EL5010 - Historical Fiction

What will I learn on this module?

What is historical fiction? When and why did historical fiction begin to be written? How have later writers of historical fiction built on or surpassed early forms of historical fiction? What did or does historical fiction tell us about the world we live in? This module addresses these questions, with a survey of historical fiction from its origins in the 19th century to its varied forms in the 21st century. You will learn to contextualise each historical novel in relation to the conflicts and strains of the period in which it was made and consumed, while also thinking about the relations between writing, gender, religion, and politics, issues of literary influence, and the function of art in times of crisis, past and present.

Building on your work correlating the historical novel and short story at Level 4 (Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys and ‘The Love of a Good Woman’ by Alice Munro), and prefiguring your extended writing work for the dissertation and on Level 6 modules, this module will develop your understanding of historical fiction as a literary genre. This will involve looking at its origins with Walter Scott’s 12th Century Medieval Romance and Folklore and then moving to the Tudors, the French Revolution, the Victorian Era and the Black British history after the Second World War. You will be examining close links between fictional re-imaginings of the past and issues surrounding changing national identities and popular memory. Finally you will be exploring the relationship between the historical novel and a range of other subgenres such as fantasy, social realism, postmodernism, romance, psychoanalysis, the Gothic, biography, spiritualism, detective fiction and postcolonialism.

How will I learn on this module?

1 x weekly 1.5 - hour lecture
1 x weekly 1.5 - hour seminar

This module will be delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars. Each week, a 1.5 hour lecture will establish the critical and contextual framework for the text or texts under discussion, a framework which will be both reinforced and problematised in a 1.5 - hour seminar. The seminar will provide you with the opportunity to explore the texts discursively through small-group exercises, presentations, and debate.

In addition to learning during contact hours with the module tutor, you will be expected to undertake both directed and independent learning. Directed learning generally will take the form of preparation for seminars where you will be expected to contribute to discussion. Informal presentations will be used as well as group work to facilitate student engagement.

Independent learning generally will take the form of further reading and investigation, the consolidation of seminar notes, and revision/preparation for the assessment of the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Lectures, seminars and tasks for these will develop your academic skills as you engage with primary, secondary, theoretical and contextual materials to allow you to attain the module learning outcomes, and, more importantly perhaps, to enjoy reading and thinking about historical fiction in context. The module handbook provides details of lectures, seminars, reading lists and assessment criteria; lecture PowerPoint slides are made available on the e-learning portal. The module tutor will be available in lectures and seminars, as well as in office hours and on email/phone, to discuss any queries or concerns you have about how to excel academically on the module. Moreover, feedback on formative work (a 500 word plan for your essay including an indicative bibliography) will also serve as ‘feed forward’, giving guidance on how to improve during the module. In addition, you have a designated Guidance Tutor throughout the entire duration of your programme. The academic side of the Guidance Tutor’s role includes:
• monitoring your ongoing academic progress
• helping you to develop self-reflection skills necessary for continuous academic development
• directing you to further available services which can help you with your academic skills (e.g. Library’s Skills Plus)

You are advised to see your Guidance Tutor at least twice each semester to review your academic progress. The Guidance Booklet, which you receive at the start of your first year, includes structured materials designed to help you develop your self-reflection skills. These materials underpin the academic side of the regular Guidance meetings, helping you to learn how to best use the feedback you receive on your assignments, how to build on your strengths, and improve in the areas where you could perform better.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. a specialised knowledge of selected historical novels and their contexts, and an enhanced understanding of how historical fiction can both express and challenge dominant ideologies

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
2. an ability to analyse historical fiction, paying attention to thematic concerns and formal features;
3. an ability to identify and explore the structural form and key themes in historical fiction within the appropriate social, cultural, and political contexts

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
4. skills conforming to relevant standards of good academic conduct in the expression of an informed argument in written and oral forms through completing the various activities prescribed.

How will I be assessed?

Formative (practice) assessment
1. 500-word plan for the Essay.
Doing this plan and receiving oral feedback on it will help you to:
• identify the question you intend to answer
• identify the texts you plan to use to answer the question
• provide some description of how you intend to answer the question
• offer some detail about how you will structure your response
• present some examples of secondary material you plan to use
• ask your tutor for advice about any specific areas of concern or query

Oral feedback on this plan will be provided, as well as opportunities to ask the tutor questions during your tutorial. The rationale for this is to enable you to road-test ideas before committing yourself to an argument or position. This assessment addresses MLOs 1,2,4

Summative (graded) Assessments
1. 4000-word Essay (100%)
For this task you will have to write an essay referring to two historical novels we have studied on the module in response to a set of questions.

For this module, in addition to the set questions, you also have the opportunity to devise your own question, in discussion with your tutors (by email or in person, before you submit the plan in your tutorial.
Feedback will be provided using the Departmental template and comments on the script. MLOs 1-5





Module abstract

Please find details of this module in the other sections provided.

Course info

UCAS Code Q320

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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