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ENGL1092 A Stranger Comes to Town: Introduction to Creative Writing

Module Overview

“A stranger comes to town” is often called one of the only stories of great literature, and in this introductory module we explore ideas of strangers and strangeness in creative writing and creative writers. How do creative writers make language strange? How do they make the extraordinary ordinary, and the ordinary extraordinary? Isn’t the need to avoid cliché another way in which writing – whether realistic or experimental – needs to be somehow strange? Drawing upon a range of genres, forms, and narrative and poetic strategies, we will also consider the art of writing and the creative process as well as writers themselves. If writers must become, as Henry James put it, “one of those on whom nothing is lost,” maybe they, too, are the strangers who come to town. The module will tap into many forms of writing to look at these concerns, from realistic fiction and sonnets to experimental poetry and the graphic novel, reading work by writers such as Zadie Smith, Alison Bechdel, Lorrie Moore, Danez Smith, and Raymond Carver. We will hone the practice of looking closely, using ekphrasis (writing inspired by other art forms) to develop that vital writerly skill. Emphasising that writing draws from many disciplines, we will ask you explore a subject outside the classroom (the environment, archaeology, architecture, etc.) and respond to that in a piece of creative writing. In seminars, you will do writing exercises in fiction, poetry, script, narrative non-fiction and hybrid forms. Your assessment will be a portfolio of work which includes two polished versions of these early drafts. You will write a critical commentary, an essay which looks at an element of craft, drawing upon your reading of primary and secondary set texts and a visit from a published writer to discuss how it influenced your own work.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • creative writing in a range of forms and approaches
  • the methods by which creative writers work
  • key elements of creative writing such as character, setting, narrative, forms and the use of language
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • generate and develop ideas for creative writing
  • begin to think critically about your own creative work
  • identify and apply key elements of creative writing
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • communicate ideas and write creatively in your chosen genre
  • use critical thinking to improve creative projects
  • critique the work of others effectively
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • successfully plan, structure, rewrite and edit your work
  • work with key elements of creative writing, e.g. character, viewpoint, plot, dialogue and imagery
  • write critical commentaries on your own work

Syllabus

In each week's session, you will "read as writers", examining the elements of craft required for these works to be successful, and considering the similarities and differences among the forms and the writers' approaches to these forms. You will also look at how writers discuss writing, as another window into the work and the creative process. As you read these works, you will also be experimenting within these forms as writers, working from writing exercises as well as from your own inspirations. You will participate in workshops with fellow students, led by your lecturer, to consider ways of improving these early drafts. These will then form the basis of a portfolio of creative writing that will make up your final assessment, alongside a short essay that analyses one of the set texts and how it influenced your own work.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The teaching in seminars, lectures, and workshops will focus on critical analysis of published works, while engaging you in writing exercises aimed at eliciting your creative responses to your reading. You will have opportunities to review your work in small groups and with the tutor. You will be expected to bring drafts of your work to seminars prior to each deadline, and to offer feedback to your fellow students on their work. You will be able to see your seminar tutor in consultation hours and to ask for feedback on work in progress as well as on marked assignments. This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as writing exercises; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.

TypeHours
Seminar20
Completion of assessment task40
Wider reading or practice10
Follow-up work8
Teaching12
Preparation for scheduled sessions56
Online discussion forums4
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Alison Bechdel. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. 

John Yorke (2014). Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them. 

Zadie Smith (1013). The Embassy of Cambodia. 

Hazel Smith, (2005). The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing. 

Anne Lamott (1980). Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life. 

Assessment

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Creative writing  (3000 words) 75%
Critical commentary  (1000 words) 25%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Creative writing  (3000 words) 75%
Critical commentary  (1000 words) 25%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Costs

Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Books are the only cost to this module, and that cost can be reduced if students purchase used copies.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at www.calendar.soton.ac.uk.

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