MA Creative Writing

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Forms of Writing I

Unit code ENGL70041
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Forms of Writing I is designed to bridge the gap between creative writing and narrative theory. Over the twelve weeks of the course we will learn about and use key narratological ideas – such as focalisation, anachrony, the singulative and the iterative, diegesis and mimesis – in order to better understand, describe and evaluate the particular technical choices that fiction writers make. In order to do this, we will read a selection of literary works from Madame Bovary onwards alongside the narrative theories of Gerard Genette, Mieke Bal, Wayne Booth, Tzvetan Todorov, and others.


The course will be divided into three sections. The first will look at questions of temporality, order, rhythm and frequency; the second at focalisation, point of view and narrative reliability; the third will address plot. Throughout the semester, you will be encouraged to think about the relationships between narrative form and theme in the works we look at and to develop a more precise and nuanced awareness of the formal choices you make in your own work.



When sourcing your readings, please be sure to locate the editions specified – you’ll need to refer quickly in class to particular page numbers, and having the same edition as the rest of the group will help the seminar run smoothly.


If you choose to use an e-book version of a text, make sure it’s the specified edition, and please use a device which will allow you to easily find a particular page without scrolling (ie, a Kindle or similar, rather than a phone).


Any readings given in a bold typeface, you’ll need to source yourself. Readings given in a regular typeface will be available to you on Blackboard as pdfs.



To explore and analyse, through close readings of representative novels and stories, a selection of the most influential and significant narrative techniques employed by novelists and short story writers from the nineteenth century to the present day

To investigate the relationship between narrative form and thematic content.

To consider the factors which influence writers to choose one narrative form over another and the consequences of those choices.

To develop students' understanding of the history of narrative forms, and in particular the formal history of the novel.

To develop students' writing skills, and their ability to construct a detailed and coherent written argument.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course unit successful students will have demonstrated:

A knowledge and understanding of some of the most important narrative techniques employed by fiction writers from the nineteenth century onwards

An ability to analyse and compare those techniques with close reference to specific examples of their usage.

A broad understanding of the history of narrative form, and a more detailed understanding of the formal history of the novel.

An awareness of the reasons why writers choose one form over another and of the consequences of those choices

An ability to construct a clear and effective written argument.




Assessment methods

Essay 100%


Recommended reading

Secondary reading


Should you wish to extend your reading around narratology, here are some suggested titles.


Eric Auerbach, Mimesis (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1953)

Mieke Bal, Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative 2nd edition (Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 1997)

Roland Barthes, Image, Music, Text (London: Fontana, 1977)

Wayne C. Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction (Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1961)

Peter Brooks, Reading For The Plot (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard, 1992)

David Dowling, Mrs Dalloway: Mapping Streams of Consciousness (Boston: Twayne, 1991)

Joseph Flora, Ernest Hemingway: A Study of the Short Fiction (Boston: Twayne, 1989)

Monika Fludernik, An Introduction to Narratology (London: Routledge, 2008)

Dewey Ganzel, ‘What the Letter Said: Fact and Inference in The Good Soldier’, Journal of Modern Literature: 11.2 (1984 July), pp. 277-290.

Gerard Genette, Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method (Ithaca: Cornell, 1980)

James Phelan, Living To Tell About It: A Rhetoric and Ethics of Character Narration (Ithaca: Cornell, 2004)

H. Porter Abbott, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (Cambridge: CUP, 2008)

Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics (London: Methuen, 1983)

Robert Scholes ed. Approaches to the Novel (Scranton: Chandler, 1966)

Paul Smith, New Essays on Hemingway’s Short Fiction (Cambridge: CUP, 1998)

Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader (London: Vintage, 2003)


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 267

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Beth Underdown Unit coordinator

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