A Throw of the Dice: Gambling, Gaming & Fiction - EN691

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
6 30 (15) MR D Flusfeder




Not available as wild



This module will look at fiction that has taken games, gaming and/or gambling as a subject, as well as fiction that has used elements of these pursuits to develop a system of rules to determine its own form. At the heart of all this is a dualism of game and play; or, to put it another way, law and freedom.

For the first half of the term students will be exposed to a variety of novels and short stories, and will be encouraged to assess the ways in which these fictions incorporate the subject matter of gaming and gambling and chance in the context of contemporary society and ideology; and, how authors have employed these elements for, for example, plot points and character development. We will begin in the nineteenth century (Heathcliff wins the deeds to Wuthering Heights in a game of cards; in The Queen of Spades, Pushkin's theme of the arrogance of a player who thinks he can triumph over the game being inevitably punished by madness and death is one that would be later explored by Nabokov) and move through to the present day. We will look at experiments with narrative and form and take in computer-game narrative along the way.

In the second half of the term students will build upon the writing exercises and reading of the first half, to work on producing their own fiction. Regular writing workshops will encourage students to share ideas and work in progress; and technical skills sessions will encourage them to experiment with grammar, structure, voice and theme, working, if not along the lines of, at least in the light of, the different thematic approaches and investigations of the work they have been reading.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 31
Private study hours: 269
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

100% Coursework:

Interim assignment of 2,000 words (25%)
Short story for final assignment of 5,000 words (65%)
Seminar performance (10%)

Indicative reading

Bolaño, R. (2012) The Third Reich. London: Picador
Dostoevsky, F. (2008) The Gambler (in Notes from the Underground, and The Gambler). Oxford: OUP

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 novels and short stories.
2. Demonstrate developed capacity for close reading and critical analysis and apply these skills to the reading and writing of fiction.
3. Demonstrate experience in the making of connections between historical circumstances and the writing of fiction.
4. Identify and critically evaluate approaches to the writing of fiction, in terms of both theme and form, and consider how these two elements might be necessarily linked.
5. Demonstrate the ways in which the themes of gaming, gambling and chance might determine the ways in which narratives are constructed, both thematically and formally.
6. Respond creatively to critical questions and use creative writing as a means of critical enquiry.
7. Identify their own formal, stylistic and thematic approaches.
8. Develop their own style or styles of writing, having considered a variety of approaches.
9. Reflect on the wide range of narrative and formal choices open to the contemporary writer.
10. Apply sophisticated writing techniques to their own creative work (e.g. experimental narrative perspective and structure, form appropriate to theme)
11. Demonstrate an improved capacity to edit their own work.

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 reading.
2. Develop their creative writing skills to an advanced level.
3. Extend their range of critical and creative vocabulary and broaden conceptual framework.
4. Develop their communication skills, particularly in responding to others' work in the context of the workshop.

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