MA/PGDip Gender, Sexuality and Culture

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Literature and the Contemporary Literary Industry

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
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)?


Available on which programme(s)? 

MA Modern and Contemporary Literature, MA Creative Writing, MA English and American Studies 

Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)? 

Subject to availability (the course is capped at 40 students), the module is open to MA GSC students. 

Teaching and learning methods

 One three-hour seminar per week, plus optional essay tutorial, and guidance during published office hours. 


Use of Blackboard: 

Class handouts, extracts from critical material, relevant journal articles, readings lists and information on assessment, plus other course materials will all be posted on Blackboard. 

Knowledge and understanding

Show a developed knowledge and understanding of literature of the period 2000 to the present, its formal and stylistic diversity, its critical reception, and the contexts of its production and reception, along with some knowledge of critical/theoretical discourse of this period. 

Intellectual skills

Demonstrate skills of close reading and analysis of literary texts, alongside skills of appropriate research and critical argument. 

Practical skills

Locate and employ library and web-based materials in support of a developed critical argument, plan a project and meet a deadline. 


Transferable skills and personal qualities

Demonstrate enhanced verbal and written communication skills, with a view to clarity, concision and reasoned argument, and work well both independently (in the preparation of the assessment) and in groups (in class-based discussion exercises). 

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods

Feedback method  

Formative or Summative 

Essay tutorial – feedback on essay plan 


Written essay feedback 


Recommended reading

John Banville, The Sea (2005) 

Zadie Smith, On Beauty (2005) 

Ian McEwan, Saturday (2005) 

Selected short stories by Mariana Enriquez, Camilla Grudova, Carmen Maria Machado, Joanna Walsh, and Eley Williams. 

Ben Lerner, 10.04 (2014) 

Rachel Cusk, Outline (2014) 

Bernadine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other (2019) 

and others tbc. 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 267

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Kaye Mitchell Unit coordinator

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