module specification

SJ5054 - The Short Story (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title The Short Story
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass)
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   Assignment 1
Coursework 50%   Assignment 2
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Monday Afternoon

Module summary

In The Short Story students explore the short story as a popular contemporary form. Rooted in oral story telling, contemporary short stories are forms of entertainment and literary texts. Classically, the short story is to be read in one sitting and so can focus the reader on specific moments in time, intimate character portrayal and brisk narrative exposition. This module will engage with many forms and cultural examples of short stories and encourage students to consider their own reading and experience as they develop their skills in analysing short stories. Students will be offered a range of assessment options fostering engagement with the short story. The module is taught by weekly two hour sessions for fifteen weeks comprising lectures and seminar or workshop, and assessed by essay or reflective and critical writing.

Module aims

The Short Story: Theory and Practice aims to:
• familiarize students with a range of cultural, historical, theorized and stylistic approaches to reading short stories
• identify significant literary and theoretical aspects of contemporary short stories
• develop a variety of techniques for the analysing of short stories
• establish connections between different media, locations and disciplines in writing and developing short stories, for example:
o reviews of short stories and short story collections
o essays about short stories and short story collections


Short stories draw on tradition and innovation at the level of form and content. The syllabus will reflect the historical and cultural diversity of the short story and of short story collections. Students will study anthologies and the structural principles of selection by which they operate, as well as gendered, themed and genre traditions. The course will entail some consideration of historical developments in short stories; the cultural concerns of oral stories and the literary forms that reflect this, the changing emphases  between narrative and character in short stories, modernism’s shift to slice of life and internal psychological focus, postmodernism’s emphasis on language and narrative fragmentation.
Writers studied may include some of the following: Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de Maupassant, O.Henry, Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, Thomas King, Lorrie Moore, Roberto Bolano, Kurt Vonnegut, Grace Paley, Margaret Atwood, Peter Carey, Alice Walker, Donald Barthelme, Alice Walker, Mahasweta Devi, Annie Proulx, Raymond Carver, Albert Wendt, Patricia Grace, James Kelman, and Alice Munro.  

Learning and teaching

This module will be taught in weekly sessions, which will combine lectures, close reading, seminar discussion, small group activities and some film viewing. Class teaching will be supported by tutorials and guided blended (online) learning. Enhancement of class sessions by fieldwork outside the university environment may be included. The course guide will be available on Weblearn, as will other resources supporting the course. Students will be expected to complete tasks prior to classes, including reading set texts, in order that they can make a meaningful contribution to classes. 

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

• identify and understand a range of short fictions from various locations, differing historical periods and different styles
• analyze contemporary English language short stories and stories in translation in terms of context, close reading, linguistic range, cultural specificity and narrative strategies
• demonstrate a critical engagement with contemporary short stories
• develop a range of practical skills necessary for analysing short fiction
• contribute informed responses to group work, close reading and general discussion
• discuss short stories in relation to some other forms of cultural production

Assessment strategy

Students will be assessed via the following:

• 1750 word critical essays on set questions about short stories (50%)
• A 1750 word review of a short story or a collection of short stories OR a 1000 word short story with a 750 word commentary (50%)

Students will be expected to show in assignments an understanding of short story forms, their history and how this is connected to theme, cultural and social conditions, language and location. 

Assessment total 3500 words.


Dir. Altman, Robert Short Cuts 1993
Bayley, John. The Short Story: Henry James to Elizabeth Bowen Brighton: Harvester, 1988
Carver, Raymond Short Cuts Harvill Press, 1994
Crane, Milton ed. Fifty Great Short Stories Bantam Classics, 2000
Halpern, Daniel  The Penguin book of international short stories London : Penguin, 1989
Lee, Ang dir. Brokeback Mountain 2006
Levy, Andrew The Culture and Commerce of the American Short Story
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993
Neal, Robert Wilson Short Stories in the Making Electron Classics, 2005
Poe, Edgar Allan ed. Pinching, David Tales and poems of Edgar Allan Poe London : CRW, 2004
Proulx, Annie Close Range Harvill Press, 1994
Reid, Ian. The Short Story London: Methuen, 1977
Shaw, Valerie. The Short Story: A Critical Introduction London: Longman, 1983