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CW914 Seven Basic Plots

**This module is not running in 2021-22.**
Convenor: Professor Ian Sansom

The module will be exploratory and practical, using structured exercises, published texts, handouts, class discussion and homework to stimulate the production of new work. Each week students will study one text in particular in relation to an aspect of plot.

'THIS IS A CREATIVE WRITING MODULE. All students are expected to produce creative work every week.'

Week 1 Introduction: The Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker (Poetics, fairy tales, Joseph Campbell, Robert McKee, complex patterns in nature and art)

Week 2 Heroes/Heroines: Madame Bovary (Conan, Don Quixote, The Bourne Identity)

Week 3 Monsters/Others: The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith (The Bible, Frankenstein, Stephen King, Homer)

Week 4 Tragedy: Oedipus Rex (Oedipus Rex, Ibsen, Chekhov, revenge)

Week 5 Comedy: Emma (Chaplin, Keaton, Harold Lloyd, P.G.Wodehouse, slapstick, stand-up, and Henri Bergson)

Week 6 The Quest: Heart of Darkness (Dan Brown, Super Mario)

Week 7 Voyage and Return: The Odyssey (Islands, Lord of the Flies, The Beach)

Week 8 Transformation: Great Expectations (Dostoevsky, A Star Is Born, the Bildungsroman)

Week 9 Anti-Plots: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut (Clarice Lispector, Christine Brooke-Rose, Adaptation)

Week 10 Plots: Summary and Review


Assessed portfolio of 10,000 words (45 CATS), 8,000 words (36 CATS), 6,000 words (30 CATS) or 5,000 words (20 CATS).

MA in Writing students are required to submit a portfolio comprised of 70% original creative writing and 30% essay.

Students on the MA in Literature/Philosophy & Literature/Pan-Romanticisms/World Literature may choose to submit a portfolio of 70% original creative work and 30% essay OR 100% essay.


Aristotle, ‘Poetics’, in Classical Literary Criticism, trans. T.S. Dorsch (1965)

Bell, James Scott, Plot and Structure (1995)

Brooks, Peter, Reading for the Plot (1985)

Burke, Kenneth, The Philosophy of Literary Form (1957)

Chatman, Seymour, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film (1978)

Kermode, Frank, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (1966)

Lodge, David, Working with Structuralism (1981)

McKee, Robert, Story (1999)

Mittelmark, Howard and Sandra Newman, How Not to Write a Novel (2009)

Polkinghorne, David, Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences (1988)

Polti, Georges, The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations, trans. Lucille Ray (1977)

Prince, Gerald, A Dictionary of Narratology (2nd edn., 2003)

Ryan, Marie-Laure, ed., Avatars of Story: Narrative Modes in Old and New Media (2006)

Thompson, Kristin, Storytelling in Film and Television (2003)

Vogler, Christopher, The Writer’s Journey (3rd edn., 2007)