Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

ENGL131 Controversial Classics

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 Becky Manawatu's Auē. The paper also equips you with the skills to take your own stand on these debates by exploring classic texts that continue to divide their readers.

Paper title Controversial Classics
Paper code ENGL131
Subject English
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

^ Top of page

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

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.

Assessment consists 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)

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

^ Top of page


Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 14:00-14:50 28-34, 36-41
Wednesday 14:00-14:50 28-34, 36-41


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
A1 Wednesday 16:00-16:50 29, 31-32, 34, 36-37, 39-40
A2 Thursday 10:00-10:50 29, 31-32, 34, 36-37, 39-40
A3 Thursday 11:00-11:50 29, 31-32, 34, 36-37, 39-40
A4 Thursday 14:00-14:50 29, 31-32, 34, 36-37, 39-40
A5 Friday 11:00-11:50 29, 31-32, 34, 36-37, 39-40
A6 Wednesday 15:00-15:50 29, 31-32, 34, 36-37, 39-40