MA Creative Writing / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Contemporary Fiction

Course unit fact file
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
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

Week 1: John Banville, The Sea (2005) 

Week 2: Zadie Smith, On Beauty (2005) 

Week 3: Ian McEwan, Saturday (2005) 

Week 4: Selected short stories by Mariana Enriquez, Camilla Grudova, and Carmen Maria Machado 

Week 5: Selected short stories by Isabel Waidner, Joanna Walsh, and Eley Williams 

Week 6: Chus Pato and Erin Moure, Secession/Insecession (2014) 

Excerpts from Nicole Brossard, Museum of Bone and Water (2021) 

Week 7: Erin Moure, The Unmemntioable (2012) 

Week 8: Ben Lerner, 10.04 (2014) 


Week 9: Rachel Cusk, Outline (2014) 

Week 10: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (2013) 

Week 11: Bernadine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other (2019) 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 267

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