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Contemporary British Fiction (Online)

Key facts

TypeOnline and Distance Learning
DatesWed 17 Sep to Fri 28 Nov 2014
Subject area(s)Literature
CATS points10
FeesFrom £245.00
Application statusApplications being accepted
Course codeO14P313LTV
Course contactIf you have any questions about this course, please email onlinecourses@conted.ox.ac.uk.


This course is for you if: you enjoy reading and discussing novels; you belong to a book club or reading group; you read reviews of fiction, you have opinions and ideas about novels; if you have ever thought ‘so many books, so little time’, and wondered how to decide which authors to try; if you have ever been daunted by terms such as ‘modernism’, ‘magic realism’ or ‘postmodern’ - and if you would like to: take your enjoyment and appreciation of fiction to the next stage; develop your ideas into coherent, backed-up analytical arguments; have technical terms demystified.

The player will show in this paragraph

Listen to Dr Jennifer Dunn talking about the course

Students completing this course will be invited to join our online book group.
For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.


We shall be focusing on fiction by Ian McEwan, Hilary Mantel, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Zadie Smith, but the skills participants gain during their study of those novels will enable them to explore other contemporary and earlier writing. The course introduces and explains concepts such as realism, modernism, and postmodernism in an accessible way. Students will learn to analyse the language, style and structure of the key texts, and, by comparing them to extracts from eighteenth-, nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, to understand their contexts. This course will ask you to consider the way we read and value contemporary writing, and will encourage you to discuss the approaches and assumptions in book reviews and literary prizes. Above all, this course aims to enhance your enjoyment and understanding of literature, and enable you to further explore contemporary writing.

Programme details

1. Approaching contemporary fiction
2. Defining contemporary style: realism and modernism
3. Postmodernism: themes and techniques
4. Life at the millennium
5. Contemporary fiction and genre
6. Science, technology and ethics
7. Self and society: gender, class, and social categories
8. New voices: hyperrealism?
9. Race, ethnicity, nationality and culture
10. Conclusion: literature, politics, and a new canon?

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.



Dr Jennifer Dunn

Role: Tutor

Course aims

• Enhance understanding and enjoyment of literary texts.
• Understand basic concepts of the critical idiom.
• Distinguish between opinions and appreciations, and analysis.
• Produce close critical analyses of prose and poetry.
• Have a working knowledge of the broad chronological, thematic, and stylistic categories of English Literature.
• Produce written work utilising academic conventions of format and referencing.
• Make effective use of online resources in English Literary Studies.
• Begin to build a personal reading list.


This course is accredited and you are expected to take the course for credit. To be awarded credit you must complete written contributions satisfactorily. Successful students will receive credit, awarded by the Board of Studies of Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. The award will take the form of 10 units of transferable credit at FHEQ level 4 of the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS). A transcript detailing the credit will be issued to successful students. Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment due half way through the course and one longer assignment due at the end of the course. Students will have about two weeks to complete each assignment.

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following paperback books: • McEwan, I., Atonement (2001) Any edition • Mantel, H., Beyond Black (2005) Any edition • Ishiguro, K., Never Let Me Go (2005) Any edition • Smith, Z., White Teeth (2000) Any edition • Head, D., The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction, 1950-2000 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002)
The novels above are listed in the order they will be studied.

Teaching methods

- Guided reading of texts
- Guided use of existing websites
- Use of tutor notes and handouts
- Discussions of particular issues and responses to reading in the unit forums
- Close critical analyses of selected extracts from the texts studied

Teaching outcomes

By the end of this course...

You will understand:
• Relevant critical and theoretical concepts, such as genre and postmodernism
• Relevant critical debates about contemporary fiction
• Common themes and techniques in contemporary British fiction
• The difference between appreciation/opinion and critical analysis
• The assigned novels and extracts of earlier fiction
• How contemporary fiction compares to earlier literature.

And you will have developed the following skills:
• To apply critical and theoretical concepts to enhance their understanding of contemporary texts
• To think about and discuss contemporary fiction in relation to cultural and critical contexts
• To analyse and compare reviews and critical readings
• To develop your own critical approach to contemporary fiction

Fee options

Programme Fee
Home/EU Fee: £245.00
Non-EU Fee: £295.00

Apply for this course

If you are unsure whether you are eligible to pay `Home/EU` or `Non-EU/overseas` fees, please read the UKCISA guidance notes to help establish your fee status.

You can apply for this course in the following ways:

Apply online
enrol onlineto secure your place on this course now
Apply by post, email or fax
Download a PDF application form PDF document.

Terms and Conditions, Student Contract.

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