MA Creative Writing

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Contemporary Fiction

Unit code ENGL71212
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course focuses on a range of twenty-first century texts (including novels, short stories, and works of ‘autofiction’), and it does so with a dual focus:  


First, it focuses on contemporary literature as not just words on a page, but as (also) an industry, a scene, a set of practices, coteries, markets. We will consider the contexts of production and reception of contemporary literature and discuss questions of value and canonicity; we will consider the role of reviews, the construction of readership(s), and the impact of prize culture, and will discuss how ‘literariness’ is constructed and understood in the twenty-first century. 


Second, the course focuses on questions of genre and form. It asks questions about the formal and generic possibilities of fiction in the twenty-first century: how malleable are the boundaries between ‘literary fiction’ and ‘genre fiction’? Or between fiction and autobiography? What, if anything, can short stories do that novels cannot (and vice versa)? What are the key genre influences in recent fiction? To what extent can we think of ‘literary fiction’ as a genre (albeit one that denies its status as such)?



Assessment methods

Essay 100%


Recommended reading

John Banville, The Sea (2005)

Zadie Smith, On Beauty (2005)

Ian McEwan, Saturday (2005)

Eimear McBride, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (2013)

Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, Kintu (2014)

Selected stories by: Mariana Enriquez (from Things We Lost in the Fire), Camilla Grudova (from The Doll's Alphabet), and Carmen Maria Machado (from Her Body and Other Parties)

Selected stories by: Isabel Waidner and Mira Mattar (from Liberating the Canon), Joanna Walsh (from Worlds from the Word's End), and Eley Williams (from Attrib)

Oyinkan Braithwaite, My Sister the Serial Killer (2018)

Chibundu Onuzo, Welcome to Lagos (2017)

Ben Lerner, 10.04 (2014)

Rachel Cusk, Outline (2014)


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 267

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Kaye Mitchell Unit coordinator

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