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Telling stories – the novel and beyond

How have writers chosen to tell their stories, and why? What techniques do they use to make us believe in the reality of the worlds they create? If you’re interested in finding out in depth about how literature works this module is for you. You'll read gripping stories from across literary history, from Shakespeare to science fiction, from Thomas Hardy to Arundhati Roy, with a particular focus on nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels. This will develop your understanding of key techniques and devices used by writers, as you investigate the historical contexts behind their work and discover new ways of understanding literature.

Modules count towards OU qualifications

OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module

Module code
A233
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
60
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
OU SCQF FHEQ
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

There are two parts to the module, one devoted to realism, the other to fantasy. In each, you’ll be reading and studying texts from a variety of periods and in a variety of different forms. This will develop your skills in the analysis of key features such as characterisation, narrative voice, plot structure, imagery, symbolism and verbal style. You'll receive two module books to guide your study and a wealth of online material, including interviews with leading critics and videos of settings used by some of the authors.

Part One – Realism: depicting the world

The first part of the module is all about the following five texts that depict, in diverse ways, the ‘real world’ lived in by their authors. A short introduction will set the scene by discussing past and present ideas about storytelling and realist fiction. 

  • Thomas Hardy’s richly enjoyable Far from the Madding Crowd (1874). The novel is set in Wessex, a beautifully described and fictionalised version of the Dorset in which Hardy grew up. 
  • Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country (1913) takes place in a very different world: the high society of early twentieth-century New York. Its central character, the upwardly mobile Undine Spragg, is one of the most intriguing characters in literature. 
  • Ali Smith's Hotel World (2001) will leap you forward into the twenty-first century. You'll explore the background to a mysterious death through the voices of five very different women. 
  • Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War (1928) is an absorbing and moving evocation of life as a soldier in the First World War. With this text you'll focus on the use of realist literary devices in a non-fiction narrative.
  • Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize-winning The God of Small Things (1997) is a novel set in twentieth-century southern India. Roy’s attention to the details of the world she is describing, and the occasional startling supernatural elements in the book make it the ideal bridge from the realism of part one to the ‘fantastic' writing you'll study in part two.

At the end of part one, in a special ‘Book Club’ section, you'll choose a text to study from a shortlist of five, each option similar in some way to one of the five books you have already read. This is your chance to build on your earlier work on the module, to explore your enthusiasms, and to develop skills as an independent learner.

Part Two – The fantastic: creating new worlds

In the second part, you'll study the techniques used in the following selection of works of fantasy literature. These have been written in a range of different periods and you'll find there is a range of different ways in which ‘fantastic’ stories relate to the real world we live in. You'll also move beyond the novel, studying poetry, a play, short stories and an illustrated book as well as a classic science fiction novel.

  • You'll ground your work on the fantastic by studying one of its most fundamental genres: the fairy tale. You’ll read fairy tales from diverse authors and periods, focusing in particular on the sophisticated retellings of Charles Perrault (1628–1703), the darker work of the Brothers Grimm, the playful and poignant tales of Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) and the challenging adult reversionings of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber (1979). You'll learn new ways of analysing the structure of stories that you'll apply in your work later in this part. 
  • The contemporary English poet Simon Armitage provides a modern translation of the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This fantastic narrative tells of the encounter between Gawain, one of King Arthur’s knights, and a mysterious supernatural figure. 
  • Neil Gaiman's Stardust (1999) reimagines the genre of the fairy tale as the hero crosses the boundary between Victorian England and the magical land of ‘Faerie’. Gaiman also worked closely with the illustrator and you'll study the relationship between the pictures and narrative in the text.
  • Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974) uses science fiction to work out the implications of complex political ideas as one example of the realist devices used by authors.
  • Shakespeare’s captivating play The Tempest (c.1611) is appropriately a story about ends and beginnings, set on an imaginary island inhabited by a magician, his daughter and two mysterious non-human beings.

You will learn

In addition to exploring the texts and topics detailed above, as you progress through the module you will develop skills of close reading and analysis as well as the ability to think logically and express yourself clearly. You will also increase your proficiency in IT. These are skills highly valued by employers in all sectors.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Your tutor will use a blend of methods that will include face-to-face day schools and moderated online discussion forums.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

Telling stories – the novel and beyond starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2030.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    No examination
    No residential school


    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 2 module and builds on the OU level 1 module Discovering the arts and humanities (A111), or The arts past and present (AA100) (now discontinued), and Voices, texts and material culture (A105). These modules develop skills such as logical thinking, clear expression, essay writing and the ability to select and interpret relevant materials. They also offer an introduction to a range of subjects in the arts and humanities.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    You will find it helpful to read as many of the set books as you can before the module begins.

    Register

    Start End England fee Register
    05 Oct 2019 Jun 2020 £3012.00

    Registration closes 12/09/19 (places subject to availability)

    Register
    This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2030.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a computer, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).


    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time convenient to you.


    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2020. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 17/07/2019.

    What's included

    All teaching material for this module is delivered via two printed books and online via the module website.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    Materials to buy

    Set books

    • Smith, A. Girl Meets Boy Canongate Books £9.99 - ISBN 9781786892478 * This is an A233 'Book club' set book option.
    • Wharton, E.: Orgel, S. (ed) The Custom of the Country Oxford World's Classics £8.99 - ISBN 9780199555123
    • Smith, A. Hotel World Penguin £8.99 - ISBN 9780140296792
    • Wharton, E.: Orgel, S. (ed) The Age of Innocence Oxford World's Classics £7.99 - ISBN 9780199540013 * This is an A233 'Book club' set book option.
    • Sassoon, S. Memoirs of an Infantry Officer Faber and Faber £9.99 - ISBN 9780571064106 * This is an A233 'Book club' set book option.
    • Anand, M.R. Untouchable Penguin £9.99 - ISBN 9780141393605 * This is an A233 'Book club' set book option.
    • Hardy, T.: Falck-Yi, S.B. (ed) Far from the Madding Crowd Oxford World's Classics £6.99 - ISBN 9780199537013
    • Roy, A. The God of Small Things 4th Estate £8.99 - ISBN 9780006550686
    • Perrault, C.: Betts, C. (trans.) The Complete Fairy Tales Oxford World's Classics £7.99 - ISBN 9780199585809
    • Hardy, T. Wessex Tales Wordsworth Editions £2.50 - ISBN 9781853262692 * This is an A233 'Book club' set book option.
    • Le Guin, U. The Dispossessed Gollancz £8.99 - ISBN 9781857988826
    • Grimm, J. and Grimm, W.: Crick, J. (trans.) Selected Tales Oxford World's Classics £10.99 - ISBN 9780199555581
    • Andersen, H.C. Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales: A Selection Oxford World's Classics £7.99 - ISBN 9780199555857
    • Armitage, S. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Faber and Faber £10.99 - ISBN 9780571223282
    • Blunden, E. Undertones of War Penguin £10.99 - ISBN 9780141184364
    • Carter, A. The Bloody Chamber Vintage £8.99 - ISBN 9780099588115
    • Gaiman, N. and Vess, C. Stardust DC Comics (Vertigo) £14.99 - ISBN 9781401287849
    • Shakespeare, W.: Orgel, S. (ed) The Tempest Oxford World's Classics £7.99 - ISBN 9780199535903

    Note: There are five books marked with an * which are A233 'Book club' set books options. Students should choose and purchase only one of the five books. The 'Book club' choice will be studied during weeks 15-17 of the module.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying A233 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.