Module Information

Module Identifier
WL20220
Module Title
Reading and Writing Fantasy Fiction
Academic Year
2019/2020
Co-ordinator
Semester
Semester 2
Reading List
External Examiners
  • Dr Paul Mcdonald (Senior Lecturer - University of Wolverhampton)
 
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Workshop 10 x 2 Hour Workshops
 

Assessment

Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Written Portfolio 1  Creative Piece: 30% (1,500 words) Learning Journal: 20% (1,000 words)  50%
Semester Assessment Written Portfolio 2  Creative Piece: 30% (1,500 words) Learning Journal: 20% (1,000 words)  50%
Supplementary Assessment Written Portfolio 1  Creative Piece: 30% (1,500 words) Learning Journal: 20% (1,000 words)  50%
Supplementary Assessment Written Portfolio 2  Creative Piece: 30% (1,500 words) Learning Journal: 20% (1,000 words)  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of the distinctive thematic concerns and formal innovations that characterize fantasy fiction.

2. Demonstrate, in both creative and evaluative writing, an increased command of a variety of techniques of fantasy writing.

3. Attend responsively to the formal and stylistic features of the texts studied on the module.

4. Demonstrate, in reflective prose, an awareness of their own writing processes.

5. Demonstrate, by the revision of work previously discussed in workshops, an ability to improve their writing in response to criticism.

Brief description

This module offers students the opportunity to engage critically and creatively with a range of fantasy texts as well as relevant critical and academic work. It will grant participants a clear and nuanced understanding of what makes the genre so vibrant and distinctive within the wider literary field. Students will be encouraged to undertake close readings of set texts and to consider matters of style, structure, and narrative technique in both their creative and critical responses. They will have the time, space, and direction to develop original stories and critical work, with the aim being to ensure they leave with an understanding of this popular and marketable form.

The module will begin with an introduction to the history of fantasy in literature, before considering critical and creative perspectives on sub-genres (such as High Fantasy, Portal Fantasy, Urban Fantasy and so on) as well as issues of representation and ideology within the genre. Students will be introduced to range of authors (such as Lev Grossman, N.K. Jemisin, Jeannette Ng, and Nnedi Okorafor), theoretical approaches, and writing practices, which will form a base knowledge for later modules. Teaching delivery will consist of ten 2-hour seminar/workshops (the first hour of each class will involve the workshopping of student writing, the second a seminar style discussion). Participants will discuss exemplar texts for each approach, aiming to learn as much as possible about their technical and artistic methods, as well as relevant critical approaches, enlarging their understanding of fantasy’s many possibilities in the process. Students will develop their own creative pieces through workshops and, in the process, enhance their understanding of fantasy as a form of professional creative practice and a rewarding field of academic study.

Content

Session 1. ‘If Everything is Possible Then Nothing is Interesting’
Introduction to the module and to the long history of fantasy fiction. Participants will discuss the importance of limitations and rules in fantastical and magical narratives, as well as conducting exercises to examine the significance of ‘Worldbuilding’ for the fantasy genre.

Session 2: ‘The Gadflies of Morddwydtyllyon’s Cow!’
Wales is a land of dragons and drowned kingdoms, and its medieval literature has offered fantasy writers inspiration for centuries. This session will examine the ways by which such can contribute to our writing today. We will look in particular at The Second Branch of the Mabinogi – a tale of giants, resurrection cauldrons, princesses, and war – as an example.

Session 3: ‘One Subgenre to Rule Them All?’
‘High Fantasy’, sometimes called ‘Secondary World Fantasy’, is defined as stories set in an alternative rather than in our own reality (for example JRR Tolkien’s Middle-Earth or Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea). We generally associate High Fantasy with long novels or series, but this session will examine how the writer of short fiction can best approach such material.

Session 4: ‘Annon Edhellen, Edro Hi Ammen!’
Wardrobes, magic mirrors, enchanted stone circles, and even mysterious doorways that we never seemed to notice before… Portals to dark and dangerous worlds are everywhere in fantasy fiction. Travelling through one can lead to all kinds of challenges and difficult choices for our protagonists. So come down the rabbit hole as we explore stories about the gateways between worlds and the characters who step through them.

Session 5: ‘Travels on the Rainbow Bridge’
Speculative fiction has an unrivalled ability to explore the spectrum of sexual expression and fantasy is no exception. This session will focus on fiction that presents alternative models of societies and characters with different beliefs about gender and sexuality. We will examine texts which move beyond the obvious and the stereotypical, and will consider strategies for addressing such topics in our own writing.

Session 6: ‘So Many Different Types of Strange’
This session will interrogate the racism inherent in much canonical fantasy fiction and, in the process, will challenge participants to do better in their own fiction and criticism. We will examine contemporary texts which foreground diversity, and we will consider the changing publishing contexts of fantasy fiction which has lately brought such work to the fore.

Session 7: ‘Down These Mean Streets…’
The intrusion of the fantastical into the everyday world leads to all sorts of interesting stories when it intersects with the already complicated life of the big city. This session will look at how such Urban Fantasy integrates the supernatural with the trappings of noir and detective fiction to locate stories about werewolves, demons, and the like in a recognisable world.

Session 8: ‘I Vant to Suck Your Blood!’
The vampire is one of the archetypical figures of fantasy, reimagined again and again, and linking the genres to its neighbours horror and historical fiction. This session will sink its teeth into the mythology behind vampires. We will investigate the various depictions of the figure in literature and popular culture, and we will discuss how to choose the vampire that’s right for you.

Sessions 9: ‘Double, Double Toil and Trouble’
From ancient and esteemed medicine women to the Christian Church’s literal demonising of female sexuality; from Shakespeare’s weird sisters to Pratchett’s Wyrd ones, to those of Sabrina and beyond, the history of witches is the story of how women are portrayed – and how they portray themselves – in fiction. This session will look at the ever-changing depiction of witches in literature and where they might go from here.

Session 10: ‘End of Book I’
A final session to revise the key themes of the module, to discuss the through-lines which connect the set texts, and to offer advice ahead of the final assessment.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written communication skills are key to the work students will do on this module. Moreover, oral interaction in group discussion will be essential to the seminars and workshops.
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will be expected to improve their understanding of fantasy literature in response to discussion with the tutor and other students, as well as to develop their own approaches to the writing and criticism of said literature.
Information Technology Student will be required to make full use of library facilities and master online/digital research.
Personal Development and Career planning This will be discussed during the course and is implicitly embedded in the assessed work and in the feedback of course tutor and peers.
Problem solving Employing the skills of critical engagement, assessment of writing technique, and analysis of structure and genre will arise and be dealt with during seminars, in workshops, and in assessment. The effectiveness by which the student has solved problems is evident in the planning of and quality of the finished work.
Research skills The assessment on this module will reflect the student’s ability to read widely and to engage with literature with a critical eye as well as construct effective narratives of their own. They will have to apply this knowledge to make informed decisions about their own approaches to fantasy fiction.
Subject Specific Skills Practical proficiency in the specific skills of writing fantasy fiction, as well as literary analysis and criticism, which will prepare students for their dissertations and postgraduate work.
Team work Students will have the opportunity to work in small group discussions during workshops and seminars.

Notes

This module is at CQFW Level 5