Ways of reading: aspects of narrative theory

Course Dates: 16/05/25 - 04/07/25
Time: 12:45 - 14:45
Location: Keeley Street
What do we mean by ‘literary fiction’? What expectations do we bring to the novels we read? Do we really ‘escape’ when we enter fictional worlds? These are just some of the questions addressed in a course which focuses on the analysis of prose fiction. Reading texts as short as one-sentence ‘flash fiction’ to complete short stories, it engages with writing from a wide range of periods and authors, paying close attention to narrative techniques and their effects.
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Ways of reading: aspects of narrative theory
  • Course Code: HLT13
  • Dates: 16/05/25 - 04/07/25
  • Time: 12:45 - 14:45
  • Taught: Fri, Daytime
  • Duration: 8 sessions (over 8 weeks)
  • Location: Keeley Street
  • Tutor: Jenny Stevens

Course Code: HLT13

Fri, day, 16 May - 04 Jul '25

Duration: 8 sessions (over 8 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Centre for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

This in-college literature course looks closely at a diverse range of prose fiction extracts, alongside some of the academic writing which has informed today’s understanding of how the novel and short story are read. It examines the expectations we bring to fictional storytelling, such as preconceptions about openings and endings, and introduces some of the specialised terminology that has been used to define aspects of narrative fiction.

The course also examines the various material realities which influence the fiction we read: book prizes and festivals; commercial publishing; professional reviewing; adaptation of novels for the screen; educational curricula.

What will we cover?

We will cover a range of concepts related to narrative theory, focusing on academic writing by scholars such as Roland Barthes, Frank Kermode and John Mullan. In addition, we will consider extracts from key critical essays on fiction by novelists such as Henry James, E.M. Forster, David Lodge and Zadie Smith.

Theoretical topics will be approached primarily through close readings of extracts selected from novels spanning four centuries, and representing a variety of literary styles and movements, including realism, modernism and postmodernism. Complete short stories by authors such as Katherine Mansfield and Ernest Hemingway will also be studied.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Understand some key concepts in narrative theory
• Interpret texts using a variety of critical approaches
• Identify specific styles and movements in prose fiction
• Reflect on and discuss your own reading of fiction with confidence.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course is suitable for anyone interested in the close analysis of prose fiction. You need to be open to different ways of reading and willing to listen to and engage with the views of others in discussion.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

There will be a mix of short lecture and/or PowerPoint presentation, and whole-class and small group discussion. You will be asked to read and think about short extracts set before each week’s class.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

All materials will be provided by the tutor.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for other Literature courses at www.citylit.ac.uk under history, culture & writing/literature.

Jenny Stevens

Jenny Stevens has taught English at both pre-university and degree level. A former Head of English, she currently combines part-time teaching with academic writing and series editing for Methuen Modern Drama editions. She has an MA in Victorian Studies and a PhD in late-Victorian literature. Her publications include ‘Faith, Fiction and the Historical Jesus’ (2010) and three co-authored Arden Shakespeare guides for undergraduate readers. Jenny is a Founding Fellow of the English Association.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.