module specification

SJ7109 - Creative Nonfiction (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Creative Nonfiction
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass)
Total study hours 200
164 hours Guided independent study
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 100%   Portfolio of two or three pieces of creative nonfiction, plus reflective commentary, 4000 words
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Thursday Morning

Module summary

This module explores creative nonfiction, focusing on researching and writing different kinds of narrative such as history, life writing (biography and memoir), travel writing, science writing, sports writing, nature writing, reportage and literary journalism. Students will study some leading examples of the genre. They will learn to identify suitable stories and apply techniques from both creative writing and long-form journalism to bring them to life. They will develop an understanding of the market for creative nonfiction and the ethical issues that arise, along with an awareness of the history and cultural context of the form, and emerging new genres.

Module aims

The main aims of the module are:

  • to develop a critical awareness of the creative processes and research techniques involved in a range of narrative nonfiction forms
  • to enable students to develop a familiarity with leading and recent examples of the genre
  • to enable students to identify stories appropriate to the creative nonfiction form
  • to enable students to transform research into creative nonfiction
  • to enable students to understand the ethical and legal implications of writing about other people and to take account of these in their output
  • to provide students with the means to enhance their writing skills through advanced writing workshop activities
  • to extend students' understanding of the different markets and outlets for creative nonfiction and develop the employability of their writing accordingly


There are four main strands to this module:

  • critical reading, analysis and discussion to identify subject-matter and potential readerships of creative nonfiction
  • workshop activity devising, planning and writing creative nonfiction
  • research, including such empirical work as interviews and field visits, to support the origination of creative nonfiction
  • critical reading, analysis and discussion of published samples of creative nonfiction and students' own work

While students will be able to write to their strengths, allowing for self-selection of the specific type of creative nonfiction and subject, they will be required to develop, plan, research and write two to three pieces of creative nonfiction with different orientations, eg travel writing and science writing.

Learning and teaching

The module is delivered in a three-hour workshop setting. Most sessions will involve students analysing, devising ideas for, planning, researching and writing creative nonfiction. Other elements will include: critical appraisal of published examples of creative nonfiction; sharing and mutual critical support of each other's work in pairs, small groups and with the class as a whole; discussion of potential outlets and markets for creative nonfiction, especially in London; individual research activity in the Learning Centre, including the appropriate use of ITC. Students will be expected to spend the requisite amount of out-of-class individual effort on all the above activities as well as conduct empirical research or field visits.

Learning outcomes

On completing this module students will:

  • be able to identify the main characteristics of narrative nonfiction
  • have developed their critical awareness of the creative processes and research techniques involved in the production of their own and others' creative nonfiction
  • have acquired enhanced and extended writing skills, with the ability to devise attractive and original pieces of creative nonfiction, with a good knowledge of how to structure them and write to length
  • have acquired advanced knowledge of the different print and multimedia platforms and markets for creative nonfiction, and the different kinds of creative nonfiction that they require
  • have developed the ability to reflect analytically upon creative nonfiction as a genre

Assessment strategy

Formal assessment will be based on a portfolio consisting of a) two or three pieces of creative nonfiction with different orientations; b) a reflective and analytical commentary (750-1000 words), with appropriate evidence and reference to critical reading, on the planning and research involved in the development and writing of one of the submitted pieces of creative nonfiction - creative nonfiction and commentary together totalling 4000 words. The commentary needs to be analytic, drawing on examples of the genre published in print or online/e-book, as well as academic texts about creative nonfiction.


Capote, T. 1965. In Cold Blood. London: Penguin
Dee, T. 2010. The Running Sky: A Bird-Watching Life. London: Vintage
De Waal, E. 2010. The Hare with Amber Eyes. London: Vintage
Dyer, G. 2015. 'Based on a true story': the fine line between fact and fiction, The Observer, 6.12.15 [Available at:]
Eggers, D. 2000. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. London: Picador
Gavron, J. 2015 A woman on the edge of time. London: Scribe
George, D. 2005. Travel Writing. London: Lonely Planet
Gutkind, L. 1997. The Art of Creative Nonfiction. New York: John Wiley
Hornby, N. 2005. Fever Pitch. London: Penguin
Jack, I. 2006. The Granta Book of Reportage. London: Granta
Knausgaard, K. 2013. My Struggle, Book 1: A Death in the Family. London: Vintage
Lanham, R. 2006. The Longman Guide to Revising Prose. London: Pearson
Lyon, E. 2003. Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write. New York: G.P Putnam's Sons
Macdonald, H. 2014. H is for Hawk. London: Jonathan Cape
Marques, S., 2015. Now and at the hour of our death. Transl. Julia Sanchez. London: And Other Stories
Masters, A. 2006. Stuart: A Life Backwards. London: Harper Perennial
McGinniss, J. 2007 The Miracle of Castel di Sangro. London: Sphere
Orwell, G. 1937. The Road to Wigan Pier. London: Penguin
Roorbach, B. 2008. Writing Life Stories. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books
Sebald, W.G., 2002. The Emigrants. Transl. Michael Hulse. LOndon: Vintage
Summerscale, K. 2009. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: or the Murder at Road Hill House. London: Bloomsbury