Surrey University Stag


Module code: ELIM038

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. This process will help students grow in confidence, both in presentational terms and in terms of delivering and receiving feedback on their work, in a safe and supportive setting.

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. 

This module connects to other contemporary literature modules on the programme where the emphasis is on 20th and 21st Century approaches to creating and examining literatures and our cultural responses to them.
As a hybrid creative writing and English literature module, it also makes up part of the creative writing pathway in the degree, connecting to a wide variety of creative writing modules offered as part of the programme.

Module provider

School of Literature and Languages

Module Leader

MOONEY Stephen (Lit & Langs)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

JACs code: V640

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

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 87

Seminar Hours: 22

Guided Learning: 30

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


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
Coursework Creative Piece (3000 words) plus critical essay and commentary (1500 words) (100%) OR Critical Essay (4500 words) 100

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

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

  • the development in their advanced knowledge and understanding of literary and creative texts (including those in visual media) and textual practices that will feed forward into their future careers as writers and /or critics

  • 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 such as cultural and ecological sustainability

  • their understanding of verbal creativity and the formal and aesthetic dimensions of literary and creative texts as well as professional writing more widely

  • a range of subject specific and transferable skills gained in critical and creative thinking, in the production of critical and creative texts, and of practical support in the development of employability and/or creative practice skills

  • their creative ability in writing on themes or in techniques related to shamanic writing and/or the cultural context of shamanic representation in literature and art practice

  • their development of varied and diverse advanced research and writing skills and, specifically, an understanding of matters relating to the dissemination of research and/or publishing through the broad range of assessment submission possibilities incorporated into the open-ended assessment type integral to the module

  • individual critical and/or creative responses to the subject material via a diverse range of assessment submission options designed to appeal to diverse and inclusive learning and composition practices and/or to allow students to select assessment types most useful to them in planning for their current professional orientation or future employment plans

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

* Creative Piece (3000 words) plus critical essay and commentary (1500 words) (100%) OR Critical Essay (4500 words) (100%)


Formative assessment and feedback

Verbal feedback and formative ‘feed forward’ is provided through seminar discussions, and tutor and peer feedback in seminars, on short pieces (250-500 words of prose, or equivalent in another form) presented as part of the confidence building safe space of the creative writing workshop element of the classes.
Each student can expect to present 2-3 such pieces over the course of the semester according to a schedule worked out between the tutor and the student cohort.
Written and/or oral tutor feedback will also be provided on one piece of creative writing (maximum of 1000 words or equivalent for poetry or other form) during the course of the module (the student is free to submit this at any point of the semester).
As such, writing, presentation and critical analysis skills will be developed and honed which will feed forward to the summative assessment at the end of the module. There is the option of 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

  • The module aims to: develop in students an advanced 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
  • hone students' technical writing skills in multiple forms, such as prose, poetry, drama, screenwriting and other, including intermedial, forms
  • sharpen 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 advanced detailed knowledge and skills necessary for producing shamanistic and shamanistic-inspired writing and other creative production
  • help students refine 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
  • help prepare students to consider possible routes to publication for their work and make them aware of possible careers as arts professionals and encourage students to submit work for publication and
  • facilitate the advanced examination of the theorisation and conceptualisation of shamanistic and shamanistic-inspired writing critically alongside the practices and published texts produced in relation to it
  • encourage students to further critically develop their thinking about their own practice as writers, AND/OR that of other writers, and to present this in cogent terms
  • develop in students an advanced understanding of the connection between shamanic practices and contemporary art and literary practices in the context of contemporary cultural theory
  • expand student¿s understanding of the value and context of shamanic cultural and ecological concerns for native peoples and within wider social, political and cultural landscape

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 By the end of the module students will have: gained significant confidence and advanced ability in critically analysis and thinking as well as developed an understanding of appropriate writerly techniques in prose, poetry, drama, screenwriting and other, including intermedial, writing forms that engage the creative thematic and technical possibilities of shamanic writing in their own work KCPT
002 Honed their ability to use specific compositional skills that will have practical application to their practices as professional writers applicable to a wide range of career pathways alongside that of creative writer KPT
003 Strongly developed their sense of their own practice as writers and/or that of other writers in relation to shamanistic and shamanistic-inspired composition and cultural 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 strong and applied sense of the materials and techniques available to them as professional writers, and to other writers, and are able to locate this work within the context of contemporary writing KCP
005 Established an advanced 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 in reformulating the relationships of the primitive to the modern, the mundane to the spiritual and the illusory to the real, can confidently locate this work within the context of contemporary writing and can connect this to cultural and ecological sustainability issues K
006 Produced work individually and in groups, as well as have been introduced to intermedial collaborative ideas CT

