EN3RF-From Romance to Fantasy

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: English Part 1 or A-Level (A*, A or B)
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2019/0

Module Convenor: Dr Mary Morrissey

Email: m.e.morrissey@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

On this module, students will explore the role played by fantastical or wondrous elements in English literature from the middle ages to the present day. It will focus on a range of key narrative structures (such as the quest), persistent motifs such as magical objects, and influential modes, such as the gothic. It will present authors typically associated with fantasy, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, alongside authors less typically associated with this type of writing, such as Shakespeare and Jane Austen. It will also consider how romance narratives, like the stories of King Arthur, developed in the medieval period and were then revived and reworked in later centuries. It will explore the reinvention of the middle ages in subsequent centuries and consider what ‘medievalism’ tells us about the culture of later literary periods.


This module encourages a critical understanding of the role played by non-naturalistic modes and ‘tales of wonder’ in English literature over a long time span. It will begin with a close examination of selected medieval romance texts and then consider how the characteristic narrative structures and motifs of romance and the very idea of the fantastic are developed from Renaissance romance and Romantic Gothic to twentieth and twenty-first century fantasy.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module students will be expected to:

  • discuss the treatment of recurring narrative patterns, motifs and themes within the tradition of romance, Gothic, and fantasy writing in English

  • approach treatments of romance and fantasy in their historical context

  • develop a critical vocabulary for discussing the role played by the fantastical in literature from a range of periods

  • read some of the set texts in the original Middle English

  • demonstrate an informed critical engagement with ideas discussed in seminars and with appropriate secondary materials

  • research, organize and articulate a scholarly critical argument in written work.

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:

Texts may include: modern novels such as J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey; medieval and renaissance romances, such as Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale and Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale; and texts that draw on the Arthurian legend, such as Ywain and Gawain, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur, Tennyson’s Idylls of the King and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Three seminar hours weekly, which will take the form of two blocks of 1 and 2 hours respectively, for which students are required to do preparatory reading. Students are also entitled to a half-hour tutorial on their formative written work. With the consent of the module convenor, students may also undertake a placement, through which they will learn how to apply the knowledge and skills gained in studying for this module in a professional context outside the University.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Seminars 20
Tutorials 0.5
Guided independent study: 169.5
Total hours by term 200 0 0
Total hours for module 200

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Student submit two essays of 2250-2500 words, one at the end of term (week 11) and one at the end of the vacation following (week 1 of the following term). 50% of module mark per essay.

Formative assessment methods:

Students write one formative essay, of between 1500 and 2000 words. Feedback will also be provided on the assessed essays of 2250-2500 words, or the equivalent placement report.

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:

    Coursework will be carried forward if it bears a confirmed mark of 40% or more. Otherwise it must be resubmitted by 1 September.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Required text books: Approx. £40.00

    Last updated: 16 April 2019


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