Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)

Module ENGL43830: Creative Writing Prose Fiction

Department: English Studies

ENGL43830: Creative Writing Prose Fiction

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap 20
Tied to


  • 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.


  • to enable students to produce (ie. draft and edit) original prose fiction with a full, advanced awareness of the technical and aesthetic choices made in the process of writing
  • enable students to read and analyse narrative prose fiction with a writer's eyes, i.e. with a particular sensitivity towards narrative architecture, voice/style, etc.
  • introduce students to the array of literary techniques, styles and traditions available to the writer of prose fiction and familiarize them with the descriptive vocabulary for these techniques
  • enable students to produce (i.e. draft and edit) original pieces of prose fiction at an advanced level. Students will have the opportunity of writing either short stories or chapters/sections of longer prose narratives (or a mixture of both)
  • introduce students to the writing workshop format and enable them to systematically and constructively critique original works of prose fiction
  • to analyse at an advanced level the creative writing of students alongside extracts from literary texts (selected for its implementation of particular narrative techniques), revealing close reading as a method for learning how to write, and also creative writing as a method for understanding the stylistic qualities and historical content of canonical works


  • This module will focus on the writing of prose fiction, and will include close-reading and advanced criticism of the students’ work. Students will be asked to comment (in writing and/or in person) on each other’s work.
  • Seminars will foreground the close-reading of the students’ own prose fiction, as well as published prose (mainly from the 20th and 21st centuries), and work that theorizes or criticizes prose. This material will be provided by the module convenor.
  • A close examination of the prose fiction will help students to understand the relation between reading and writing, theory and practice.
  • Seminars will be dedicated to fiction workshops, i.e. the systematic discussion and critique of original prose fiction produced by students in the course. The workshop format is designed to give budding authors an understanding of how their work is read and received; in a second step the author will then convert the criticism and observation into edits to the initial draft. For each piece of prose fiction discussed in a workshop, a short written critique may be submitted by all students other than the author. Students can expect to have a minimum of two pieces of prose fiction discussed.
  • While the content of each seminar will largely be shaped by the work produced by students, the module will be informed by, and build on, the key concepts of narrative architecture and organization covered by Reading as a Writer and Reading as a Writer: the Workshop. Topics such as prose style, point-of-view, dialogue, voice, punctuation, etc. will now inform discussion of the students’ own self-directed literary productions.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will gain advanced, practical knowledge of how readers respond to their work
  • Students are expected to acquire a critical awareness of and descriptive vocabulary for literary technique and narrative structures found in 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 acquire an awareness of the conventions of manuscript presentation to publishers / magazine editors
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Critical skills: the close reading and analysis of texts
  • Creative writing skills: the application of the student’s critical skills to their own practice
  • An advanced ability to compose original works of fiction and delineate their aesthetic aims
  • An ability to demonstrate knowledge of a range of critical approaches
  • The ability to articulate written and spoken criticism of fellow students’ work that evaluates their success as works of art (ie. that focuses on their formal and aesthetic dimension as opposed to their thematic or contextual dimension) and expresses this evaluation in the appropriate technical, analytical terms
  • An ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to literary studies
  • Advanced awareness of literature as a medium through which values are affirmed and debated
Key Skills:
  • Practice of writing prose fiction
  • A capacity to analyse critically
  • Skills of effective communication and argument
  • An advanced ability to articulate constructive criticism in a teamwork setting; general team-working skills
  • An independence of thought and judgement, and ability to assess acutely the critical ideas of others
  • Sophisticated skills in critical reasoning and problem solving
  • Information-technology skills such as word-processing
  • Professional conduct skills, e.g. observing professional academic standards, including correct referencing of sources
  • Professional organisation and time-management skills

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

  • Workshop seminars: enable students to to develop and demonstrate advanced conceptual abilities and analytical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts; encourage peer-group discussion and skills of effective communication and presentation; promote awareness of diversity of interpretation and methodology.
  • One-to-one meetings with students: each student will receive at least two 15-minute one-to-one sessions in which they will receive feedback on their work-in-progress; in addition, their formative assessment will take the form of a further 30-minute one-to-one meeting in which 1,500 words of their prose fiction will be discussed. These sessions will encourage students to reflect critically and independently on their work
  • Coursework: the portfolio will be assessed in the light of the following criteria: control of grammar, style and structure; originality (of theme/plot/voice); narrative flow; sophistication of conception and execution; expressiveness and imagination; ability to put the theoretical knowledge gained from the course into practice; ability to establish and achieve artistic goals. The self-critique offers students an opportunity to express their aesthetic decisions in the context of the work and contexts discussed in the course, and to reflect on the development of their own creative practice
  • Feedback: the written feedback that is provided after the assessed portfolio and self-critique will allow the students to reflect on their creative work and gain a more objective sense of its value, potential, theoretical assumptions, and how successful it was in fulfilling its goals.
  • 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 a one-to-one tutorial.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 fortnightly 2 hours 18
One-to-one tutorials 2 15 mins 0.5
Independent student research supervised by the Module Convenor 10
Formative assessment consultation 1 30 mins 0.5
Preparation and Reading 271
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Portfolio Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Portfolio 6,000 words of original prose fiction; plus 2,000-word self-critique 100%

Formative Assessment:

<A formative Portfolio of 1,500 words of prose fiction will receive written and one-to-one feedback from the tutor. This material can then be revised by the student, and submitted as part of their summative essay.

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