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The University of Southampton

ENGL3092 Great Writers Steal: Creative Writing and Critical Thinking

Module Overview

T.S. Eliot is paraphrased as saying: “Good Writers Borrow, Great Writers Steal”. In this module, we will look at how writers steal: how they draw upon other writers for knowledge about craft and for inspiration. We will look at two pairings of creative work, seeing how a contemporary writer responded creatively to a classic book. We will also look at related critical essays by writers about those works. In doing so, we will go backward to examine a writer’s influences; inward to a writer’s own writing; and forward to the writers they have influenced, analysing as we do so ideas of theme, structure, inspirations, and the craft of character, place, and narrative. While thinking about the symbiotic relationship between these works, you will be creating your own response to the works on the module, first in a series of writing exercises in which you write either creatively or critically about the work we are reading, then in an extended creative piece that is your own response to a classic or current piece of literature. You will analyse that process in a critical essay as well.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

- Introduce you to new ways of thinking about creative and critical writing - Increase your understanding of the creative and critical relationships between classic and contemporary works of literature - Enable you to put into practice an approach to creative work that comes directly from critical thinking - Give you the opportunity to produce an extended piece of innovative prose writing that integrates the critical and creative effectively

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the ways that writers draw upon both pre-existing stories or creative works by others as well as critical thinking in the production of their own work
  • the relationships between the critical and creative works of selected fiction and non-fiction writers
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • consider both creative and critical works by the same author, enhancing your understanding of each
  • bring an understanding of how writers are influenced by classic and contemporary writers to your reading in other modules
  • enhance your understanding of creative work read in modules in Years 1 and 2
  • use the knowledge gained about writing and authorial decisions to deepen ideas in your upcoming BA dissertation, whether a critical or creative writing dissertation
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • ability to generate ideas and write creatively on demand
  • think critically about creative projects
  • give constructive criticism and use constructive criticism to improve your own work
  • plan, structure, rewrite and edit your work
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • think critically about your own work including your creative methods and influences
  • write critical commentaries on your own work
  • have practised working with key elements of fiction and creative non-fiction, e.g. character, viewpoint, plot, dialogue and imagery


In this module, you will read contemporary work side by side with the classic book which influenced the new work. Examples of such a pairing might be Vladmir Nabokov’s seminal memoir, Speak, Memory, with a contemporary memoir such as Chernobyl Strawberries, by Vesna Goldsworthy, and Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way with the 2010 novel Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. You will look at both the critical and creative links between them, including the formal aspects and more instinctual aspects to which the contemporary writer responded. You will also look at critical writing by creative writers, such as Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature, to gain further insight into the links between creative and critical thinking. As you read these works, you will also be responding to them through critical analysis of the crafting of story as well as creative responses, which after a process of development become works in themselves. These responses may feed each other, your “critical” responses informing your “creative" responses, and vice versa. You will be expected to respond both critically and creatively to the work during the semester, which will lead to your assessments: a creative piece of about 3,000 words and an essay of about 1,000 words.

Special Features

When possible, we will have a contemporary author who has responded to a classic work visit campus to talk to students.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The teaching whether in lectures, seminars, classes 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. We hope that a writer whose work has been highly influenced by a classic book will be invited to speak at one of the lectures. 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 language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.

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

Resources & Reading list

Joan Silber (2009). The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long As It Takes. 

Marcel Proust, translated by Lydia Davis (2003 (1913)). In Search of Lost Time: The Way by Swann's. 

Vladmir Nabokov (1982). Lectures on Literature. 

Jennifer Egan (2011). A Visit From the Goon Squad. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Creative writing  (3200 words) 75%
Critical commentary  (1050 words) 25%


MethodPercentage contribution
Creative writing  (3200 words) 75%
Critical commentary  (1050 words) 25%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


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

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