Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Contemporary Fiction

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course



DESCRIPTION This study-unit provides an introduction to post-1960 fiction in English, with particular reference to novels and short stories published in Britain and in the North American continent (US and Canada), though reference is also made to narratives emerging from Australia, India, South Africa and elsewhere. Particular attention is given to:

- Providing a survey of the major novelists writing in English in the contemporary period;
- Aspects of the aesthetics of postmodernism and of major movements and paradigms affecting contemporary fiction;
- Close study of a small but representative range of novels within the emerging canons of contemporary fiction in English;
- The impact of digital aesthetics, new-media narratives and electronic literature on contemporary fiction;
- Close study of adaptations of contemporary fiction into film.

The study-unit is made of three connected study-units which, in approved circumstances, can also be taken independently (normally, by visiting or returning Erasmus students):

ENG3172 - Contemporary American Fiction (Semester 1).
ENG3272 - Contemporary British Fiction (Semester 2).
ENG3372 - Modern and Postmodern Fiction into Film (Semester 2).

In any one year, each of the three above units may focus on close study of three or four set texts (or films, in the case of ENG3372), the choice of which will vary from year to year.

Students are advised to also consult the study-unit descriptions for each of the above study-units.

Study-Unit Aims:

- To demonstrate why contemporary fiction can be enjoyable, inspiring and endlessly inventive.
- To provide an introduction to contemporary fiction in English.
- To demonstrate the thematic range and formal experimentation within contemporary fiction in English.
- To introduce students to the aesthetics of the contemporary novel.
- To indicate how postmodernity and postmodernism, as well as the counter-reactions to both, have impinged upon contemporary fiction.
- To allow for comparison across different traditions within contemporary fiction in English, as well as with contemporary fiction more broadly.
- To allow for close study of up to 8 novels across contemporary fiction in English, and up to 4 films that adapt contemporary fiction.
- To relate contemporary fiction to the legacies of modernism as well as to developments in digital and new-media forms of storytelling.
- To provide students with prompts for further reading within contemporary fiction.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will:

- Be able to appreciate the distinctiveness of contemporary fiction when compared with traditions of classic realist and modernist narrative;
- Be more informed about a number of the major figures within contemporary fiction;
- Be able to identify a number of the major figures within contemporary fiction, and the reasons for their pre-eminence;
- Have greater confidence in identifying and analysing aspects of the aesthetics of postmodern and contemporary fiction.
- Be able to relate specific examples of contemporary fiction to adaptations in film and other media;
- Have a stronger appreciation of the durability of the novel as a literary form, even in the age of digital and new-media storytelling;
- Be able to appreciate the major currents within literary criticism and theory that are relevant to the study of contemporary fiction.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Critique specific examples of contemporary fiction;
- Apply the approaches and methodologies used in the critique of the set texts to othe r examples of contemporary fiction;
- Compare classic realist, modernist and contemporary fiction;
- Relate postmodernist and later aesthetics to earlier traditions in fiction and literature more broadly;
- Comment with confidence on affinities and contrasts across realist and anti-realist fiction;
- Identify continuities and differences across different contemporary traditions of the novel in English, and their specificity in relation to narratives in other languages;
- Critique examples of contemporary storytelling that are not embedded within the novel form, and which may have film and/or digital platforms as their medium;
- Identify and deploy some of the major methodological and analytical tools within literary criticism and literary theory that are relevant to the study of contemporary fiction.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

The set texts for close study may change from year to year, in order to reflect changing trends in the study of contemporary fiction.

Texts covered within Contemporary American Narrative have in the past included Toni Morrison, Beloved; Lydia Davis, Collected Stories; Don DeLillo, Point Omega; Joseph Heller, Catch-22; Cormac McCarthy, The Road; Alice Munro, Runaway; Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49.

Texts covered within Contemporary British Narrative have in the past included Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending and The Noise of Time; A. S. Byatt, Possession; Angela Carter, Bloody Chamber; Jim Crace, Being Dead and Harvest; Tom McCarthy, Satin Island; Ian McEwan, Atonement and Sweet Tooth; Tim Parks, Destiny; Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children; Ali Smith, How to Be Both and Autumn and Winter; Graham Swift, Waterland; Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry.

Supplementary Readings:

- Boxall, Peter, Twenty-First Century Fiction: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013); The Value of the Novel (2015).
- Boxall, Peter, The Value of the Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).
- Currie, Mark, Postmodern Narrative Theory (London: Macmillan, 1998).
- Hutcheon, Linda, A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction (London: Routledge, 1988).
- McHale, Brian, Postmodernist Fiction (New York and London: Methuen, 1987).
- Mengham, Rod, An Introduction to Contemporary Fiction (Cambridge: Polity, 1999).
- Nash, Christopher, World Postmodern Fiction: A Guide (London: Longman, 1987).
- Nicol, Brian, The Cambridge Introduction to Postmodern Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
- Patterson, Anabel, The International Novel (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014).
- Relevant Journals: Modern Fiction Studies; Novel; CounterText; Textual Practice; Contemporary Literature; Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction; Literature Film Quarterly

(Reference should also be made to the separate reading lists provided in the study-unit descriptions for ENG3172, ENG3272 and ENG3372.)


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Online Examination (5 Hours) SEM1 Yes 33%
Online Examination (5 Hours) SEM2 Yes 33%
Online Examination (5 Hours) SEM2 Yes 33%

LECTURER/S Ivan Callus
Saviour Catania
Kenneth Scicluna

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.