SOAS University of London

School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Understanding Texts

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 1

Please note this module will be available from September 2020.

The module introduces the students to the study of texts in the broadest sense: oral, written and visual texts. Texts are studied in close reading, but also through a number of theoretical approaches, such as feminism, postcolonial theory, and others. The module interrogates key theoretical concepts, such as orality and writing, language and genre, culture and cultural hermeneutics, performance, textual cultures and canon formation, author and audience, aspects of reception theory. The module trains the students to reflect on texts, but also produce their own texts in honing their oral presentation and analytical writing skills. Case studies for the examination of texts are drawn primarily from the cultures of Africa, South East Asia, South Asia, and the Near and Middle East. 

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. Interpret texts through appropriate analytical concepts
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of textual genres and techniques
  3. Understand the historical and cultural conditions of textual production and reception
  4. Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental concepts of critical theory

The module prepares the students for the study of the cultures of Africa, South Asia, South East Asia, and the Near and Middle East mediated through various forms of texts: oral, written, or visual ones. The students must be capable of close analyses of texts, but they also need to be aware of the ways in which human production and reception of texts is conditioned through ideological approaches and in which texts are anchored in their cultures and times. 


There will be one hour of lectures and one hour of tutorials per week.

Scope and syllabus

The module typically examines topics such as:

  • texts and textualities
  • text and close reading: formal, thematic, stylistic analysis of texts
  • text and language, text and genre, figures of speech
  • orality, performance, writing
  • production of texts, author, audience, reader, reception
  • texts and textual practices: canon formation, national literatures
  • text and history, text and culture: hermeneutics and interpretation of texts
  • text and theory: critical humanism, comparative literature, world literature

Method of assessment

  • Close reading of a text (1000 words) 30%
  • Analytical essay (1500 words) 50%
  • Team presentation (15 minutes) 20%

Suggested reading

Core Reading
  • Bennett, Andrew and Royle, Nicholas. An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory. London: Routledge, 2016. (ebook already in the library)

  • Howe, Elizabeth A. Close Reading: An Introduction to Literature. Pearson: 2010.

  • Kress, Gunther and Van Leeuwen, Theo. Reading Images: the Grammar of Visual Design. London: Routledge, 1996. (One copy in the Library.)

  • Leitch, Vincent B., et al eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: Norton, 2018. (One copy of 2010 edition in the library.)

  • Ong, Walter. Orality and Literacy. London: Routledge, 2012 (Multiple copies and ebook already in the library)

  • Rose, Gillian. Visual Methodologies: an Introduction to the Interpretation of Visual Materials. London: Sage, 2007. (Two copies in the library.)

  • Thomson, David. How to Watch a Movie. London: Profile Books, 2015.

  • Williams, Rhian. The Poetry Toolkit: the Essential Guide to Studying Poetry. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules