possible topics we'll look at include:
- the nature of sexual desire
- sexual consent
- sexual objectification
- sexual orientation
Together we'll look at the experiences and testimony of a variety of groups, including those considered sexual and gender minorities. Then we'll use philosophical tools to explore the issues that such testimony raises.
This module is worth 20 credits.
Philosophy of Recreation
We expect recompense when we work but appear to do recreational activities just for their own sake.
You'll use philosophical tools to examine the meaning and value of such recreational activities, exploring questions such as:
- Is recreational sex and drug consumption merely about pleasurable sensations?
- Why do we put such great effort into achieving seemingly arbitrary goals in sport?
- Does it make sense for fans to feel elated if they played no part in a team’s success?
- Is there something special about being in a zone of effortless attention whilst playing an instrument?
- Could risking death seeking sensations of the sublime by climbing a mountain be better than safely siting on your sofa watching trash tv?
This module will teach you how to communicate philosophy through a variety of different mediums, assessing them in each. We will look at how philosophy can be communicated through legal documentation, press releases, handouts, lesson plans, webpages, funding bids and posters (with optional presentations).
A number of the sessions will be delivered by professionals from outside the university, with support from the module convener. Seminars will be used to develop each of the items for assessment. You will be invited to draw upon your prior philosophical learning to generate your assessments, except in the case of handout where you will be set a specific philosophical task and asked to complete some (very basic) independent research.
Karl Marx's thoughts and words have had an enormous impact on history. Revolutions have been fought, economic policies pursued and artistic movements established by followers (and opponents) of Marxism.
Together we'll examine some of Mark's original writing and explore his thinking. Specific themes we'll cover include:
- the materialist conception of history
- the labour theory of value
By the end of the module you should have a good overview of Marx's attempt to synthesise German philosophy, French political theory, and British economics.
This module is worth 20 credits.
This module investigates different kinds of contemporary logic, as well as their uses in philosophy. We will investigate the syntax and semantics of various logics, including first order logic, modal logics, and three-valued logics, as well as ways to apply formal techniques from these logics to philosophical topics such as possibility and necessity, vagueness, and the Liar paradox.
We’ll cover ways to reason and construct proofs using the logics we study, and also ways to reason about them. We’ll look at proofs regarding the limits of formal logic, including proofs of soundness, completeness, and decidability.
Free Will and Action
This module involves the study of a set of related issues concerning the nature and explanation of action and the requirements for free action and free will. Questions to be discussed are likely to include all or most of the following:
- What would it take for an action to be free (or an exercise of ‘free will’) in a sense that would make it an action for which we are morally responsible?
- Is there is any way in which our actions could be free in the relevant sense, whether or not determinism is true?
- How do actions differ from bodily movements that are not actions?
- Actions are typically (perhaps always) done for reasons, but what exactly is the relation between the reasons and the actions?
- Do the reasons cause the corresponding actions - and if they do, can this be the same kind of causation as is involved in ordinary ‘mechanistic’ causal explanation?
- And what about the fact that at least some of our actions seem to have purely physical causes?
- If they do, doesn’t this make any ‘mental causes’ of those actions redundant?
- What is the connection between intentional or voluntary action and rational action?
- In particular, it seems that we sometimes intentionally and voluntarily do things that we ourselves regard as irrational - but how is such ‘weakness of will’ possible?
In this module we'll ask questions like:
- How should human beings interact with the non-human natural world?
- Is nature intrinsically valuable, or does it possess value only by being valuable to us?
As part of this we'll cover topics such as:
- the moral status of animals
- the ethics of zoos
- responsibility for climate change
- whether there is any connection between the twin oppressions of women and nature
- the environmental impact of having children
- the ethics of restoring nature after it has been damaged by human development
This module is worth 20 credits.
Taking Utilitarianism Seriously
This module is an extended discussion of utilitarian approaches to moral and political philosophy, including utilitarian accounts of:
- the nature of wellbeing
- reasons and rightness
- rights and justice
- individual decision-making
- praise and blame
Philosophy and Mortality
This module explores philosophical issues related to human mortality - illness, ageing, death and dying, and other dimensions of our embodied vulnerability. Typical topics might include:
- the phenomenology of chronic somatic illness
- psychiatry and mental health
- the oppression of ill persons
- the nature and practice of pathography (narrative accounts of the lived experience of illness)
- the social experiences of ill persons
- the moral and spiritual significance of illness and ageing
- the experience of dying
- empathy, grief, and mourning
- death and the meaning of life
- the significance of human mortality to wider philosophical issues and concerns
By the end of the module, you should be able to identify and articulate the ethical and existential significance of various experiences of human mortality; to employ a range of different methods and approaches to understanding those experiences; and to think sensitively and humanely about human experiences of ageing, illness, and dying.
Advanced Topics in Aesthetics
This module is a discussion of some philosophical problems pertaining to art. Topics could include definitions of art, the objectivity versus the subjectivity of aesthetic evaluations, emotional response to art, the ontological status of artworks, and Walton's theory of make-believe.
This module aims to promote a deeper understanding of philosophical issues pertaining to art. By the end of the module, you should be able to discuss and evaluate different views of the expressive power of art, to explain certain current views on the status of aesthetic evaluations, and to present the main contemporary viewpoints pertaining to the nature of artworks.
Subjectivism and Relativism in Ethics
One often hears the opinion that ethics is subjective. But what does this mean, exactly?
And one often hears the view that ethics is relative. But relative to what?
And what is ‘ethics’ anyway?
And if ethics is subjective, or relative, what does that mean for ethics as a discipline? Does it mean, for example, that our ethical pronouncements can never be incorrect, never be challenged, or never disagreed with?
This module addresses these and other questions about the foundations of ethics, and gives you the material to develop your own views of this peculiarly human phenomenon.
Knowledge, Ignorance and Democracy
Politics and truth have always had a complicated relationship. Lies, bullshit, spin, and propaganda are nothing new.
Polarization is on the rise in many democracies and political disagreements have spread to disputes about obvious matters of fact.
But have we really entered the era of 'post-truth' politics? Is debate now framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the facts?
In this module, we'll explore questions such as:
- Should the existence of widespread disagreement in politics make us less confident in our own views?
- Are voters morally or epistemically obligated to vote responsibly?
- Is it rational for citizens to base their political views on group identity rather than reasoned arguments?
- Should we have beliefs about complex policy questions about which we are not experts?
- Is democracy the best form of government for getting at the truth?
This module is worth 20 credits.
Philosophy of Education
Education plays a fundamental part in all our lives. It shapes who we are as individuals, our value systems, our political and religious outlooks. As a consequence it changes how society looks, how it operates, and what we think society ought to be like. Education then, is of the most profound importance.
As philosophers we are uniquely placed to think long and hard about education:
- what is its role?
- what should its role be?
- who gets to decide what is taught?
Rising to this challenge this module creates the space, and provides the tools, for you to do just this.
This module is worth 20 credits.