Skip to main content Skip to navigation

EN124 Modes of Writing: An Introduction

This module is available to first year QP36 English Literature and Creative Writing students only.


‘If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.’

Virginia Woolf.


Convenor: Gonzalo Ceron Garcia

Tutors: Caroline Lea, David Morley, Gonzalo Cerón Garcia, Zodwa Nyoni

Time and Place: TBC

This module is available to first year QW38 English Literature and Creative Writing students ONLY. This is a core module for first-year undergraduates reading for the degree QW38 English Literature and Creative Writing. The module is 100% fully assessed. The module complements Modes of Reading and prepares you for the more specialist writing options in years two and three such as Composition and Creative Writing, The Practice of Poetry, The Practice of Fiction, Ecopoetics, Writing Out Loud, and The Personal Writing Project. The module also complements other academic optional modules in which writing, imitation, rhetoric or translation may be practised or studied.


The main purpose is to introduce students to writing poetry, fiction, non-fiction and writing for performance and new media. Rhetoric, form and genre will be among the topics discussed and practised. The module aims to develop a range of creative as well as expository writing styles and approaches; to understand and practise various forms of ‘address’; and to read widely in contemporary world literature. Students will produce examples of work to meet specific challenges and deadlines. Students will also will gain insights into contemporary literature and the processes of literary production.


By the end of the module the student should have:

  • Acquired some knowledge and understanding of a range of examples of contemporary fiction, poetry and non-fiction.
  • Received an introduction to some literatures in English and to the practice and imitation of those literatures.
  • Acquired some knowledge of the power and practice of the imagination in literary creation.
  • Acquired and introductory knowledge of useful and precise critical and practical terminology and, where appropriate, of linguistic and stylistic terminology.
  • Acquired some awareness of the range and variety of approaches to the practice of writing.
  • Improved skills in writing a critical commentary.


Weekly seminars and workshops.'Warwick Thursday' events in the Writers’ Room, and associated literary events (Intermittent Listening, Lunch Poetry, Warwick Review readings)Individual tutorials given by Writing Programme staff, Royal Literary Fund Fellows and Visiting Writers.


Term 1: Fiction

Term 1: The Essay

Term 2: Poetry

Term 2: Beyond Books

Students are also expected to attend all Warwick Thursdays events.


This module is 100% assessed.100% assessed = 5 assignments [20% each]

You submit an assignment for each of the four units (Fiction, The Essay, Beyond Books, Poetry). These assignments each count for 10% of your final score. Details of the the 4 assignments are given in the course details below. At the end of the course, you ALSO submit a final assessment of 2000 words, the form to be chosen by the student.

The tutors of each unit should be consulted for guidelines on formatting and style. We do not allow you to submit conceptual artwork, paintings, photographs or artbooks. Extensions can only be granted by the First Year Director of Undergraduate Studies.


See details of each unit below for recommended reading. You will also find it useful to consult Roget's Thesaurus, the Oxford English Dictionary and Fowler's Modern English Usage. You will gain a great deal of useful insight by reading The Paris Review Interviews (available on the Paris Review website) and by exploring the Writers at Warwick Audio Archive. You also should regularly read the book pages of major national newspapers, especially the Saturday Review section of The Guardian, and the review pages for The Independent, The Times, and The Observer.


Fiction (Caroline Lea)

Week 1: What is a story?

Week 2: Style and point of view

Week 3: Character and dialogue

Week 4: Sense of place, sense of purpose

Week 5: Editing and critique

In this introductory unit, we will look at some of the fundamental elements of fiction, the tools a writer uses to shape and craft a story – narrative, character, dialogue, point of view. These tools are of little use without an effective process, of course, and we will also be exploring the ways in which writers plan, research, draft and edit their work. Writing fiction is a constant series of hard choices – by the end of this unit, students will have some of the knowledge and skills requisite to making better choices. You will write assignments for class every week.

ASSESSMENT: TWO flash fictions (700 words EACH) and ONE commentary (300 words)

Primary Reading

Flash Fiction Forward, Robert Shapard

Secondary Reading

Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Italo Calvino

A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf

Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke

On Writing, Stephen King

Wonderbook, Jeff Vandermeer

Exercises in Style, Raymond Queneau

The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, Bausch and Cassill

The Essay (Gonzalo Ceron)

In the following four weeks, we’ll be reading essays focusing on their structural, stylistic and thematic elements. But the focus will be practical. We’ll come to understand the flexibility of the essay form in various exercises and in-class discussion, with the aim of producing work of intellectual value which manages to break some of the preconceived notions of the apparent stylistic rigidity of essays.

It is very important that you prepare for each seminar. You should read the works from the list below. I’ll be asking for your notes on the reading (this can be any relevant points of interest). You will be presenting these so as to start a fruitful discussion with your peers.

