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Love: an introduction to psychosocial studies


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 4
  • Convenor: Brendan McGeever
  • Assessment: formative coursework of 500 words (30%) and a 1500-word essay (70%)

Module description

This is the first module on the BA Psychosocial Studies and provides a grounding in approaches to, and theories of, human relations. It orients you to a psychosocial perspective, helping you to differentiate this from the cognate areas of psychology and sociology.

Using the trope of ‘love and intimacy’ it encourages you to explore how psychosocial theories can elucidate key social, developmental and personal issues. It introduces ways of thinking that are personally reflexive but also academically robust - a theme that will recur throughout the BA.

This module is followed by three further modules: Hate, Power and Bodies. Taken together, the four modules (Love, Hate, Bodies, Power) introduce you to key themes and topics in psychosocial studies.

Indicative module content

Feelings and emotions: introduces accounts of affect, feeling and emotion and the social life of emotions as cultural phenomena. This will allow for an introduction to some basic psychoanalytic concepts alongside the question of how emotions can also be thought of as ‘public events’. Case studies will be used such as that of the response to the death of Princess Diana, or the mobilisation of feelings towards ‘celebrities’.

Love: drawing first on psychoanalytic ideas about sexuality and desire, the module examines how love operates both as an ‘unwilled’ element in psychosocial life and as a construct that has foundational significance in culture and society. This includes a set of questions about differences between distinct kinds of love, for instance romance and parental love. It asks if love is ‘imaginary’ and if so, what that means.

Attachment and care: a critical encounter with the basics of attachment theory and other relational ideas, set in the context of an understanding of social assumptions about intimacy, care, parenting, aging, family life and development. This will also facilitate the introduction of some basic postcolonial perspectives concerning the construction of ideas about normative family life.

Belonging: this covers issues around identification with a collective, including social responsibility, ideas of community and ethical relationality. It allows us to signal to students the centrality of some philosophical positions on relational ethics to the psychosocial project.

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • explain some core assumptions of psychosocial studies
  • identify the relationships (affinities and critical distinctions) between psychosocial studies and some of the disciplinary positions out of which it has emerged
  • apply some basic psychosocial ideas to the field of intimate human relationships
  • write an evaluative essay addressing the issues above
  • participate to a greater or lesser extent in classroom and virtual discussions on psychosocial topics.