Reading and Writing The Innovative Contemporary Novel - EN632

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
6 30 (15) MISS A Sackville




Not available as wild



This module will investigate the theory and practice of innovation in the contemporary novel. For the first half of the term students will be exposed to a variety of stimulating contemporary novels and encouraged to make connections between them and assess the ways in which they incorporate innovative devices. The module will prompt students to think about the boundaries and limits of fiction and the novel, reading a series of innovative and genre-defying texts including Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride, and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace. Via other texts on the reading list, students will also consider concepts such as 'metafiction' and ‘postmodernism’ and interrogate the usefulness of such terms. Other innovative techniques will also be assessed, for example the metafictional use of implausibility (Coe, Ballard) and the existence of ‘real’ texts within fictional texts (Barker and others).
In the second half of the term the focus will shift as students begin work on the introductory chapters to their own novels. Regular writing workshops will encourage students to share ideas and work in progress; and technical skills sessions will encourage them to experiment with punctuation, metaphor, voice and viewpoint. We will also consider the structural choices made by novelists, and compare various methods of putting a text together (David Mitchell, Lucy Ellmann, Paul Auster). We will conclude by considering possible directions in which innovation may develop, and whether such techniques are still useful or relevant for the practising writer today.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30
Private study hours: 270
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

100% coursework:

Seminar Participation (10%)
Critical Outline of 1,500 words (25%)
Opening Chapters of Novel & Synopsis, 4,500 words (65%)

Indicative reading

Porter, M. (2015) Grief is the Thing With Feathers London: Faber
McBride, E. (2014) A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing London: Faber
Wallace, D. F. (1998) Brief Interviews with Hideous Men New York: Doubleday
Barthes, R (1993) Image, Music, Text London: Fontana
Waugh, P. (1984) Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction London: Routledge
Prince, G (1987) A Dictionary of Narratology Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Read and respond to a range of innovative contemporary novels.
2 Develop their capacity for close reading and critical analysis and apply these skills to their reading of contemporary novels.
3 Make connections between contemporary critical analysis and creative writing practice.
4 Identify and critically evaluate particular innovative techniques found in contemporary novels.
5 Understand how innovative techniques can be applied in creative writing practice.
6 Develop an awareness of the structure of the novel from the point of view of the practising creative writer.
7 Reflect on the wide range of narrative and descriptive choices open to the contemporary writer.
8 Confidently apply advanced writing techniques within their work (e.g. creating extended metaphors, experimenting with non-linear narratives and sustaining themes)
9 Plan and execute the beginning of a sustained piece of creative writing.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Develop their capacity for close reading and critical analysis and make comparisons across a range of their reading.
2 Develop their creative writing skills to an advanced level.
3 Extend their range of critical and creative vocabulary and broaden their conceptual framework.
4 Develop their communication skills, particularly in responding to others' work in the context of the workshop.

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