MUS31330 Post-Truth, Politics & Music

Academic Year 2021/2022

In 2016 both the Brexit campaign in the UK and the US elections have brought the notion of a new age of “post-truth” into sharp focus. Alongside it “alternative facts”, “fake news”, "cancel culture" and similar terms have become more and more commonplace. Expertise appears to be discredited, gut feeling at least as important as facts, and facts themselves no longer valid and reliable. How and why did we get to this point, are there ways out of it, and has it really become impossible to distinguish between facts and their different interpretations?
This module will track philosophical, sociological and political concepts that shaped today’s competing world views, beginning with the enlightenment. The module’s core hypothesis is that since the late nineteenth century the focus of academic attention shifted more and more from the observation of the world around us (“realism”) to the way in which our societal and individual predispositions, the unconscious part of our brain and our emotions influence how we perceive and interpret that world. We will follow this trajectory starting with Nietzsche via Freud’s psychoanalysis and Popper and Kuhn’s theories of scientific progress up to poststructuralist and postmodern positions which appear to aid a complete relativism in which “anything goes”. The module will conclude with recent pushbacks against these tendencies, including calls for a “new realism” and neuro-scientific findings regarding the interaction of perception and emotion. All of these concepts will be interrogated with an eye on how they relate to issues of morality and fairness – concepts that are conspicuously absent among post-truthers and bullshitters. Finally we will look at the significant impact of the internet on our behaviour and our ways to gain and assess information.
In the first class of each week we will discuss a philosophical or sociological concept while looking at how it is embodied by a piece of music – usually an opera – in the second hour (after all, I'm a music lecturer). Room will be given to questions raised by students with regard to issues they are particularly concerned about.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Students will enhance their ability to
- identify and evaluate facts as opposed to opinions/interpretations
- recognise what lies behind individual positions in public discourses
- reassess the values of rational thinking and emotional engagement in relation to different types of discursive situations
- gain a deepened understanding of a range of intellectual concepts such as enlightened rationality, positivism, objectivity, relativism, poststructuralism, postmodernism, post-truth, bullshit and others
- gain insights into how music is shaped by societal forces and can in turn shape it on occasion
- understand the way in which the internet has changed our ways to access and process information, our behaviour in relation to others in quasi-anonymous contexts, and how we are constantly manipulated by it

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
- lectures
- reflective learning
- critical writing
- debates
- case-based learning
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
MUS20620 - Post-Truth, Politics & Music

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Group Project: The group project will develop a strategy to address one of three issues:
- polarisation of our society
- imbalance between emotion and reason
- the importance of truth in an age of relativism
Week 11 n/a Graded No


Journal: Reflective journal, with brief entries to be made after each class in order to consider how its content relates to the student's own experiences. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Formative feedback will be given on entries for the first two weeks of the reflective journal. Group feedback will be given after the two MCQ tests while individual feedback will be given for the final versions of the reflective journal and for the essay.