Skip to main content

Aliveness and the Arts


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: Andrew Asibong (subject to change)
  • Prerequisites: none, but please note there are limited spaces for BA Psychosocial Studies students on this module
  • Assessments: a 1500-word essay (40%) and a 3000-word essay (60%)

Module description

What does it mean to be truly alive? And how might cinematic, literary, artistic, poetic and theatrical experience contribute to an analysis - or even a facilitation - of true aliveness in us today?

Using a combination of psychoanalytic (part 1) and bio-political (part 2) theoretical perspectives, this module sets out to examine the problem of human aliveness - as both an internal and an external phenomenon - and its evocation in the arts and humanities.

Focusing in particular on the way in which the artwork can symbolise and potentially generate the processes of feeling, thinking and relationality, sometimes inaccessible to scientific or sociological discourses, the module returns periodically to the liminal 'zombie' figures that are depicted in the arts with an ever increasing frequency, in order to reflect on just what can be properly said to distinguish a living being from the living dead.

Indicative module content

  • True self? The problem of feeling real
  • Figuring the 'death drive': post-1920 psychoanalysis and its child-centred critics
  • Something stuck: from early trauma theory to the cinematic body
  • The phantom and the crypt: trans-generational haunting
  • The function of the 'zombie' in contemporary Western film and television
  • Inscribing death in other people's bodies and gendered aliveness
  • Homo sacer and the 'space of exception'
  • Spectralisation though racialisation
  • Melancholy sexuality and spectral desire
  • Alive to desire, alive to revolt?