Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)

Module ENGL53430: The Short Story

Department: English Studies

ENGL53430: The Short Story

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2018/19 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • to allow students to study short stories in depth, with reference to the major development in the short story in English over the past two centuries, and to contemporary short story theory;


  • the short story is an essentially modern genre, emerging as a distinct, recognisable form in eh first half of the nineteenth century, It has always provided space for radical experiments in narrative structure, symbolism and characterisation. Many of the most famous and controversial texts in history and debate have been short stories (e.g. Conrad's 'The Secret Sharer', Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper', James's 'The Turn of the Screw') yet the form is rarely studied in its own right ('forget the novel' might be one motto for this module). Some writers of short stories are justly celebrated (Poe, Mansfield) but the general critical neglect of the form has marginalised such superb writers of short stories as Walter de la Mare or V.S. Pritchett.
  • the module will begin with Poe and end with Will Self and Alice Munro, covering outstanding short stories from the 1840's until 1999. The focus will be both thematic and generic, covering such topics as the ghost story, the uncanny, both naturalist and Chekhovian 'lyrical' realism, the divided psyche, modes of fantasy and impression, and sexual politics. The module will be backed up by a hypertext program listing hundreds of short stories individually by subject matter, together with additional critical material.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • by the end of the module students will have gained a deeper knowledge of the possibilities of the short story as a literary genre, together with a greater understanding of the relevant literary and critical concepts which they will have put into practice and consolidated through discussion in groups and written assignments;
Subject-specific Skills:
  • by the end of the module students will be able to understand, analyse and discuss the main features and developments of the genre of the short story over the past two centuries;
Key Skills:
  • by the end of the course students will have deepened their abilities in close reading, coherent analysis, understanding of textual form, and verbal and written exposition and argument;

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

  • Through a variety of teaching activities and approaches, seminars will facilitate the development of communication and critical skills. Sessions will introduce broad topics and genres, contexts and frameworks to aid conceptual understanding and specific texts for analysis as well as encourage individual interpretation and enquiry. Formative written work and consultation with the module tutor will operate as learning tools, allowing the investigation and testing of ideas and readings. Two summative assignments will assess the competencies and outcomes outlined above and foster advanced independent study.
  • 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 Fortnightly 2 hours 18
Independent student research supervised by the Module Convenor 10
Preparation and Reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words 50%
Essay 3000 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

One essay (2,000 words maximum).

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