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Module details

CS301-6-FY: Dangerous Ideas: Essays and Manifestos as Social Criticism

Year: 2014/15
Department: Various
Essex credit: 30
ECTS credit: 15
Available to year(s) of study:
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: Yes
Comments: CS101 and CS201 are recommended pre-requisites. However, students choosing this module as an outside option will be accepted on the module with the permission of the Course Director.

Supervisor: Prof Colin Samson  
Teaching Staff: Carlos Gigoux & a range of staff from across the university will contribute to the module.  
Contact details: samsc (Non essex users should add @essex.ac.uk to create the full email address) 01206 872662 Room 5A.310  

Module is taught during the following terms

Module Description

This module examines the social criticism and subversiveness of writing in the form of the essay. During the term, we will look at several essays that challenge and often satirize dominant ideas, existing social arrangements, and provoke us to explore the many varieties of writing itself. The module seeks to reappraise the essay and follow the important role it has played in the development of the humanities and social sciences from the 17th century to the present. Today the essay is emerging as a critical tool in the examination of all aspects of human experience, both the profound and the ephemeral. 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.

The readings examined on the module are primarily chosen on the basis of their historical impact, current relevance and at the same time selected as models for good writing. It is hoped that a consideration of how ideas are powerfully and succinctly communicated will encourage students to experiment, and thus, broaden the approach of those essays produced by the students who follow the module

Learning and Teaching Methods

Weekly lecture, plus a weekly seminar that will include staff presentations, student-led intellectual discussion.


100 per cent Coursework Mark

Two essays, each of minimum 4000 words, maximum 5000 words.

Exam Duration and Period

Other information

Core for BA Liberal Arts students.


  • Michel de Montaigne, 'On the art of conversation,' in Michel de Montaigne: The Complete Essays
  • Niccolo Machiavelli, (2010), [1513], The Prince.
  • Jonathan Swift, [1729], 'A Modest Proposal,' from John Hayward (ed.), Gulliver's travels and selected writings in prose & verse,.
  • William Hazlitt, [1826], The Pleasure of Hating.
  • Henry David Thoreau (2003), [1848], Civil Disobedience.
  • George Orwell, (1946), 'Politics and the English Language,'.

Further information

External Examiner Information

  • Name: Dr Christopher David Belshaw
  • Institution: THE OPEN UNIVERSITY
  • Academic Role: Senior Lecturer

Should you have any queries about the Module Directory pages, please contact the Course Record Team, Systems Administration Office, Academic Section; email: crt (non Essex users should add @essex.ac.uk)