Dangerous Ideas: Essays and Manifestos as Social Criticism Capstone

The details
Philosophical, Historical, and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Spring Special
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 15 January 2024
Friday 28 June 2024
11 December 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

NONUYYAJ Essex Abroad (Ajou University)

Module description

This module examines the social criticism and subversiveness of writing in the form of the essay and the manifesto.

The module will study the essay as a critical tool to explore and interrogate one`s own certainties.

Module aims

No information available.

Module learning outcomes

No information available.

Module information

`Essay` here does not refer to the sort of thing you typically write for an undergraduate module. The essay, rather, is a distinct literary genre that has played an important role in the humanities and social sciences ever since its invention by Michel de Montaigne in the 16th century. Essays may mask themselves as innocent excursions but, as with Jonathan Swift's `A Modest Proposal` or George Orwell`s `Politics and the English Language`, the essay can rapidly overturn accepted opinions and provoke the questioning of values. In addition to studying some classic essays, students will get a chance to contribute to the genre by writing an essay of their own.

In the spring, we will turn our attention to the manifesto. Manifestos typically denounce dominant trends and/ or accepted conventions, question the grounds of prevailing, ideas, behaviours and practices, and involve a call and/or a programme for action. But they can take many forms. Manifestos, like Marx and Engels` `The Communist Manifesto`, are written to inspire action and overthrow existing social and working institutions, while the `How to be Idle`' manifesto proposes we abandon work itself and thereby challenges the incessant demands in our society that we devote our lives to paid labour. Students will get to write their own manifesto on a subject of their choosing.

To consider the structure of the module as a whole, students are encouraged to think about the essay as a tool to develop, explore, and reflect on fundamental questions, and the manifesto as a means to answer those questions. The essayist, as Montaigne puts it, "speak(s) as one who questions and does not know..." (Montaigne C 237); the manifesto writer knows the answer and conveys it with force.

To prepare for this module, suggested introductory reading:

Nussbaum, Martha C. (2010) Not for profit: Why democracy needs the humanities. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One lecture per week.
  • One seminar per week which functions as a writing workshop.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Assessment required in future academic year.


Assessment required in future academic year.

Module supervisor and teaching staff



External examiner

Prof Raphael Hallett
Higher Education Consultant - Senior Advisor
Available via Moodle
Of 6 hours, 2 (33.3%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
4 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


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