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European Short Fiction in English: Folktale, Fable and Fairytale

Module Code: LN202
Module Name: European Short Fiction in English: Folktale, Fable and Fairytale
Module Credits: 30 (15 ECTS)

Module Description

This module focuses on European folk literature (in English translation) from its oral roots through to twentieth-century retellings. You will be introduce to a selection of texts and genres – not only fable, folktale and fairytale, but related popular/folk genres, such as the fabliau, medieval romance forms, and the novella — and consider the development of folk literature over the centuries, and its continuing popularity and value.

You will examine plots, themes and motifs, and how they endure or recur in different kinds of narratives. You will also explore how texts of different periods and in different forms reflect the context in which they originated; for instance, how the narratives treat everyday practicalities and socio-political realities, and what messages they communicate to successive audiences.

You will have the opportunity to read English translations produced in different periods and styles, and for different audiences, as well as to compare similar narratives and themes arising in different cultures and languages (French, Italian, German and Spanish, as well as Latin and Greek). Those of you who are interested in the translation process may also compare the effectiveness of different translation methods for different audiences.

Some questions addressed in the module:

  • What functions has folk literature fulfilled in the past and does it retain value in the modern world?
  • Why do certain stories, themes and motifs endure, and how are they transformed to accommodate changing audiences?
  • What is the effect of capturing oral narratives in writing?
  • What is the relation between the simple folktale and literary narratives based on the oral tradition?
  • What is the relation between fantasy and reality in folk narratives? Do such narratives offer valid information about the society which produced them, or should the be viewed purely as fictions?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of translating verse narratives into prose?
  • What is the relation between entertainment and education in the various genres and forms examined?
  • How and why did certain kinds of folk literature become associated specifically with children?

You will also have the chance to learn about the essay-based assessment method used in British universities, and to practise various aspects of academic writing, including close reading and comparative analysis of texts, using and critiquing secondary literature, and techniques of essay-writing. The class in Week 5 of Term 1 will comprise a writing workshop, and you will be given further opportunities to discuss aspects of academic writing and to practise close reading, comparative analysis, and working with secondary texts. You will also be registered on the School’s Study Skills course of lectures, and have access to the supporting online resource.

Assessment Method

There are four summative (assessed) assignments:

  • A comparative critical commentary (10%, 1000 words, due Term 1, Monday of Week 7)
  • A critical evaluation of a journal article (10%, 1000 words, due Term 1, Monday of Week 9)
  • Two essays (each 40%, 3000–3500 words, due in Term 3, Monday of Week 3)
You will also write two formative essays, each of 1500 words. The first is due in Term 2, Week 1, and the second in Term 2, Week 7. These formative essays are for practice and their marks do not count towards the final mark for the module. Narrative feedback from these, as well as from the shorter and earlier critical summative assignments, should be used to help strengthen essay writing skills.

Note that the word counts include quotations, but not the essay’s bibliography and referential footnotes.

Amanda Hopkins

Dr Amanda Hopkins


Module timeslot:
Thursdays, 9–11am, H4.44
Term 1, Weeks 2–5, 7–10
Term 2, Weeks 1–5, 7–10


Module Moodle: webpages for students registered on the module