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 more fully developing their sense of their own practice as writers in relation to traditional and contemporary shamanistic and shamanistic-inspired practices that have had, and continue to have, a significant formative effect on contemporary writing, film and culture, and to help students produce innovative, imaginative and exciting publication standard creative work

  • Assist students in locating literary texts and their critical writing, and/or their creative work in historical and cultural contexts by developing understanding of 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

  • 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 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

  • Facilitate in students productive reflection on both the creative process itself and the finished work 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 and employability as writers


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

Students will engage with preparatory reading, including creative work by other students, in advance of the seminar which will combine discussion of interrelated critical ideas and texts with in-class creative or critical writing exercises each week. Designed to help students reflect on and apply their learning to creative and critical outputs the workshop, environment acts as a safe space for developing and exchanging ideas, support and writing skills.
Varied learning materials such as lexical texts, visual materials, sculptural objects and other physical material prompts, video and sound objects are designed to increase student accessibility and will present them with a range of interpretive materials and approaches with which to work and develop their own thinking and creative responses.

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: ELIM038

Other information

Surrey's Curriculum Framework is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas: 


Employability: This module acts alongside other MA modules in both the English literature and creative writing programmes to help students hone to a highly polished and professional standard their writing, composition and communication skills, as critics and/or as creative writers.

In this Masters level module you will get the chance as an English literature student to study, alongside advanced critical materials, a broad range of different cultural specific writing practices and how these connect to identity and culture in their own contexts and more broadly, helping you to broaden develop your cultural knowledge and sensitivity, important assets in today’s globalised employment landscape.

This feeds directly into the writing, language, analytical and communication skills Masters level students in literature and creative writing develop on their degree beyond those attained in undergraduate degrees. These advanced skills are highly prized by contemporary employers in students educated to post-graduate level. 

As a creative writing student, you will get the chance to explore literary form, style and language from a wide range of cultural perspectives and writing and art practices alongside key critical materials that will help you develop and contextualise your own writing in relation to this knowledge. We will look at areas such as modernist and post-modernist forms, identity writing, meaning and nuance in contemporary rewriting of historical narratives and identity politics, interfaces between lexical text and the visual arts, narrative and non-narrative modes of writing and other formal aspects of the writing craft. 

The skills developed in this module, developed alongside your other literature and creative writing modules, will help equip you for the vast range of employment and career pathways that our post-graduate students go on to after (and sometimes during) their degree, beyond that of academic or ‘creative writer’ (novelist, poet, non-fiction writer, for example). Amongst these are: copywriting, editorial roles, teaching, publishing, marketing, proofreading, journalism and social media roles of all types just to name a few.

For both English literature and creative writing students, you will get the opportunity to experiment with and present critical and creative work in the workshop settings as well as respond to the work of other writers and critics, another set of key skills that English literature and creative writing bring to the table in a host of career and employment settings.


Global and Cultural Capabilities: Literature and creative writing are fields that teach us about the human experience and our part in local and global cultures, facilitating exchange of ideas and experiences and helping to foster creative and cultural empathy in readers and writers of all kinds across the globe. Creative and critical writing in these fields also play a very important recording and preservation role in narrativising and keeping alive and vibrant different cultures and experiences, especially those that might otherwise be silenced or endangered. 

In this module you examine literary and art practice from across the globe (though with a focus on native cultures of South and North America) as this interfaces and responds to cultural and religious practices of what are often endangered cultural spaces and, indeed, the sustainability of those spaces.

You will be asked to respond critically or creatively to texts and modes of writing from this broad range of styles, literary periods and experiences, and are encouraged to share and/or write your own experiences and knowledge through the lenses of, or in response to, cultural and spiritual identities as these interface with contemporary and traditional art and literary practices. You will do so in relation to your own cultures and backgrounds and think about those of other students and writers. You will be asked to respect and value differences in experience and to bring all of this knowledge into your critical and creative writing practice.

