• Offered by School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject English
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person

This course will examine how literature has helped to create and critique modern concepts of human rights and humanitarianism. It will focus on the ethical and political questions that arise from this discourse in contemporary works of literature from across the globe. This course will investigate what storytelling can hope to accomplish in the wake of mass violence and examine the new kinds of responsibility that these stories create in a globalizing world. It will analyze different visions of the human that enable these visions and explore how human rights and humanitarian practices relate to the history of Western imperialism. Topics will vary from year to year, but may include refugee narratives, truth commission testimony, aid worker memoirs, and fictions of witnessing.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

1.     Analyse literary and cultural narratives in relation to theories of human rights and humanitarianism

2.     Think critically about cultural discourses of human rights and humanitarianism

3.     Produce close readings of literary and cultural texts

4.     Create coherent analytical arguments with the key concepts of the course

5.     Reflect on and discuss your own learning as it relates to the course 

Indicative Assessment

  • 500-word journal reflection (10%; addresses learning outcomes 1, 2, 3, 5)
  • 1500-word research essay (30%; addresses learning outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4)
  • 2500-word research essay (50%; addresses learning outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4)
  • Tutorial participation (10%; addresses learning outcomes 1, 2, 3, 5)

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


The workload will consist of two hours of lectures per week, one hour of tutorial per week, and approximately eight hours per week of independent study.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 12 Units of 1000 level courses. Alternatively you may gain permission of the Course Convener to enrol in this course.

Prescribed Texts

1. Joseph Slaughter, Human Rights Inc.: The World Novel, Narrative Form and International Law
2. Sidonie Smith and Kay Schaffer, Human Rights and Narrated Lives: The Ethics of Recognition
3. Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights: A History
4. Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History
5. Costas Douzinas The End of Human Rights
6. Rosie Scott and Tom Keneally, ed. A Country Too Far: Writings on Asylum Seekers.

Preliminary Reading

Indicative texts may include:
Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
Dave Eggers, What Is the What
Gil Courtemanche A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali
Michael Ondaatje, Anil's Ghost
Zoe Wicomb, David's Story




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $2604
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2015 $3576
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

There are no current offerings for this course.

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions