Narrativity, Truth and Flourishing

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 07 October 2021
Friday 17 December 2021
29 September 2021


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA QV25 Philosophy and Literature,
BA QV26 Philosophy and Literature (Including Placement Year),
BA VQ52 Philosophy and Literature (Including Foundation Year),
BA VQ58 Philosophy and Literature (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad),
BA VQ5F Philosophy and Literature (Including Year Abroad)

Module description

Should we think of human lives as narratives or as somehow narrative-like? Should we be trying to make our lives into a good story? Is the self some kind of fiction? Philosophers sometimes think of human selfhood as having a narrative form or structure. In this module, we will take our point of departure from a widely-discussed paper by Galen Strawson in which he launches an all-out attack on narrative theories of the self.

Describing himself as an 'Episodic', Strawson rejects both the descriptive and the normative parts of the view that human lives are narratives or narrative-like. Drawing on Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, MacIntyre, Ricouer and others, we will examine how convincingly the 'narrativists' are able to respond to Srawson's critique.

Module aims

The aims of the module are:

1. to enable students to undertake a close assessment of the philosophical issues surrounding narrative theories of the self;
2. with the help of secondary sources, to undertake a close reading of selected primary texts bearing on this issue;
3. to develop the ability to produce argumentatively precise and robust critical analysis of philosophical and literary texts and ideas.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:

1. articulate and critically evaluate the positions of some central Anglo-American thinkers on the relationship between philosophy and literature;
2. engage in their own critical reflections on this issue.

By the end of the module, students should also have acquired a set of transferable skills, and in particular be able to:

1. define the task in which they are engaged and exclude what is irrelevant;
2. seek and organise the most relevant discussions and sources of information;
3. process a large volume of diverse and sometimes conflicting arguments;
4. compare and evaluate different arguments and assess the limitations of their own position or procedure;
5. write and present verbally a succinct and precise account of positions, arguments, and their presuppositions and implications;
6. be sensitive to the positions of others and communicate their own views in ways that are accessible to them;
7. think 'laterally' and creatively - see interesting connections and possibilities and present these clearly rather than as vague hunches;
8. maintain intellectual flexibility and revise their own position if shown wrong;
9. think critically and constructively.

Module information

Erasmus/IP students must have already taken an introductory module in Philosophy at their home institution.

Learning and teaching methods

1 x two-hour seminar and 1 x one-hour presentation and discussion each week. Reading Week is week 8.


  • Ricœur, Paul. (1984) Time and narrative, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Kierkegaard, Søren; Hong, Howard V.; Hong, Edna H. (c1980) The sickness unto death: a Christian psychological exposition for upbuilding and awakening, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. vol. Kierkegaard's writings
  • Schechtman, Marya. (2004-12) 'Self-Expression and Self-Control', in Ratio. vol. 17 (4) , pp.409-427
  • MacIntyre, Alasdair C.; EBSCOhost ebook collection. (1984) After virtue: a study in moral theory, Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Strawson, Galen. (2004-12) 'Against Narrativity', in Ratio. vol. 17 (4) , pp.428-452
  • GREEN PAPER – The Phenomenology of Powerlessness,
  • Løgstrup, K. E. (2020) The ethical demand, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Jonathan Lear. (no date) A Case for Irony.

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   Quizzes TOTAL (2 of 3)    25% 
Coursework   Essay plan   22/11/2021  25% 
Coursework   Essay (2000 Words)   23/12/2021  50% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Daniel Watts, email:



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 630 hours, 27 (4.3%) hours available to students:
603 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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