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Unit information: The Author as Character in 2015/16

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Unit name The Author as Character
Unit code ENGL20048
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. John McTague
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

As readers we may or may not feel the presence of an author when we read, and much critical ink has been spilt attempting to define, identify, locate, kill or detect the ghostly presence of the author. What happens, however, when a literary text contains its ‘author’ in a more literal sense, as a character operating in a fictional world? This unit approaches the history of authorship by focussing on texts either purporting to be written by fictional characters (by authors such as Defoe, Swift, Robinson, or Beckett) or featuring fictionalised versions of ‘real’ authorial figures (such as Chaucer, Spenser, Joyce, Roth): particular attention will be paid to texts that deliberately or mischievously blur those boundaries. As well as thinking about authorship, students will also explore the development of kinds of literary character: is the authorial-character a special category? Does it change according to historical context, genre, or material form? Are characters always authors of sorts?

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have (1) developed a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of literary works from across literary history and aspects of the history of authorship and characterization; (2) in-depth knowledge of some of the literary and historical contexts in which this literature was produced; (3) demonstrated the ability to analyse and evaluate differing critical accounts of the primary literature; (4) demonstrated the ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence in order to illustrate/demonstrate a cogent argument; 5) strengthened their skills in argumentation and academic writing.

Teaching Information

1 x 2 hour seminar per week

Assessment Information

One short essay of 2000 words (40% weighting) and one long essay of 3000 words (60% weighting). Both summative elements will assess ILOs 1-5.

Reading and References

Samuel Beckett, Molloy (1955)

Aphra Behn, Oroonoko (1688)

Sean Burke (ed.) Authorship: from Plato to the Postmodern: a Reader (Edinburgh University Press, 1995)

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (2004)

Philip Roth, Operation Shylock: A Confession (1993)