English - Free topic C: Refugee Stories: An Ethical Challenge

Course content

This module coincides with our work-in-progress, Refugee Talk, a book on the current ‘refugee crisis’. We take a point of departure in the ethical dimensions of encounters between refugees and ‘host’ societies and invite you to take an active part in exploring the discourses and vocabularies associated with cultural and literary representations of the ongoing crisis. Although the primary focus of the module is the contemporary moment, we begin with a retrospective look at the precarity of earlier, 20th century refugee experiences as this will provide a background for understanding the affective nature of being in flight and alert us to significant differences between then and now in the encounter between refugees and host societies. The module will be fashioned around clusters of theoretical, philosophical and critical texts which will be applied to and explored in connection with different kinds of literary genres and different kinds of stories and narratives by, and about, refugees. In our exploration of the contemporary moment, we will study issues such as the etymologies of refuge and asylum; the ethics of rescue, charity and solidarity; the language of justice, rights and duties; the predicament of waiting in ‘permanent temporariness’ (Bauman); and the complexities of representing the refugee situation in an ethical environment that expects gratitude – all issues considered from theoretical, critical and literary perspectives.


Please note that we intend to bring guest speakers into the class room during the semester and that a one-day department symposium on the new mobilities in the 21st century is planned for March 2021. This will give you a unique opportunity to meet prominent critics and writers, some of whom we will be reading in the course. It may also be an opportunity to consult with your teachers and consider e.g. review, interview or similar work for your second exam activity.

Classes, with particular emphasis on reading primary and secondary texts, oral discussion and developing proficiency in English.

Literary texts will include: selected stories by Bernard Malamud, Nam Le and Viet Thanh Nguyen, Dina Nayeri, Refuge (2017), David Herd and Anna Pincus, Refugee Tales 1, 2, and 3 (extracts), Abu Bakr Khaal, African Titanics (2008/2014), Donal Ryan, From a Low and Quiet Sea (2018), and Helon Habila, Travellers (2019).


Theoretical and critical texts will include: extracts from Kelly Oliver, Lisa Madura, Sabeen Ahmed (eds) Refugees Now- Rethinking Borders Hospitality and Citizenship (2019), Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Times (2007) and Strangers at Our Door (2016), along with a number of texts by Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben and others, uploaded to Absalon in due time before teaching begins.

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio uploaded in digital exam: Deadline June 9th 2021
The module has a portfolio exam (model 1B) consisting in two activities during the semester (each counting 25 % of the final grade) and a final take-home paper of 10-12 pages (counting 50 % of the final grade).

1 activity: week 3 or 4: Essay (c. 5 pages, format and subject to be discussed in class)
2 activity, week 8, after Easter: Essay, review or interview (c 5 pages, inspired by the Symposium om New Mobilities, March 2021)
3 activity, submitted with final portfolio: Take-home paper, 11-15 pages)
Criteria for exam assessment

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • English
  • 409,5