REALISM AND ITS CRITICS - 2020/1
Module code: ELIM028
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.
School of Literature and Languages
VLITOS Paul (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
Prerequisites / Co-requisites
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 type||Unit of assessment||Weighting|
|Coursework||Creative Writing Portfolio||100|
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.
- 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
|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|
C - Cognitive/analytical
K - Subject knowledge
T - Transferable skills
P - Professional/Practical skills
Overall student workload
Independent Study Hours: 128
Seminar Hours: 22
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.
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 2020/1 academic year.