Course syllabus


Joe Barnes (Convenor)

Dr Anna Boswell (convenor, lecturer, tutor)          

Rm. 607, Arts 1

Office hour:  Wednesday 1.30-2.30pm or by appointment

Susanna Collinson (guest lecturer)

Dr Evija Trofimova (guest lecturer)                       



Sunny Liu 



All welcome  :)


Well-being always comes first

We all go through tough times during the semester, or see our friends struggling. There is lots of help out there - for more information, look at this Canvas page, which has links to various support services in the University and the wider community.



ENGLISH 354 throws the terms ‘self’ and ‘writing’ into question. Working with an expanded understanding of the forms and modes that writing may take, the course critically explores changing conceptions of the self and examines what ideas of personhood presuppose and entail. Among other things, we consider:

  • the cultural distinctiveness and embeddedness of self-writing practices (e.g. biography/autobiography, self-portraiture, tattoo, scarification);
  • socially and historically specific notions of identity, subjectivity and authorship;
  • boundaries and slippages between species and categories (e.g. people, animals, places, genres);
  • questions of gender, sexuality and reproduction;
  • modelling, distortion, mutability and virtuality;
  • the role of digital technologies and programming in the construction of para-selves;
  • the importance of sites and locations in the production of written selves.

Films and critical and creative readings form the basis for lectures and tutorials. These set texts will be supplemented with materials dealing with a diverse range of objects – from selfies to sexbots to SMS-capable plants. Methodologically, the course seeks to apply concerns drawn from set texts to new objects of inquiry in order to problematise the self-writing practices with which we engage and within which we are immersed. Coursework will invite you to consider writing as a matter of relations that are social, environmental and technological, and to extend your critical-creative skills in reading and composition.



By the end of the course, you should have improved:

  • your awareness of what writing and selves ‘are’ and the forms and modes they may take;
  • your ability to see self-writing practices as material and situated;
  • your ability to read and respond to a range of challenging academic and non-academic texts;
  • your ability to mobilise a technical and theoretical vocabulary;
  • your creative-critical and compositional skills;
  • your ability to analyse and problematise objects of inquiry in nuanced and reflexive ways.



Lectures:         Weeks 1-11, Monday 3-5pm, 803-210 (17 Eden Crescent, Room 210)

Tutorials:         Weeks 2-6 and 8-12 -- check SSO for times and locations



As per Faculty of Arts guidelines, the workload for ENGLISH 354 should average 10 hours per week over the course of the semester.



Learning resources will generally take the form of short critical or creative readings available via Talis. The feature films that we study in Weeks 3 and 5 are available in the General Library.



There is NO final exam for ENGLISH 354. Coursework weightings and breakdowns are as follows: 


Writing Activity One

1,500 words (20%)

Due: Friday 29 March, by 11.59pm

Writing Activity Two

1,500 words (30%)

Due: Friday 3 May, by 11.59pm

Critical Essay

3,000 words (50%)

Due: Friday 7 June, by 11.59pm



Classes, readings and assessments


 Week 1

 4 March // What is a self? 


 Hito Steyerl, ‘A Thing Like You and Me’

 Paul de Man, 'Autobiography as De-Facement'

 Kim Kardashian, from Selfish

 Week 2 

 11 March // Curation, fashioning, data


 Kenneth Goldsmith, ‘The Inventory and the Ambient’

 Selina Tusitala Marsh, selected poems

 Gay Hawkins, from The Ethics of Waste

 Laura Bennett, 'The First-Person Industrial Complex'

 Week 3

 18 March // Beyond humanism

 Viewing / reading:  

 Cave of Forgotten Dreams (dir. Werner Herzog)

 Thierry Lenain, ‘What is a monkey painting?’

 Paul Carter, from Parrot

 Week 4

 25 March // The humanimal  


 Donna Haraway, ‘Speculative Fabulations for Technoculture’s Generations’

 Isabella Rossellini, from Green Porno

 Judith Halberstam, from The Queer Art of Failure

 29  March: Writing Activity One due by 11.59pm [worth 20%]

 Week 5

 1 April // iPeople

 Viewing / reading:

 Catfish (dirs. Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman)

 Her (dir. Spike Jonze)

 Natascha Sadr Haghighian, ‘Parallax'

 Ibrahim Diallo, 'The Machine Fired Me'

 Week 6

 April // Plasticity


 Paul Preciado, excerpt from Testo Junkie

 Catherine Malabou, excerpt from Ontology of the Accident

 Susan M. Schultz, excerpt from Dementia Blog

 Val Plumwood, 'Being Prey'

