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IP205-30 Consuming cultures

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Level 2
Module leader
Kirsten Harris
Credit value
Module duration
22 weeks
100% coursework
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description

This is the core module in the second year of the the BA in Liberal Arts degree.

Module web page

Module aims

This module critically examines the role that consumption plays in contemporary society, analysing different theorisations of processes of consumption and cultural works which engage with issues of consumption. Using an interdisciplinary Problem-Based learning approach, this module will encourage students to interrogate problems at the intersection of the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

Term 1

  1. Introduction to consumption
  2. Commodification and value
  3. Conspicuous consumption: status and distinction
  4. The C19 consumer society: The House of Mirth
  5. Branding and advertising
  6. Academic skills for honours-level assessment
  7. Global consumer cultures
  8. The culture industry (I): Perspectives from the left
  9. The good life? Perspectives from the right
  10. Consumer culture and the media
    Term 2
  11. "I buy, therefore I am"
  12. Inconspicuous consumption: Eating, drinking and everyday practices
  13. Altered states: Intoxication
  14. The C20 consumer society: American Psycho
  15. "Eating the Other": Consuming cultures
  16. The culture industry (II): Collection and curation
  17. Landscapes of consumption
  18. The C21 consumer society: UK grime
  19. Review: Consumptive futures?
  20. Presentations
    Term 3
  21. Research project guidance and peer review
  22. Research project guidance
Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of historical, sociological and cultural theorisations of consumption, and critically assess a range of frameworks and methodologies.
  • Analyse the language of consumption, and representations and interventions in literature, visual culture and music.
  • Critically consider notions of use, value, waste and decay in relation to consumption.
  • Explore problems and generate well-informed responses to a wide range of issues relating to consumption.
  • Demonstrate advanced cognitive skills such as critical analysis, source-text analysis, a range of research methods, and oral and written communication skills.
  • Demonstrate meta-cognitive skills such as: planning how to approach a learning task and identifying the appropriate strategies to solve a problem.
  • Demonstrate the ability to use methodologies and perspectives from a range of disciplines, such as sociology, visual cultures, history, English studies, space studies, celebrity studies and cultural studies to analyse a range of sources in cultural and historical perspective.
Research element

Seminar preparation includes guided independent research.
All assessments are research-focused.
The final assessment (research project) asks students to think holistically about the research process and make decisions about content, methodology and output; this acts as "light-touch" preparation for the final-year dissertation.
Support for the final assessment (research project) includes a guided peer review session, in which students present their work-in-progress to the group and offer/receive constructive feedback.


This is a core module on the BA in Liberal Arts degree programmme, which offers a unique trans- and interdisciplinary learning experience for breadth and depth of knowledge.

This module is not subject-specific. Instead, it is issue-focused and draws from a range of disciplinary perspectives, including (but not limited to): space studies, cultural geography, sociology, politics, psychology, marketing, literary studies, cultural studies and history.


The module includes one week that focuses specifically on global consumer cultures.
Other weeks include examples and case studies from different global regions.
Assessment 1 (text-response paper) includes source options from different global regions.
As students are co-producers of knowledge (i.e. some seminar preparation time is dedicated to mandatory independent research), they may choose to explore scholarship, ideas and examples from different global regions.

Subject specific skills

Primary source analysis: e.g. through the analysis of literary texts, film, music, statistics, advertisements connected to the theme of consumption
Secondary source analysis: e.g. through criticism, scholarship and theoretical frameworks for consumption studies
Understanding of evolving field of interdisciplinary consumption studies
Range of qualitative research methods, potentially including (but not limited to) archival methodologies, interview methodologies, surveys, and text responses

Transferable skills

Independent research; through seminar preparation and assessments
Communication of knowledge and teaching skills; through weekly problem-based learning group activity
Argument development; through weekly problem-based learning group activity and assessments
Interdisciplinary knowledge-production and synthesis of knowledge; through weekly problem-based learning group activity and assessments
Development of an argument; through weekly problem-based learning group activity and assessments
Presentation skills; through weekly problem-based learning group activity and assessments
Oral and written communication skills; through weekly problem-based learning group activity and assessments
Problem-solving skills; through independent research and weekly problem-based learning group activity
Project management skills; through final assessment (research project)

Study time

Type Required Optional
Seminars 20 sessions of 2 hours (13%)
Project supervision 2 sessions of 2 hours (1%)
Practical classes (0%)
External visits (0%) 1 session of 6 hours
Private study 70 hours (23%)
Assessment 186 hours (62%)
Total 300 hours
Private study description

Reading, research, preparation for seminars


Category Description Funded by Cost to student
Books and learning materials

Depending on current streaming and availability, students may need to rent the film American Psycho. The Library has a copy on DVD but most students no longer own technology for viewing DVDs.

Field trips, placements and study abroad

Field visit in Week 16 to the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford. The visit itself is free, but if students are able to afford it they asked to cover the cost of public transport. However, department funding is available for any student who feels that they can't afford it (no questions asked). Cost of rail fare in academic year 2021/22 was £13.50 with student railcard and £20.80 without.


You do not need to pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group A4
Weighting Study time
Text response (1500 words) 20% 33 hours

Students critically analyse a primary source (e.g. an advertisement, a brand, a commodity, or a creative text)

Site analysis (1500 words) 20% 33 hours

Students critically analyse a site/landscape of cultural or heritage consumption

Media production (20 min, group project) 15% 46 hours

Media production (e.g. video essay/podcast) responding to, evaluating and analysing one theoretical framework encountered on the module

Research Project (3000 words or equivalent output) 45% 74 hours

Mini research project on an aspect of consumption; students must make decisions about content, methodology and output

Feedback on assessment

Feedback for all components will be provided in writing through Tabula. Students will be encouraged to make use of advice and feedback hours to discuss and reflect on feedback received.


This module is Core for:

  • Year 2 of UVCA-LA99 Undergraduate Liberal Arts