The World in Question: The Social, Cultural, Political & Environmental Legacies of the Enlightenment

The details
Interdisciplinary Studies Centre (ISC)
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 02 July 2021
18 May 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

CS201 provides an interdisciplinary examination of historical and contemporary issues arising from the Enlightenment and the consolidation of capitalism and industrialism since the C19th. It explores social, political and existential issues that took new forms in the 20th and 21st centuries. The module covers three broad themes: Empire, The Self, and Nature. We start by examining Empire and look at both the connections between Enlightenment thought and European expansion, colonialism and cultural domination and their legacies. In Part 2, The Self, we then move on to look at how new conceptions of the self have been shaped by broad social, cultural and economic processes. Finally, in Part 3, we look at the ecological legacies of the Enlightenment capitalism and industrialism and consider ways we can address the climate and ecological crisis.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

To introduce students to the social, cultural and environmental legacies of the Enlightenment.

To foster understanding about the continuities and discontinuities between historical and contemporary processes.

To provide students with varied insights into the politics of empire, changing conceptions of the self, and both the ecological impacts of industrialism and capitalism, and the benefits of re-orientating our relations with nature.

To encourage students to engage in interdisciplinary thinking and approaches from different academic fields.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module the student should have:

A broad understanding of the social, cultural and environmental legacies of the Enlightenment, industrialism and capitalism.

The capacity to summarise and critically engage with set texts.

The ability to discuss and debate the module topics.

The ability for reasoned argumentation applied to oral and text-based presentations.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

Weekly lecture, plus a weekly seminar that will include staff presentations and student discussion. Dr Hindley will give about half of the lectures and these will be complemented by guest lectures by academics from Art History, ISC, LiFTs, Philosophy, and Psychoanalytic and Psychosocial Studies. All teaching events will be accessible to students on and off campus either face-to-face or remotely through online teaching. Weeks 8 and 21 are Reading Weeks.


