REALISM AND ITS CRITICS - 2018/9

Module code: ELIM028

Module Overview

This is a Level 7 optional module for Creative Writing. ‘By the outbreak of the First World War’ claimed the critic and novelist B.S. Johnson in 1973, the act of writing novels in the ‘nineteenth century narrative’ mode had already become ‘anachronistic, invalid, irrelevant, and perverse’: ‘the form was finished, worn out, exhausted, and everything that could be done with it had been done too many times already.’ Nevertheless, it is precisely this ‘nineteenth century’ narrative mode which continues to dominate the ways in which fictional prose is written, read and discussed in the Twenty-First century - not least in Creative Writing workshops and seminars. This module seeks a fuller understanding of what Johnson’s claims might mean for contemporary creative writers and their fictional practice. Do these claims ring truer today than ever, or is it Johnson’s own position which now seems anachronistic and perverse? Students will be expected to produce their own creative work both in class and outside it, engaging creatively with the critical issues at stake in this module.

Module provider

School of Literature and Languages

Module Leader

VLITOS PM Dr (Lit & Langs)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

JACs code: Q323

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

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

None

Module content

The following areas are indicative of topics to be covered:

 


The relationship between the history of ‘realism’ and the history of the novel
Shifting definitions of ‘experimental’, ‘avant-garde’, ‘metafictional’ and ‘postmodern’ writing.
What is literary innovation? What is a literary tradition?
How writers and critics influence and inform each other
The literary novel and the literary marketplace
Key critics to be examined include Erich Auerbach on mimesis, Alain Robbe-Grillet on the ‘obsolete notions’ of ‘character’, ‘story’ and ‘atmosphere’, Roland Barthes on ‘the reality effect’, B.S. Johnson on the ‘neo-Dickensian’ novel, James Wood on ‘Hysterical Realism’.
Key novels to be examined are likely to include Madame Bovary, Ulysses, Atonement, Infinite Jest, The Erasers, Albert Angelo, The Comforters and The Atrocity Exhibition.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Creative Writing Portfolio 100

Alternative Assessment

N/A

Assessment Strategy

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


the development in their creative writing skills in prose fiction and/or poetry
their understanding of the context of their work in historical and cultural terms, as well as in terms of other creative writing in the field
their development of research and writing skills and, specifically, an understanding of matters relating to the dissemination of research and/or publishing
productive and informed critical reflection on both the creative process itself and the finished work that has resulted from it


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

End of semester Creative Writing Portfolio (2500 words creative prose or equivalent for poetry submissions, plus 500 words of self-reflective critical commentary) (100%)

Formative assessment and feedback

Verbal feedback in class, written and/or verbal feedback on one piece of writing (maximum of 1000 words).

Two dedicated workshop sessions (weeks seven and eleven) in which all students precirculate and receive detailed peer and tutor feedback on a sample of written work. Students also undertake weekly exercises and receive peer and tutor feedback on these in class.

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.

Module aims

  • Explore conflicting definitions of ‘realism' in prose fiction in relation to writers from Flaubert and Joyce to Ian McEwan and David Foster Wallace via Alain Robbe-Grillet, B.S. Johnson,  Muriel Spark, J.G. Ballard and other novelists both ‘mainstream’ and ‘experimental’
  • Examine what it means to categorise writers as ‘mainstream', ‘experimental’, ‘avant-garde’, ‘metafictional’, ‘neo-Dickensian’, ‘traditional’ and/or ‘postmodernist’. How are these categories constructed, and what are their theoretical and conceptual underpinnings? 
  • Examine in detail the works of writers who have been categorised in all these ways, exploring the ways in which theoretical and critical positions are reflected in their work (and vice versa) – and how the work of these writers engages formally in dialogue and debate with the fictional practice of others
  • Explore how the writers and critics under examination have theorised the rise, development (and fall) of literary modes – and how this has influenced their own creative practice
  • Introduce students to the key techniques of literary ‘realism' and common ‘experimental’, ‘modernist’, ‘postmodernist’ and ‘avant-garde’ devices, tropes and writing techniques – and to encourage them to experiment with producing work which deploys these techniques
  • Encourage students to explore different modes of fictional writing and to reflect more fully on where their creative practice might locate itself in relation to the literary, historical and theoretical contexts and debates under discussion

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Produce creative work which engages thoughtfully and productively with questions of realism and literary tradition – and be able to reflect upon this work in a critically-informed manner KCP
002 Locate their work critically in relation to the key debates explored in this module KC
003 Articulate what is at stake in different categorisations of literary fiction – and reflect fruitfully on how such categories are constructed KC
004 Understand the history of a range of different means of producing texts – from automatic writing to cut-ups and beyond. Students will be encouraged to experiment with and reflect upon such writing techniques in workshops KCP
005 Deploy a wider range of literary techniques, tropes and devices, in a theoretically and historically informed way KCPT
006 Articulate and critique ideas and to construct complex arguments, both in class discussions – and to engage with such arguments in their creative writing and critical commentary on it KCPT
007 Consider in a more informed manner possible routes to publication for their work and make them aware of possible careers as arts professionals P

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Overall student workload

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:


Hone and develop students’ writing skills in prose fiction and/or poetry by developing articulation and critiquing skills in relation to ideas and constructing complex arguments, both in class discussions, and through an engagement with such arguments in their creative writing and critical commentary on it
Assist students in locating their work in historical and cultural contexts by assisting them in locating their work critically in relation to the key debates explored in this module, and in developing an understanding of the history of a range of different means of producing texts, from automatic writing to cut-ups and beyond. Students will be encouraged to experiment with and reflect upon such writing techniques in workshops
Equip students with the research and writing skills they will need to produce both critically informed prose or poetry and creative criticism by helping them gain familiarity with a wide range of literary techniques, tropes and devices, in a theoretically and historically informed way
Facilitate in students productive reflection on both the creative process itself and the finished work that has resulted from it by assisting them in producing creative work which engages thoughtfully and productively with questions of realism and literary tradition, and in being able to reflect upon this work in a critically-informed manner, and articulating what is at stake in different categorisations of literary fiction, and reflecting fruitfully on how such categories are constructed


The learning and teaching methods include:

 

2 hour seminar x 11 weeks. Classes will take the form of workshops; students are expected to read extensively outside classes and to undertake preparatory work in advance for workshops.

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

Reading list for REALISM AND ITS CRITICS :

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Creative Writing MA 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
English Literature MA 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Creative Writing MFA 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

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 2018/9 academic year.