 Mid-semester break: 15 - 26 April

 Week 7

 29 April  // Topic TBC (with Susanna Collinson) 



 3 May: Writing Activity Two due by 11.59pm [worth 30%] 

 Week 8

 6 May // Living/memory


 Lisa Samuels, ‘Flag Day’ 

 A. W. & Pritika Lal, ‘U of I: The University as I Experience You’

 Kathleen Stewart, ‘Atmospheric Attunements’

 Stephen Muecke, ‘The Fall: Fictocritical Writing'

 Week 9

 13 May // Prosthesis (with Evija Trofimova)


 Evija Trofimova, from Paul Auster's Writing Machine

 Additional readings TBA

 Week 10

 20 May // Self + place


 Philip Armstrong, ‘On Tenuous Grounds'

 Ani Mikaere, 'Some Implications of a Māori Worldview'

 Peter Brunt, 'The Portrait, the Pe’a and the Room'

 Alice Te Punga Somerville, 'Shine Bright Like a Moko'

 Week 11

 27 May //  Targeted learning session 

 Week 12:

 3 June // NO LECTURE (Queen's Birthday)

 7 June: Critical Essay due by 11.59pm [worth 50%]



Lectures and tutorials will focus on developing contexts for understanding and framing the assigned readings and films, and developing strategies for applying these concepts to other objects of inquiry. The classes are also designed to help guide you in composing the essays and writing activities. You MUST ensure that you read the assigned texts and view any assigned films before your weekly tutorial.

Attendance at lectures and tutorials is essential. Tutorial attendance and participation will be noted and may be a factor in determining your final grade.



The university’s Canvas electronic course assistance website is the location for all electronic communication within the course. On the Canvas website for ENGLISH 354 you will find electronic copies of the course outline, assignments, and links to course readings and supplementary materials. All course announcements will be posted on the Canvas course website and will also be sent to your university email address.

It is your responsibility to check the Canvas course website and your university email account in order to keep up with developments in the course.

Please ensure that any redirection or forwarding order from your student email address to your personal email address is up-to-date and correct. Contact the Canvas Help Desk or Arts IT for advice about redirecting messages sent to your university student email address to another email address.



Unless otherwise specified, you are expected to submit your coursework in a standard academic format: 

  • word-processed (doc, docx or pdf)
  • 12-point easy-to-read font (e.g. Times New Roman, Cambria, Calibri, Arial)
  • 1.15 or 1.5 line spacing
  • 1” (2.5cm) margins (left, right, top, bottom)
  • indented or block paragraph format
  • numbered pages
  • name, course number and date at top left- or right-hand corner of page 1
  • title centred at top of page 1
  • Chicago referencing (see English Department Essay Writing Guide)
  • barcoded cover sheet

The instructions and assessment criteria for each essay and writing activity will be posted on Canvas prior to the due date.



The following extension guidelines apply to English 354:

If you are unable to hand in your assignment by the due time on the due date, you must seek an extension via email or a face-to-face meeting with the course convenor.

Extensions will only be granted for compelling reasons, such as illness, or other unforeseen emergencies, and you may need to provide a medical certificate (or equivalent).

An extension must be requested in advance of the due date for the assignment, unless there is a genuine cause preventing this, in which case the extension should be sought as soon as is practicable after the due date.

Coursework submitted after the due date with no approved extension will be marked in the regular way, with one mark deducted for each 24 hour period overdue. No written feedback will be supplied for late submissions.

Coursework submitted more than 10 days late with no approved extension will not be marked but may be taken into consideration by the examiner and assessor in determining final grades for the course. 



The University of Auckland does not tolerate cheating or plagiarism or assisting others to cheat or plagiarise, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student’s own written work, reflecting his or her ideas and learning. Where other sources are used, as they should be used in academic writing, those sources must be properly acknowledged and cited. Referencing outside sources applies to all printed and digital materials, including the internet.

The working definition of plagiarism in this course is using the written work of others and presenting it as your own without explicitly acknowledging or referencing where the work originally appeared. It is plagiarism not to acknowledge using, paraphrasing, or directly copying from books, articles, webpages or other students’ work.  Wherever you are using the writing or ideas of other people (whether published or unpublished), those ideas or writings must be properly acknowledged and cited. In academic writing, acknowledgement usually takes the form of endnotes or in-text parenthetical references to the materials used plus a bibliography. For more detailed information, see the university’s guidelines on academic conduct:

Except when this is explicitly sanctioned in the assessment rubric, work in ENGLISH 354 that is shown to be plagiarised will receive a zero grade and may lead to disciplinary action. Please note that you will not receive credit for duplicating coursework that you have completed for this (or for any other) course.


English Department Essay Writing Guide.pdf


Course summary:

Date Details