module specification

SJ5060 - The Craft of Fiction (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title The Craft of Fiction
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
105 hours Guided independent study
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 30%   1500 word portfolio
Coursework 50%   2500 word short story and commentary
Seminar 20%   Seminar performance (attendance, preparation, presentation, and contribution)
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Wednesday Morning

Module summary

This module explores diverse approaches to writing fiction, and develops the student’s awareness and understanding of the form, as both entertainment and literary texts. Students will learn the literary developments in contemporary fiction, engaging primarily with the short story in its various forms, as well as learn techniques and approaches necessary for creating their own. Students will also learn to locate their own creative practice of fiction in wider literary, historical and social contexts, as well as analyse individual texts. The module will encourage students to develop their own creative practice in context of contemporary literary as well as popular fiction.

Prior learning requirements

Completion of Level 4 modules

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • Familiarize students with a range of cultural, historical, theorized and stylistic approaches to both reading and writing fiction
  • Identify significant literary, stylistic and theoretical aspects of contemporary fiction, focusing especially on the short story
  • Introduce a variety of techniques for the writing and editing fiction
  • Extend knowledge of the relationship between fiction and cultural contexts
  • Help students develop a distinctive voice and style within the parameters of the form
  • Explore the practical and ethical issues related to producing fiction


This module will develop a wider understanding of the ways in which fiction and culture interact and explore the writer’s location in this interaction. This will involve explorations of fiction through close readings as well as exercises in evoking character, location, themes and plots. The module will address the notion of “research” in the broadest sense, harnessed in the interest of creating plausible and influential contexts for themes, events and relationships. Students will be able to become more conscious about the choices they make in creating their own fictional worlds, and their own responses to a variety of ethical and representational issues. In addition, they will develop appropriate techniques, exploring the relationship between prose narrative and authorial point(s) of view

The syllabus will reflect the historical and cultural diversity of the form. The module 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 fictions, 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 by a programme of weekly sessions for each of the fifteen weeks. The sessions will combine lectures, writing practice, seminar discussion, research tasks, small group activities and some film viewing. The module will incorporate guest speakers when appropriate and may include guided visits to theatre, galleries and/or specific libraries. Independent learning will include guided reading, weekly research and writing tasks, set texts and preparation for seminars. The module will be supported by a web-learn site containing lecture notes, bibliographies, web links and set texts.  Students will be encouraged to carry out independent research and incorporate it critically into their writings. Employability skills are embedded into the module as part of visits to galleries and libraries, discussions with guest speakers and writing practitioners, and in the development of seminar contribution and presentation skills, as well as disciplined research and publishing concerns.

Learning outcomes

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

  • Identify and understand fictions from various locations, differing historical periods and different styles
  • Analyze contemporary English language fiction, and fiction in translation in terms of context, close reading, linguistic range, cultural specificity and narrative strategies
  • Demonstrate a creative and critical engagement with contemporary fiction
  • Incorporate research and acquired knowledge into their own fiction
  • Experiment and develop their writing voice and style within the parameters of the form

Assessment strategy

● Formative assessment will comprise weekly oral and written exercises both creative and critical, contribution to seminars and discussions.
● Summative assessment will comprise of written presentations: creative writing demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the genre; reflective writing on technical, stylistic, literary and ethical issues specific to fiction and their impact on students’ creative practice.


Anderson, Linda Creative Writing  Milton Keynes, Routledge, 2006
Bailey, Tom On writing short stories  New York ; Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2000
Bayley, John. The Short Story: Henry James to Elizabeth Bowen Brighton: Harvester, 1988
Booker, Christopher The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories (Continuum 2005)
Campbell, Joseph, The Hero With a Thousand Faces (New World Library, 2012)
Carver, Raymond Short Cuts Harvill Press, 1994
Crane, Milton ed. Fifty Great Short Stories Bantam Classics, 2000
Cox, Ailsa Writing Short Stories Routledge, 2005
Galton, Della How to write and sell short stories Accent, 2008
Halpern, Daniel  The Penguin book of international short stories London : Penguin, 1989
Levy, Andrew The Culture and Commerce of the American Short Story
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993
Lodge, David The Art of Fiction, Vintage 2011 (pdf:
Neal, Robert Wilson Short Stories in the Making Electron Classics, 2005
Oates, Joyce Carol (editor), The Oxford Book of American Short Stories Oxford 2004
Phillips, William H Writing short stories : the most practical guide
Syracuse, N.Y. : Syracuse University Press, 2 
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
Seely, John  Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation (Oxford University Press, 2009)
Shaw, Valerie. The Short Story: A Critical Introduction London: Longman, 1983
Strunk, William Jr, The Elements of Style (Longman, 1999)
Truss, Lynn, Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Fourth Estate, 2009)