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Narrative, Fiction, Theory - ENG00023M

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Richard Walsh
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

Narrative theory has always been preoccupied with literary fiction, yet it has also insisted upon the much broader significance of narrative – in non-fiction, across media, across disciplines. How well has the example of literary fiction served as a theoretical paradigm for narrative in general? And conversely, how successfully has the general concept of narrative been invoked to explain the specific features of fictionality? This module adopts a broadly historical perspective upon the development of narrative theory, taking seminal theoretical works for its primary texts. We’ll trace the development of key ideas through a series of major contributions to the field, beginning with a nod to Aristotle but focussed mainly upon figures since Henry James.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The module will provide a grounding in Russian Formalism, Structuralism, Post-classical narratologies and Cognitivism; its historical approach will give us an understanding of the essentials of narrative theory, and at the same time afford a perspective upon the contingencies of the field’s conceptual evolution. We’ll develop skills in theoretical thinking and argument, and the critical evaluation of narratological ideas against each other and against the demands of particular narratives.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and critical engagement with the core concepts of narrative theory

  2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with the history of the field and some of its landmark texts

  3. Evaluate key debates within the narrative theory concerning the relative merits of different theoretical paradigms

  4. Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical and theoretical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
4,500 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
4,500 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

  • You are provided with feedback within the 20 working day University deadline
  • You are always welcome to use staff Open Office Hours to discuss essay feedback
  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see section 12 of the department's Guide to Assessment
  • Full details can be found at:

Indicative reading

Aristotle, Poetics; Henry James, “The Art of Fiction”; E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel; Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folktale; Todorov, Tzvetan. “Structural Analysis of Narrative”; Roland Barthes, S/Z; Gérard Genette, Narrative Discourse; Susan Lanser, “Toward a Feminist Narratology”; David Herman, Story Logic.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.