  • Gallagher, Amanda Hall; Pecot-Hebert, Lisa. (2007) '“You Need a Makeover!”: The Social Construction of Female Body Image in “A Makeover Story”, W “hat Not to Wear”, and “Extreme Makeover”', in Popular Communication. vol. 5 (1) , pp.57-79
  • Freud, Sigmund; Strachey, James; Gay, Peter. (c1989) Five lectures on psycho-analysis, New York: W.W. Norton. vol. The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud
  • BBC Radio 4 - The Infinite Monkey Cage, Clever Creatures, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0008nyc
  • Ngugi wa Thiong'o. (Mar 1, 1985) 'The Language of African Literature', in New Left Review., pp.24-47
  • Escobar, Arturo. (1999-02) 'After Nature: Steps to an Antiessentialist Political Ecology', in Current Anthropology. vol. 40 (1) , pp.1-30
  • Philosophy 247 Should we pay reparations for wrongs committed in the past?, https://philosophy247.org/podcasts/reparations/
  • The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/
  • Philosophy 247 How neo-liberalism has twisted liberalism, https://philosophy247.org/podcasts/neo/
  • Gigoux, Carlos and Samson, Colin. (2017) 'Colonization', in Indigenous peoples and colonialism: global perspectives, Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • S3, Episode 1: The Precrime Unit (Jan. 31st, 2019) – Hi-Phi Nation, https://hiphination.org/season-3-episodes/s3-episode-1-the-precrime-unit/
  • Heron, Taitu. (2008) 'Globalization, Neoliberalism and the Exercise of Human Agency', in International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society: Springer. vol. 20 (20) , pp.85-101
  • Moore, Jason. (2015) 'Anthropocene or Capitolocene?: On the Nature and Origins of Our Ecological Crisis', in Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital, New York: Verso., pp.169-192
  • Negrin, Llewellyn. (2002-12) 'Cosmetic Surgery and the Eclipse of Identity', in Body & Society. vol. 8 (4) , pp.21-42
  • Pitts-Taylor, Victoria. (c2007) 'Miss World / Ms.Ugly : Feminist Debates', in Surgery junkies: wellness and pathology in cosmetic culture, New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press., pp.73-99
  • Denney, Reuel. (2001) From Morality to Morale, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press., pp.37-65
  • James Balog: Time-lapse proof of extreme ice loss | TED Talk, https://www.ted.com/talks/james_balog_time_lapse_proof_of_extreme_ice_loss?language=en
  • Foucault, Michel; Burchell, Graham; Gordon, Colin; Miller, Peter. (1991) "Governmentality" in The Foucault effect: studies in governmentality : with two lectures by, and an interview with, Michel Foucault, pp.87-104, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Conrad, Joseph; Knowles, Owen; Hampson, Robert. (2007) Heart of Darkness, London: Penguin Books. vol. Penguin classics
  • Gordon, Peter E. (2017-05) 'The Authoritarian Personality Revisited: Reading Adorno in the Age of Trump', in boundary 2. vol. 44 (2) , pp.31-56
  • J. Johnston, K. Cairns & S. Baumann. (2017) '"Branding your Unique Identity" In Introducing Sociology Using the Stuff of Everyday Life, 275-302', in Introducing sociology, using the stuff of everyday life, New York, NY: Routledge., pp.275-302
  • Gough, Ian. (2017) 'Post-Growth, Redistribution and Well-being', in Heat, greed and human need: climate change, capitalism and sustainable wellbeing, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.
  • Armstrong, Susan J.; Botzler, Richard George. (2008) De Grazia "Chapter 17 Self-Awareness in Animals'" in The animal ethics reader, London: Routledge.
  • Pretty, Jules. (2013) 'The Consumption of a Finite Planet: Well-Being, Convergence, Divergence and the Nascent Green Economy', in Environmental and Resource Economics. vol. 55 (4) , pp.475-499
  • Huseman, J.Short, D. (2012) 'A slow industrial genocide: tar sands and the indigenous peoples of northern Alberta', in International Journal of Human Rights. vol. 16 (1) , pp.216-237
  • Susan Buck-Morss. (2000) 'Hegel and Haiti', in Critical Inquiry: The University of Chicago Press. vol. 26, pp.821-865
  • Monbiot, George. (2014) 'Greening the Desert', in Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea, and Human Life: Penguin Books.
  • Said, Edward. (1993) 'Two Visions in Heart of Darkness', in Culture and Imperialism, London: Chatto and Windus., pp.19-31
  • Adorno, Theodor. (1997) Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda, London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.
  • Durham, Jimmie; Fisher, Jean. (1993) A certain lack of coherence: writings on art and cultural politics pp1-7, London: Kala Press.
  • Tim Jackson: An economic reality check | TED Talk, https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_jackson_s_economic_reality_check?language=en#t-789
  • Armstrong, Susan J.; Botzler, Richard George. (2008) Griffin & Speck "Chapter 16 New Evidence of Animal Consciousness" In The animal ethics reader, London: Routledge.
  • Adorno, Theodor and Max Horkheimer. (2002) 'The Concept of Enlightenment', in Dialectic of enlightenment: philosophical fragments, Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press.
  • National Gardening Leave by Andrew Sims and Molly Connisbee| New Economics Foundation, https://neweconomics.org/2012/10/national-gardening-leave
  • Jennifer Stitt "For Rachel Carson, wonder was a radical state of mind" | Aeon Ideas, https://aeon.co/ideas/for-rachel-carson-wonder-was-a-radical-state-of-mind
  • McKibben, Bill. (1999) 'The End of Nature pp 47-61', in The end of nature, New York: Anchor Books., pp.47-91
  • Smith, Linda Tuhiwi. (2012) ''Imperialism, History, Writing and Theory' ,Chapter 2 in Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous People', in Decolonizing methodologies: research and indigenous peoples, London: Zed Books.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   SUMMER 24hr take home exam     50% 
Coursework   Assignment 1: 3000 word essay   22/01/2021  25% 
Coursework   Assignment 2: 3000 word essay  30/04/2021  25% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Jane Hindley, email: janeh@essex.ac.uk.
A range of staff from across the university will contribute to the module.
Interdisciplinary Studies Centre, Room 6.130. Email: istudies@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Ross Wilson
University of Nottingham
Director of Liberal Arts
Available via Moodle
Of 259 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
259 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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