EN2SS-The Short Story: reading, writing, editing

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Pre-requisites: EN1CW Introduction to Creative Writing
Non-modular pre-requisites: PRE-REQUISITE Successful completion of EN1CW or, in special cases, (including visiting students registered to creative writing programmes in their home universities), you may seek the consent of the convenor.
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2019/0

Module Convenor: Ms Shelley Harris

Email: michelle.harris@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

Writers are readers too, and all authors are engaged in a creative cycle: reading literature, writing it, and taking that experience back into their reading. This module invites student writers to explore that process, critically engaging with a range of short stories, encountering some of the key debates about the form, and writing their own short fiction in response. Learning takes place in seminar groups, where analytical reading and practical writing interconnect, and in smaller peer groups, where students support each other’s editing with constructive feedback. This module is delivered at the University of Reading.


The module has three aims:

  • To enable students to read and analyse a range of short stories, introducing them to literary considerations specific to the form.

  • to introduce students to some of the literary debates around short-form prose, and to help them engage with these debates.

  • to equip students to write and edit their own short fiction.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module, it is expected that students will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of short stories produced by a range of authors

  • identify and analyse distinctive literary features of the short story

  • engage critically with key debates about the short story form

  • write and edit their own short fiction

  • Reflect critically on their own creative writing

Additional outcomes:

Oral and written communication skills will be developed, together with critical, interpretative and analytical abilities. Students will also enhance their IT competence through the use of relevant web resources in a critically informed manner. 

Outline content:

We will be reading short fiction from a range of writers, likely to include authors such as George Saunders, Helen Simpson, Alexia Arthurs, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Raymond Carver, Mollie Panter-Downes, Alice Munro and Lydia Davis. We will engage with debates about the form, considering issues such as Raymond Carver’s influence on contemporary short stories, and looking at developments in the genre, such as the rise of flash- and micro-fiction. Students will take this body of knowledge into their own writing, producing short stories both traditional and experimental in form. Assessment of the module reflects the balance between writing and reading, with 70% of the final mark given for students’ own creative writing (short fiction of 2000-2300 words) and 30% for  a critical essay (2000-2300 words) in which students set their own writing in the wider context of their reading.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module will be taught in a weekly two-hour seminar for which students are required to do preparatory reading and writing. This seminar will be supplemented by a weekly one-hour autonomous peer group session in which students will consider issues of editing and redrafting set in advance by their seminar leader. Students are also entitled to a half-hour tutorial on their formative written work.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 20
Tutorials 0.5
Guided independent study:      
    Wider reading (independent) 20
    Wider reading (directed) 30
    Peer assisted learning 15
    Advance preparation for classes 15
    Completion of formative assessment tasks 29.5
    Essay preparation 70
Total hours by term 200 0 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 30
Portfolio 70

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

The portfolio (containing short fiction 2000-2300 words in length and the critical essay of 2000-2300 words) must be submitted at the end of Week 2, Spring term. Written feedback will be given on that, with the creative work carrying 70% of the total mark, and the critical essay carrying the remaining 30%.

Formative assessment methods:

Oral feedback will be given in seminars. Students will also receive one piece of formative written feedback on their creative writing, as well as a half-hour tutorial.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    A mark of at least 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-examination in August. Coursework will be carried forward if it bears a confirmed mark of 40% or more. Otherwise it must be resubmitted by 12 noon of the last Friday of August.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 5 June 2019


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