The weekly seminar and workshopping sessions give students the opportunity to present your own narrative to the cultural and literary context of Shamanic Writing in its many diverse forms and to experience and respond to those of others in a friendly, constructive and open forum.


Resourcefulness and Resilience: English Literature as a discipline exposes us to different, varied and diverse experiences from history as well as our contemporary world. These literatures and the critical material around them teach us many things about ourselves as people, individuals and communities. How and why we behave and think the ways we do, how we cope with the challenges that our lives (and our lives in university!) throw at us. This module is no exception, exploring as it does the connections and intersections of our art and writing practices with cultural, spiritual and identity practices that often embed wellbeing, resilience and resourcefulness within them. Contemporary people and society have a lot to learn from the cultural and spiritual practices of shamanic cultures (remembering that shamanic peoples are also contemporary people!) where a sense of attunement and balance with the natural world is often emphasised and promoted (as just one example of how the teaching and knowledge of these spaces, practices and identities is connected to resilience and resourcefulness). 

Famously, literature conveys important lessons, comfort and significance (emotional, mental and spiritual) to us through the medium of language, not just in what it says, but how it says it. Shamanic writers created new, vibrant, inspiring and liberatory methods of literary and artistic expression that continue to ground us to the natural and spiritual worlds we inhabit today.

For creative writing students, the life of a writer can often be a solitary and isolating one. This module, through workshopping, group work and shared writerly experience will help equip you for the real world setting of your current and future writing practice. You will also continue to hone the critical contextualising faculties beyond those of undergraduate study in this and other MA modules on your degree through constructive critical workshopping of your work and those of your post-graduate peer writing community. The creative writing workshop at post-graduate level is a focussed and creatively scholarly forum for you to receive support, guidance, encouragement and practically helpful feedback in a friendly and affirming environment that is difficult to replicate outside of university. The writing friendships and writerly connections you make in these creative writing seminars and workshops, and attached events, you will likely carry forward throughout your career as a writer. You will also benefit from the experience of your tutors as professional writers working today and from periodic guest speakers attached to this and other creative writing modules in relation to your practice as a writer, the practicalities of building a portfolio of writing and a profile as a writer, the realities of the publishing industries and the importance of connecting to writing communities that will be essential to your current and future emotional and practical wellbeing and success as a writer. 


Sustainability: On this module, you will study a wide range of writing practices connected to the broad term ‘shamanism’ (though with a focus on South and North native cultures) and explore how, amongst other things, these connect to cultural and ecological sustainability issues.

Shamanic cultural, religious and writing practices are often misunderstood, marginalised and/or endangered in our globalised world, and this module helps to give voice to some of these important cultural and identity spaces, helping to expand your knowledge and sensitivity as a thinker and as a writer.

Often categorised as early and contemporary eco-writing, powerfully concerned about the exploitation of the planet’s natural resources, including natural ecosystems and the ‘voices’ of animal and plant life, these writings are centrally placed in many of the sustainably narratives of the 21st Century. Creative writing students will also have the opportunity to write their own sustainability narratives in their current context in response to the ideas and techniques encountered in the writings on this module.

In this regard, this module corrects directly to other modules on your degree that also have a strong focus on cultural and ecological sustainability.


Digital Capabilities: As part of this module’s approach, you will examine, as English Literature and creative writing students, digital writing and writing for the big screen (cinema) and little screen (TV and gaming) in relation to shamanic cultural and ritual practice. In this MA module, especially in the third constellation of texts and approaches, you will explore examples of shamanic adaptation and representation in contemporary visual and digital forms and get the opportunity, if you choose, to respond critically and/or creatively to these approaches and representations also using contemporary visual forms such as photography, video, gaming, blogging and other digital communication modes. You will also get the opportunity to receive feedback on your own critical and creative responses in these forms. 
In this regard, this module corrects directly to other modules on your degree which have a similar emphasis on developing and using contemporary visuality and digital skills and understanding.

As part of the module seminars, you will also be encouraged to communicate with one another and to work collaboratively on some exercises SurreyLearn, Microsoft Teams, and other digital and document sharing platforms, skills will be carried forward to later modules on your degree.


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 2024/5 academic year.