Week 7: Thesis Statements


- Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

Week 8: Writing Between Fiction and Essay Forms


- George Orwell, ‘Why I Write’ in and ‘Shooting an Elephant’ in Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays

Week 9: Extended Metaphors Workshop

Reading: - Virginia Woolf, ‘The Death of The Moth’ in The Death of The Moth, and other essays.

Week 10: The Personal Essay


- Selected Contemporary Essays from the New Yorker will be provided to you by your tutor on Week 7.

Secondary Reading:

“At The Dam” by Joan Didion, from The White Album

The Best American Essays 2007, edited by David Foster Wallace (especially the introduction by DFW, and “Shakers” by Daniel Orozco), Houghton Mifflin.

“The Thumb”, by Michel de Montaigne (from Essais)

The Dyer’s Hand by W. H. Auden

Chapter 7 of The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing, by David Morley (CUP, 2007)

Any essay by: Gore Vidal, Andrew O’Hagan, Jenny Diski, Michael Hofmann, Belle Boggs, Leslie Jamison, Martin Amis, G. K. Chesteron, Mark Twain, Joan Didion, David Foster Wallace.

ASSESSED WORK: at the end of the unit, you will submit an original essay of 1,600-2,000 words.


Poetry (Jonathan Skinner)


In these practical and theoretical workshops we shall explore some approaches to writing a contemporary poem and to locating ear, style, and strategies for the making of poems. This unit does not assume you have familiarity with writing poetry—in fact, if you do, the workshop asks you to leave your assumptions (including any devices you may have come to associate with poetry, such as rhyme, or “poetic” themes and flowery language) at the door. The more you bring an open mind to the materials at hand, the more fun you will have.

In order to know what contemporary poetry is we need to read poetry, so there is important reading to be done for each session, in both poetry and poetics, in addition to the writing assignments. As we learn about some broad tendencies in modern and postmodern poetry and poetics (from an objective focus on history to the idea of the poem as a field to experimental approaches to translation practices), we’ll use our practice to sound a location in poetry, and vice versa. Special attention will be paid to the play between poetry and poetics, between thinking and creating. The more of the assigned readings you read, and the more carefully you read them, the more you will get out of the writing prompts.

Each session proceeds via some writing practice, some discussion, peer review, some listening, and in-workshop exercises. Typically, you will be asked to type up the result of your in-workshop exercise to bring to the next workshop, in addition to completing a poetry and a poetics writing assignment and some further peer review on your own time, outside of the workshop.

*The only required text for the workshop, besides the assigned readings in PDF and html format (follow the links on this page), is Frank O’Hara, Lunch Poems (San Francisco: City Lights Pocket Poets Series—the first edition was published in 1964 but any City Lights edition will do). It is important that you purchase the physical copy.*

The book is inexpensive, and readily available for purchase on the Internet. Copies also should be available at the Warwick Bookshop. I encourage you to carry this pocket-sized book around with you, to read and study its poems whenever you have a spare moment. A third of this book is assigned for each of the last three workshops in the unit. O’Hara will provide a kind of fixed point of reference, for the different approaches we explore.

If you would like to acquire an anthology to read around in, to gain familiarity with contemporary poetry, I suggest The Norton Anthology of Postmodern Poetry, edited by Paul Hoover. The second edition is more current, but either edition provides a good overview, of the kinds of poetry we will be considering.

The assessment for this unit consists of 10 pages of poetry, plus a 2-3 page prose commentary on the process of writing the poems. At least half of what you write in the prose commentary should be about the poetry you have been reading—about the modes and strategies in the poetry you have read that influence your own approach to writing poems.


Poetics: Ezra Pound, “A Retrospect” (first three sections, through RHYTHM AND RHYME), and two excerpts from ABC of Reading: Section 1 of Chapter Four, and the first page of Section 8 of Chapter Eight (pp. 36-38, 63); Susan Howe, “Not Enough Leaves To Crown to Cover to Crown to Cover”; Rosmarie Waldrop, “Why Prose Poems?”

Poetry: “Prose poem” dossier—read around in all of these selections, enough to get a sense for the differences and for what interests you, then choose at least four of the selections to read again, more carefully: Francis Ponge, “The Rain”; Ronald Johnson, two “Beams” from ARK (“Beam 4” and “Beam 7”); Campbell McGrath,“The Prose Poem”; Juliana Spahr, “Non-Revolution”; Mahmoud Darwish, Memory for Forgetfulness; Lynn Emanuel, “Inside Gertrude Stein”; Donna Stonecipher, “Inlay (Erwin Panofsky)”; Rosmarie Waldrop, “Lawn of Excluded Middle”; Christian Bök, Eunoia, Chapter E; Harryette Mullen, “Dim Lady”

Week 3: FIELDS 

Poetics: Charles Olson, “Projective Verse” (Part I); Amiri Baraka, “How You Sound”; Frank O’Hara, “Personism: A Manifesto”

Poetry: Lorine Niedecker, “Paean to Place” (see also facsimile autograph version); Robert Creeley, “I Know a Man”; Robert Duncan, “Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow”; Charles Olson, “Maximus to Gloucester, Letter 27 [withheld]”; Amiri Baraka, “Dope”; Susan Howe, Thorow; Eileen Myles, “An American Poem”; first third of Frank O’Hara, Lunch Poems (pp. 7-27).


