module specification

SJ5000 - Genre Fiction (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Genre Fiction
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass)
Total study hours 300
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
219 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Group Presentation 10%   15-minute group seminar presentation
Coursework 30%   1500-word creative/critical written assignment
Coursework 60%   3000-word portfolio of creative/critical written assignments
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Thursday Afternoon

Module summary

Genre Fiction explores a range of fictional genres. From crime and gothic horror to science fiction and romantic comedy, a well-established range of narrative genres dominates the production of popular fiction for both page and screen. Often dismissed as escapist entertainment for the masses, genre fiction may also be considered a literature of subversion and resistance in its expression of transgressive desires and imagination of alternative realities. This module studies the historical development, interplay, techniques, conventions and audiences of some major types of genre fiction from the eighteenth century to the present day. The module will be taught via a programme of weekly sessions supplemented by tutorial and online support. As well as developing skills of literary analysis, students will have the opportunity to practise the role of creative producer and critical reviewer by producing a variety of written coursework. Students will also make a short group seminar presentation on a genre text or series of their choice.

Module aims

This module aims to
• examine a range of popular narrative genres across prose fiction;
• consider the importance of these genres in contemporary cultural production more broadly, particularly in film and television;
• develop a variety of critical approaches to analysing specific genre texts;
• encourage students to reappraise their personal relationship to popular culture, as consumer, fan, critic, and creative producer;
• employ a range of critical and practical skills required to develop and write genre fiction.


The syllabus will be organised into a sequence of blocks on specific narrative genres, typically Gothic horror and crime; science fiction and fantasy; romantic and historical fiction. This range may vary from year to year depending on tutor expertise, and students will be encouraged to nominate additional genres via their group seminar presentation. Each major genre will be studied through a representative selection of primary texts considered thematically, formally or historically so as to show both the distinctiveness of different genres and the inter-relationship between them. The module will provide a broad chronological account of the genres’ development from their literary origins to contemporary incarnations on page and screen, for example in film, television drama, comic books and videogames. Topics considered might include: genre fiction as a response to political crisis, modernity, technological change and urbanisation; deviance and normalisation in gender roles and sexuality; tropes and formulae; fan culture and media franchising; genre evolution and hybridity.  Students will have the opportunity to specialise in seminar-workshops focussing on the creation of genre fiction and on development of critical understanding of its theory and practice.


Learning and teaching

The module will be taught via a programme of weekly sessions comprising lectures (including guest speakers, where possible) and seminar-workshops supported by guided blended learning and tutorials. Independent study will support and extend in-class learning and focus on reading of primary and secondary texts as well as assignment tasks. Activities to enhance classroom time will typically include field trips to relevant London venues, such as specialist bookshops; use of online discussion forums; and collaborative working on the group presentation. Students will be able to pursue specialist interests in either creative writing or literary criticism both inside and outside the class through seminars, guided research and work on assignments. Over the course of the module, students will be expected to reflect on their creative-critical relationship to genre fiction, especially through tutor and peer feedback on their written coursework and via some of the assignments, and on the experience of participating in the group presentation.


Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to
1. explain the history and operation of some popular narrative genres including their role in shaping the relationship between literature and other media;
2. critically analyse particular genre fictions in terms of their techniques and ideology;
3. present complex ideas in a variety of modes and registers;
4. produce written and oral presentations of their ideas.

Assessment strategy

a. Students will submit written coursework at the end of the first term and at the end of the module. These assignments will allow English Literature students to submit exclusively literary critical essays and Creative Writing students to submit primarily creative work. However, students may also submit some assignments outside of their major discipline if they wish. All students will be required to show engagement with multiple genres studied in the module. For formative assessment purposes, students will be expected to submit draft coursework during the academic year, for tutor feedback.

b. Each student will also contribute to a group seminar presentation. This assessment will enable the group to nominate a genre fiction text or series of their choice, which they will then introduce to the class and analyse with reference to concepts and texts studied in the main syllabus. A schedule for presentations and allocation of students to groups will be arranged at the beginning of the module; each student will present once, in either the Autumn, Spring or Summer term.


Primary texts will include a wide range of canonical and contemporary literary works. Indicative secondary reading:
Bloom, C, Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900, 2nd ed., Palgrave Macmillan, 2008
Botting, F, Gothic Romanced: Consumption, Gender and Technology in Contemporary Fictions, London: Routledge, 2008
Dowd, G, Stevenson, L and Strong, J (eds), Genre Matters: Essays in Theory and Criticism, Bristol: Intellect, 2006
Frow, J, Genre, London: Routledge, 2006
Knight, S, Crime Fiction, 1800-2000: Detection, Death, Diversity, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004
Roberts, A, The History of Science Fiction, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006
Silverblatt, A, Genre Studies in Mass Media: A Handbook, London: M E Sharpe, 2007
Spooner, C & McEvoy, E, The Routledge Companion to Gothic, London: Routledge, 2007
Television Tropes and Idioms Wiki, <>
Tuttle, L, Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2nd ed., London: A & C Black, 2005
Walker, K, A Straightforward Guide to Writing Romantic Fiction, Brighton: Straightforward, 2007
Worland, R, The Horror Film: An Introduction, Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007