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Composition and Creative Writing

Aims and Objectives:
This module encourages you to consider the question of narrative in all its forms.
Learning Outcomes:
You will become more aware of the processes involved in writing narrative fiction and non-fiction, including traditional and experimental methods, revision, drafting, editing and considerations of audience. You will also gain critical insights into works of contemporary and classic literature and the traditional and modern processes of literary production
Teaching Methods:
The course is taught in workshop-style seminars. Students will remain within the same group throughout the course of an academic year.
Assessment:

The course is assessed by 2 written assessments.

Assessment : Term 2: a portfolio of 5,000 words. This will comprise 2 parts, consisting of 2,500 words each. Part 1 will be a work of fiction, Part 2 will be a work of non-fiction. Guidelines and suggestions for the assessed work will provided during the term.

Assessment 2: Term 3: a portfolio of 5,000 words. This will comprise 2 parts, consisting of 2,500 words each. Part 1 will be a work of fiction, or fictions. Part 2 will be a work of non-fiction. Guidelines and suggestions for the assessed work will provided during the term.

Term One
 
 
Fiction and non-fiction (weeks 1-5)
Dr. Nell Stevens

In the first two weeks of Composition we will focus on fiction, paying particular attention to movement and placement as a guiding narrative principle: where do our characters begin and where do they end up? As we pivot to non-fiction, we'll spend week three considering what role authenticity and "reality" play in both forms. In weeks four and five, we'll look at non-fiction, thinking through the generative possibilities of indirectness, fragmentation and uncertainty. Weeks seven through ten are reserved for workshops.

I will make all reading available via links or downloads on Moodle, but you might like to get your own copies of Ali Smith's Hotel World, Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth, David Shields' Reality Hunger and Maggie Nelson's Bluets.

  Week Number: Session Title Reading
  Week 1 Fiction: Movement and direction
  Week 2

Fiction: Place and placement

  Week 3 Fiction and non-fiction: Authenticity and reality
  Week 4 Non-fiction: Lenses and refraction
  Week 5 Non-fiction: Expertise and uncertainty
 
Workshops (weeks 7-10)

You will be asked to submit work the week prior to your workshop slot. You'll be given a workshop slot early in the term. It is very important that you submit on time so that everyone gets to read and edit your work with care. Submission guidelines will be provided at the start of term.

Term Two
     
 
Fiction (weeks 1-3) and Non-fiction (weeks 4-5)
J. G. Lynas

Our first three weeks will be focused on short fiction, as well as a couple of novellas. We'll be examining how to build believable people, objects, and places, how the lessons of genre fiction can be attributed to all fiction, and how to carry thematic elements through to their natural conclusion.

After this, we'll spend two weeks on non-fiction, exploring where a writer might want to place themselves within a text, how to manage distance and ownership, and some more experimental forms of non-fiction which blur many of the boundaries we might think solid.

I would recommend reading Dept. of Speculation and Grief is the Thing With Feathers over the winter break, as they're a little longer (I would recommend reading them regardless, because they're brilliant).

  Week Number: Session Title Reading
  Week 1 Furnishing a Story: Character and Scene
  • Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill
  • Outline, Rachel Cusk (excerpt)
  Week 2 Who's Afraid of Genre Fiction?
  • 'Hell is the Absence of God' in Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang
  • ' Mouthful of Birds' in Mouthful of Birds, Samanta Schweblin
  Week 3 Focus, Theme, and Crescendo
  • Grief is the Thing With Feathers, Max Porter
  • 'Sonny's Blues' in Going to Meet the Man, James Baldwin
  Week 4 Placing Yourself
  • 'Pathologies' in Sightlines, Kathleen Jamie
  • 'After Peter' in How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, Alexander Chee
  Week 5 Between Fact and Fiction
 
Workshops (weeks 7-10)

You will be asked to submit work the week prior to your workshop slot. You'll be given a workshop slot early in the term. It is very important that you submit on time so that everyone gets to read and edit your work with care. Submission guidelines will be provided at the start of term.

Further Reading:

Raymond Carver, Cathedral.

Ernest Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants.

George Saunders, Pastoralia

Sherman Alexie, ‘The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless’, ‘Salt’ and ‘Bird-Watching At Night’ in War Dances.

Lorrie Moore, 'You're Ugly, Too'

Tillie Olsen, 'I Stand Here Ironing'

Virginia Woolf, 'A Haunted House'

Alice Munro, 'Runaway' in Runaway.

Cat Person, Kristin Roupenian

The Husband Stitch,

Tobias Wolff, Bullet in the Brain

TC Boyle, ChicxulubNew Yorker podcast plus discussion with Lionel Shriver

Axis, Alice Munro, available via The New Yorker podcast

Paper Losses, Lorrie Moore

Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson

The Spot, by David Means

Weather, Jenny Offill

Lanny, Max Porter

Mouthful of Birds, Samanta Schweblin

You Should Come With Me Now, Climbers, M. John Harrison

The Western Wind, Samantha Harvey

Murmur, Will Eaves

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson

Under the Skin, Michel Faber

Forty Stories, Donald Barthelme

The Fall, Albert Camus

Rest and Be Thankful, Emma Glass

Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi

Milkman, Anna Burns

Annihilation, City of Saints and Madmen, Jeff VanderMeer

The City and the City, China Miéville

Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders

The Death of Ivan Ilych, Leo Tolstoy

Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson

The Athenian Murders, José Carlos Samoza

Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov

Going to Meet the Man, James Baldwin

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Patrick Süskind

Room, Emma Donoghue

The Road, Cormac McCarthy

Sightlines, Surfacing, Kathleen Jamie

This is Not Propaganda, Pete Pomerantsev

If This is a Man, Primo Levi

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, David Sedaris

The Shapeless Unease: A Year of Not Sleeping, Samantha Harvey

Maus, Art Spiegelman

Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino

The Descent of Man, Grayson Perry

The Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous Deception, Emmanuel Carrère

On Writing, Stephen King

Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

On Pandering, Claire Vaye Watkins

Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin