Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)

Module ENGL43330: Reading as a Writer

Department: English Studies

ENGL43330: Reading as a Writer

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Module Cap


  • Students must hold a good BA degree in English or a related subject to be eligible for entry onto the MA programmes in the Department of English Studies


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This module aims to:
  • introduce students to a range of twentieth-century poetry and prose fiction selected for its implementation of particular formal techniques
  • enable students to read and analyse poetry and prose fiction with a writer's eyes, i.e. with a particular sensitivity towards poetic form, narrative architecture, voice/style, etc
  • introduce students to the array of literary techniques available to writers of poetry and prose fiction, and familiarize them with the descriptive vocabulary for these techniques
  • enable students to produce (i.e. draft and edit) original poetry or prose fiction (either short stories or chapters/sections of longer prose narratives) at an advanced level. Previous experience of having studied Creative Writing is not essential, but it is expected that students will have already produced some original poetry or prose before taking the course.
  • introduce students to the writing workshop format and enable them to systematically and constructively critique original work


  • Most seminars will consider a short story and a set of poems by two influential writers from 1900 to the present day, beginning with Henry James and T.S. Eliot, then moving on to figures such as Flannery O’Connor, Elizabeth Bishop, Alice Munro, Robert Frost, and David Foster Wallace. We will focus on technical considerations such as syntax, structure, voice, image and point of view; and also on theoretical contexts such as Modernism, feminism, post-colonialism, and psychoanalysis. The emphasis will be on how we as writers might utilise, or be influenced by, such contexts and techniques.
  • Each seminar will be accompanied by a writing challenge, allowing students to put what they have learned into practice.
  • The final seminar will take the form of a writing workshop in which all students submit some original poetry or prose fiction for discussion and critique by the rest of the students on the module. This will give students an idea of how their work may be read and received, and provide them with criticism and observations that they can use when editing their work.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • students are expected to acquire a critical awareness of and descriptive vocabulary for literary techniques associated with poetry and prose fiction.
  • students are expected to acquire an awareness of the aesthetic decisions made by writers and their attendant effects and limitations.
  • students are expected to be able to situate such aesthetic decisions in literary and social contexts (Modernism, feminism, etc).
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • advanced close reading and editing skills
  • the ability to articulate written and spoken criticism of literary works that evaluates their success as works of art (as opposed to providing a thematic or contextual analysis) and expresses this evaluation in technical, analytical terms
  • advanced ability to compose original works of poetry and fiction and delineate their aesthetic aims
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • an advanced ability to analyse critically
  • an advanced ability to articulate constructive criticism in a teamwork setting; general teamworking skills
  • an independence of thought and judgement, and ability to assess acutely the critical ideas of others;
  • sophisticated skills in critical reasoning
  • professional organisation and time-management skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students are encouraged to develop advanced conceptual abilities and analytical skills as well as the ability to communicate these within seminars and workshops.
  • The seminars on literary technique in conjunction with the workshops will facilitate the development of critical skills in the close reading and analysis of poetry and prose fiction texts. They will also actively develop the students' skills in writing original poetry and prose fiction. Both the critical skills and the ability to produce original work will be assessed through a Portfolio.
  • The student Portfolios will include the following types of text: original poetry or prose fiction compositions workshopped in class in revised form; original poetry or prose fiction composition(s) written specifically for the portfolio; and a 1,000-word analysis of the revisions made to the initial drafts.
  • The students' portfolios of poetry or prose fiction will be assessed in the light of the following criteria: demonstration of appropriate formal and technical skills; aesthetic coherence; originality; imagination; sensitivity to audience / context.
  • A 3,000 word summative essay providing a technical analysis of published works of poetry and prose fiction will further assess the student's ability to recognise, name and critique narrative architecture, poetic form, style and aesthetic effect.
  • Typically, directed learning may include assigning student(s) an issue, theme or topic that can be independently or collectively explored within a framework and/or with additional materials provided by the tutor. This may function as preparatory work for presenting their ideas or findings (sometimes electronically) to their peers and tutor in the context of a seminar.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 2 hours 18
Independent student research supervised by the Module Convenor 10
Preparation and reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Portfolio Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words 50%
Portfolio 3000 words of prose OR up to 10 pages of poetry. To be accompanied by a 1,000-word self-critique 50%

Formative Assessment:

A formative essay of 1,500 words will receive written feedback from the tutor. This material can then be revised by the student, and submitted as part of their summative essay. A sample of each student’s poetry or prose fiction will be workshopped in the final class. These initial drafts will be revised for the student Portfolio.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University