Surrey University Stag


Module code: ELI3052

Module Overview

Shamanism as practice, as spirituality, as healing, has occupied the imagination of writers, artists and film-makers, amongst others, for centuries. In the 20th Century, Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception is a key text that connects ideas of the shamanic with contemporary drug use, experimentation and modernist art and literary practice. Therefore, as well as being a significant influence in modern literature, film and visual media, shamanism as a theme of study offers ways of exploring the relationships between modernism and the primitive, and between contemporary artistic practices and the ‘sickness vocation’ of the shaman, an iconic figure that straddles the notions of magic, medicine and culture. In studying this figure, we will examine the multiple conjunctions of practice and practitioner that he or she embodies as ritualistic and cultural narratives in shamanic spaces.


In this module students will look at the intersections of anthropological, ethnographic, and contemporary cultural literary and visual media considered through three constellations of materials. In the first constellation, an introduction to shamanic ideas, practices and history will intersect with ethnographic and new-age representations, peyote and altered consciousness as methodology, and look at native texts and cultures. In the second of the constellations, shamanism as sickness vocation, contemporary shamanic practice and its intersections with ecstatic writing, performance and the exploration of the animal (as totem and as consciousness) will be examined, while the third constellation will explore representations and embodiments of shamanic practices in film and other visual media, such as the graphic novel, manga, anime and gaming.


In each workshop we will first spend some time discussing the set texts and the techniques and standpoints employed by writers and other artists, before moving on to the workshop part of the session where students will produce work in accordance with the task set for that week, within and outside of the classroom. We will read and discuss a selection of pieces at the end of each class.


At the end of the semester students will produce a creative portfolio of shamanic or shamanic-inspired writing, alongside a critical essay and commentary reflecting on the creative work produced and using theories, concepts and practices studied on the module, OR an academic critical essay examining some aspect of shamanism and shamanic writing.

Module provider

School of Literature and Languages

Module Leader

MOONEY Stephen (Lit & Langs)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

JACs code: V640

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 67

Seminar Hours: 22

Guided Learning: 55

Captured Content: 6

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

None. This module has a capped number and may not be available to ERASMUS and other international exchange students. Please check with the departmental exchange coordinator.

Module content

The following areas are indicative of topics to be covered:


  • Shamanic Introductions

  • Ethnofiction, Ethnography or New Age self-transformation?

  • Peyote, Perception, Writing

  • Native Texts and Practices

  • Techniques of Ecstasy

  • Shamanic Performance

  • ‘Kinship with animals’

  • Shamanism and Experimental Visuality

  • Hollywood Shamans

  • Drawing Shamanism – Manga, Graphic Novel, Anime

  • Gaming Representations of the Shamanic

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

  • the development in their knowledge and understanding of literary and creative texts (including those in visual media) and textual practices

  • their understanding of the social, cultural, historical and geographical contexts for the production of literary and creative texts and of the way those texts intervene in related discourses

  • their development of research and writing skills

  • productive and informed critical reflection on both the literary writing itself and the critical and secondary material that surrounds it, and/or both the creative process itself and the finished work that has resulted from it

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:


Creative Piece (2400 words) plus critical essay and commentary (600 words) (100%) OR Critical Essay (3000 words) (100%)


Formative assessment and feedback


Verbal feedback in class, written and/or oral feedback on one piece of creative writing (maximum of 1000 words or equivalent for poetry, screenplay, dramatic script, graphic novel or other static visual media, or film or other moving visual media).


Formative ‘feed forward’ is provided through seminar discussions, tutor feedback in seminars, and a range of other feedback mechanisms agreed between tutor and students in week 1 of the module, such as seminar contribution and writing exercises.

Module aims

  • Develop in students a thorough critical understanding of shamanism and shamanic art and writing practices in the context of contemporary culture through a range of prose, poetic and dramatic and cinematic ‘texts’, as well as those composed in other visual media, such as manga, anime and games
  • Develop the ability in students to analyse and appraise compositional styles and techniques in shamanistic modes of representation, and apply critical insights to their own writing practices AND/OR published works
  • Facilitate the acquisition of the detailed knowledge and skills necessary for producing shamanistic and shamanistic-inspired writing and other creative production
  • Help students attain the ability to apply critical awareness to one’s own creative production AND/OR published works
  • Encourage students to work as a group in the production of collaborative work in the workshop context
  • Encourage students to submit work for publication

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Gained significant confidence and ability in critically analysis and thinking C
002 Gained an ability to use specific compositional skills that will have practical application to their practices as writers KPT
003 More fully developed their sense of their own practice as writers and/or that of other writers in relation to shamanistic and shamanistic-inspired composition practices that have had, and continue to have, significant impact and significance on contemporary culture and cultural production, including writing, film and that in other visual media KPT
004 Developed a stronger sense of the materials and techniques available to them as writers, and to other writers, and begun to locate this work within the context of contemporary writing KCP
005 Established a knowledge of the context of radical and experimental writing practices that were developed, particularly in the 20th century, connecting traditional belief practices to modernist art and literary production, and have begun to locate this work within the context of contemporary writing K

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:


  • Hone and develop students’ writing skills in academic writing, and/or creative writing (prose fiction, poetry, and/or screenwriting and other modes of production) by helping students understand the context of traditional and canonical as well as radical and experimental writing practices that have been central in understanding the relationship of the human to the non-human, the mundane to the spiritual and spiritual practice to art and literary practice

  • Assist students in locating literary texts and their critical writing, and/or their creative work in historical and cultural contexts by developing a stronger sense of the materials and techniques available to them as writers, and thereby helping them begin to locate their work within the context of contemporary writing

  • Equip students with the research and writing skills they will need to produce critically informed academic writing, and/or creative writing (prose fiction, poetry, and/or screenwriting and other modes of production) and creative criticism by helping them gain significant confidence and ability in critical analysis and thinking, and an ability to use specific compositional skills that will have practical application to their practices as writers.


The learning and teaching methods include a combination of lecture materials, seminars, captured content, guided learning and independent learning.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ELI3052

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2022/3 academic year.