Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon


    A study of literary classics that have attracted controversy for reasons including political content; issues of morality/obscenity; transgressing conventions of form; polemical works; questions of authorial identity and authenticity; controversies over prizes and literary merit.

    ENGL 131 Controversial Classics explores how literature engages debates over art, religion, sexuality, morality, politics, race, gender, drugs, censorship, and more, while introducing you to some of the great works of English literature from Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita and Allen Ginsberg's Howl to Alan Duff's Once Were Warriors, Becky Manawatu's Auē and Tusiata Avia's Savage Coloniser Book. The paper also equips you with the skills to take your own stand on debates over classic texts that continue to divide their readers.

    About this paper

    Paper title Controversial Classics
    Subject English
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $981.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    Schedule C
    Arts and Music
    There are no prerequisites for this paper, which develops skills in communication, critical thinking, and ethics relevant to students specialising in a wide range of disciplines.

    Professor Jacob Edmond

    Teaching staff

    Convener: Professor Jacob Edmond
    Lecturers: Dr Michael Cop
    Associate Professor Grace Moore
    Associate Professor Thomas McLean
    Dr Simone Drichel

    Paper Structure

    There are generally three or four 1-hour lectures per text and a 1-hour tutorial for each text, along with tutorials on close reading and essay writing. Tutorials are designed to focus on student participation in discussion.

    The exact assessment structure for 2024 is subject to confirmation but is likely to consist of:

    • 1 Tutorial Assignment 10%
    • 1 In-class Close Reading Test 10%
    • 1 Essay 30%
    • Final Exam 50%
    Teaching Arrangements

    Two 1-hour lectures per week.

    A 1-hour tutorial in selected weeks.

    • Course readings, available on eReserve and ancillary materials for each topic:
    • Allen Ginsberg, Howl (City Lights).
    • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics).
    • Sylvia Plath, Ariel.
    • Becky Manawatu, Auē.
    • Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (Penguin).
    • Alan Duff, Once Were Warriors (Vintage/Random House NZ).
    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Global perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes

    Students who successfully complete this paper will:

    • Gain exposure to a range of literary texts and contexts and the ability to read them closely and with insight
    • Gain the ability to judge and assess literary controversies, to understand the reasons for them and to make informed judgements about them
    • Learn to reflect critically on how arguments about literary and artistic value relate to broader social, political, religious and ethical values and on how these arguments and values have changed over time
    • Learn to develop a sustained argument, supported by textual and contextual evidence, about literary texts and controversies, both orally and in written form, in groups and individually
    • Develop skills in editing and assessing their own writing
    • Gain basic research skills through an essay assignment requiring them to investigate primary and secondary materials about a particular controversy


    Semester 2

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Monday 14:00-14:50 29-35, 37-42
    Wednesday 14:00-14:50 29-35, 37-42


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    Attend one stream from
    A1 Wednesday 16:00-16:50 29, 31-32, 34-35, 37, 39-40
    A2 Thursday 10:00-10:50 29, 31-32, 34-35, 37, 39-40
    A3 Thursday 11:00-11:50 29, 31-32, 34-35, 37, 39-40
    A4 Thursday 14:00-14:50 29, 31-32, 34-35, 37, 39-40
    A5 Friday 11:00-11:50 29, 31-32, 34-35, 37, 39-40
    Back to top