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Portfolio guidelines

The Marriage Plot: portfolio notes

- You must show knowledge of at least four of the set texts studied this term, but you may pay more attention to some than others.

- At least 1,000 words must be devoted to critical analysis of the set texts, by which I mean that you must demonstrate close attention to the way they are written. You might do this through quotation and close reading, as usual in an academic essay, or in more creative form, by showing close study of particular passages. (For example, by writing an alternative perspective on an existing scene, or by writing letters or dialogues that pick up a particular character’s voice or narrative technique.)

- You may write 5,000 words of academic prose, 5,000 words of creative prose (as long as you meet the conditions above), or any mixture of modes and genres of prose. If you want to include anything else – poetry, writing for performance, graphic art, audio files, film, textile art, sculpture – it’s likely that I will be warmly welcoming but you must consult me first.

- If you are composing your own topics for academic/critical work, you must consult me in person or by email. Doing so will save you from easily avoided mistakes and lost marks.

- If you have anxieties about creative writing, fan-fiction can be an easy way in. What happens if a character from one novel appears in another? (Bertha Rochester is reliably interesting.) What advice would a later feminist give an earlier heroine? How might the behaviour marking a C19 romantic hero be received by a modern heroine? What happens if you rewrite episodes from older texts into present day settings. This can be fun but remember that it should be serious fun: what do these games teach us about the novels/ literary history/ the development of romance? Don’t just describe things, make a point, do some interpretive work, show something that isn’t explicit in the original text.

- Consider writing creative or voice-driven non-fiction. What have you learnt from this module? Have any of the books changed the way you understand your own moment, culture and/or expectations? Has anything surprised you? Write about it.

Themes you might like to consider (in fiction, essay or creative non-fiction):

- the ‘other’ women (Jemima, Lydia, Bertha, Hester, Annie, Daphne);class, race, poverty

- beauty, the marriage market

- masculinity; second sons; the harm patriarchy does to men

- domesticity and the Gothic (interiors, stately homes, landownership, women outdoors)

- fashion, clothes, hair

- food (production and consumption)

- sisters; the relationship between sisterhood and romance

- female friendship

- can you imagine/invent/describe a truly feminist romance?