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The Structures of Realism (EASM133)

StaffDr Ben Smith - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of this creative writing module is to familiarise you with the ongoing traditions and techniques of classical realist fiction and to enable you to create your own work. English writing from the early 1960s onwards will be used to understand the conventions and techniques which underpin a writing style which aims at a transparent rendering of life and the world. You will be encouraged to examine particular aspects of realist technique, to enlarge your own technical capacities, to evolve principles of creativity in the service of creating a realist illusion, and to create original, imitative and innovative work through an understanding of classical and developing realist approaches. The module is intended for these committed to developing their own writing. The module is based on a range of reading in different schools and traditions, but you will be encouraged to read extensively, following their own interests and exploring well beyond the set texts. You will be expected to investigate individual writers and individual schools, both classic and still evolving. Analysis of the set texts will take the form of technical analyses of the craft of writing as well as critical response. It is intended that the module will provide you with an environment of reading and response in which existing writing skills may be developed towards a professional standard. Intensive weekly writing workshops will be established to discuss your own work alongside a developing understanding of the historical and creative possibilities of realism, its unexamined conventions as well as its characteristic techniques.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of a range of realist approaches to fiction
  • 2. Demonstrate an understanding of realist conventions, including such matters as description, dialogue, point of view, form, plot and structures of characterisation
  • 3. Demonstrate an ability to analyse realist literary work according to a technical understanding and an awareness of language
  • 4. Demonstrate an ability to evolve student’s own work with reference to realist conventions
  • 5. Demonstrate an ability to evolve student’s own work with reference to realist conventions
  • 6. Demonstrate organisational skills in planning and scheduling creative work

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 7. Demonstrate an advanced and intellectually mature appreciation of formal techniques and imaginative expression in creative writing
  • 8. Present sustained and persuasive written and oral arguments concerning their own creative writing and the work of other authors, both peers and published authors, and to use such ideas relating to their own work to develop their creative ideas
  • 9. Demonstrate an ability to independently originate creative ideas and to respond positively to appropriate criticism of their work
  • 10. Demonstrate a consistent ability to create imaginative written work in a variety of forms [appropriate to genres/styles covered by the module]

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 11. Through seminar work, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 12. Through writing essays and creative work, demonstrate advanced research and bibliographic skills, an advanced and intellectually mature capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, advanced skills of creative expression, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 13. Through research, seminar work and research for written pieces, demonstrate an awareness of readership, publishability, including professional accomplishment, and an understanding of the purpose of formal structures, layouts, and techniques

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction - What is realism?
  • Translating the world
  • Structures of character
  • Dialogue and Point of View
  • Evolving dynamic narrative
  • Workshops and feedback sessions of student work and evolved principles

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Seminars
Guided Independent Study33Study group meetings and preparation
Guided Independent Study70Seminar preparation (individual)
Guided Independent Study17Reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Piece of fiction 1500-2000 words1-2, 4, 6-7, 9, 12-13Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay1000 words1-4, 6, 8, 12-13Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Weekly writing assignments 1000 words1-2, 4-13Cohort feedback via seminars

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Piece of original fiction 755000 words1-2, 4, 6-7, 9, 12-13Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Self-reflective essay252000 words1-4, 6, 8, 12-13Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Piece of original fiction Piece of original fiction 1-2, 4, 6-7, 9, 12-13Referral/Deferral period
Self-reflective essaySelf-reflective essay1-4, 6, 8, 12-13Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

You are expected to read and discuss examples of realist fiction, including:

  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Remains of the Day
  • Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend
  • Edward St Aubyn, Mother’s Milk
  • Anne Enright, The Gathering
  • Bernadine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other

In addition, you will read at least two additional novels or short story collections for the purposes of the unassessed essay on a specific technical feature.

Theoretical texts:

  • Gardner, John, On Becoming a Novelist
  • McCarthy, Tom, ‘Writing Machines’ ( London Review of Books, 18 December 2014)
  • Prose, Francine, How to Read Like A Writer  (Harper Perennial)
  • Wood, James, How Fiction Works  (Vintage, 2009)

Main course book:

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

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Key words search

Creative Writing, Realism