Poetics: Barbara Guest, “Invisible Architecture”; Bernadette Mayer, Writing Experiments

Poetry: John Cage, from Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) 1965-1967; Allen Ginsberg, “Wales Visitation”; John Ashbery, “Into the Dusk-Charged Air”; David Antin, “a list of the delusions of the insane/ what they are afraid of”; Bernadette Mayer, “Before Sextet”; Harryette Mullen, Urban Tumbleweed (selections); second third of Frank O’Hara, Lunch Poems (pp. 28-51).


Poetics: Jack Spicer, “Vancouver Lecture”; Frederico Garcia Lorca, “Theory and Play of the Duende”

Poetry: Francis Ponge, Partisan of Things (selections), translated by Joshua Corey and Jean-Luc Garneau; Jack Spicer, “Thing Language”; Michael McClure, Ghost Tantras (selections); Cecilia Vicuña, Instan (selections); Zukofsky, “from Catullus LXIV”; Tim Atkins, Petrarch (selections); Linton Kwesi Johnson (selected poems); last third of Frank O’Hara, Lunch Poems (pp. 52-74).

Beyond Books (Zodwa Nyoni)

'The really significant education in thinking that we're supposed to get in a [university] isn't really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about.'

David Foster Wallace

* Please note that all extracts from the required reading will be provided in the links below. You do not need to purchase copies of the texts specified. These sessions will be structured in a similar manner to the other units, with weekly reading and writing assignments.*


During the first session of Beyond Books we will be discussing the writer's manifesto: a declaration of the intention and motivation behind all of your cultural production. This will allow us to begin a broader exploration of the role of the writer outside ('beyond') conventional ideas of text and publication.

Please read the following manifestos in preparation for the first seminar:

The Stuckists Manifesto

The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism

Excerpt from The SCUM Manifesto - Valerie Solanas


This session will be dedicated to discussing how social media can be used to think about writing practice in relation to a variety of innovative mediums. This will expand our conversation about the role of the writer in different contexts, moving beyond reductive ideas of writing and looking at cultural production as an everyday experience.

Please turn your attention to the following. Don't feel obligated to read all of the material available, just familiarize yourself with the concept behind these narratives and think about the practical elements of the composition:

Instamemoirs - Caroline Calloway

Dystopian YA


Please could you also read this short article introducing OULIPO (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle; roughly translated: "workshop of potential literature"):

Into the Maze: OULIPO - Mónica de la Torre


Session three will look at writing for performance and the relationship between spoken word and traditional text publication colloquially referred to as the 'page vs stage' distinction. We will share examples of contemporary spoken word performances and investigate the ways in which lines drawn between page and stage can often be blurred, transgressed, and moved beyond. If desired, there will be an opportunity to practice performing and to workshop individual performances, though there will be no obligation to perform if the thought terrifies you.

Please watch the following performance from NourbeSe Philip:

Excerpt from ZONG! read by NourbeSe Philip

And read the following extract from Walter J. Ong's 1982 text 'Orality and Literacy':

Orality and Literacy - Walter J. Ong


In the final session, we will focus on the value of video game narrative as a medium of cultural production which offers an extremely fast-growing employment industry for young writers. We will discuss how video game narratives and development documents are composed and link our exploration to previous content by re-evaluating assumptions regarding the role of the writer in a contemporary cultural landscape. We will utilize tools used by gaming industry professionals to assist in the generation of content which goes beyond traditional narrative production. No advanced experience of video gaming is required.

Please read the following excerpt and think about how the dynamic 'world' constructed in a video game might relate to Baudrillard's ideas:

Excerpt from Simulacra and Simulation - Jean Baudrillard

Please could you have a look at the following document outlining the sort of material you would expect to find in a Game Design Document (GDD). A lot of elements in 'III. OTHER ASPECTS OF THE PRODUCT DESIGN' are more technical and less relevant to what we'll be discussing - but have a think about all the creative decisions that need to be mapped out when designing video game narratives, environments, and experiences:

Sample outline for a Game Design Document (GDD) - Tom Sloper

Please also watch the following clip:

Deviation - Counterstrike -- Machinima


The assessment for this unit consists of 2000 words of written work related to the course content. You must produce a single document of 2000 words comprising a writer's manifesto and a piece of writing / cultural production that relates to and 'makes manifest' the ideas you present in your manifesto. You have free choice to decide how much of your 2000 words you dedicate to the manifesto and how much you dedicate to the item of cultural production (this will likely depend on what form your creative piece takes).


In addition to the assessments for each individual unit, there will be a final assessment of 2000 words due in Term 3. This may be in the form of an essay, fiction, creative piece, or the equivalent of 2000 words in poetry (10 pages of poetry and 3 pages of commentary).