Voices in the Archives: Writing from History (944Q3B)

30 credits, Level 7 (Masters)

Spring teaching

This module invites you to consider the ways creative writing uses history, from pragmatic research strategies to theoretical implications. You will be invited to develop your own critical thinking and creative writing practice.

We think about how different literary genres engage with the past through form, narrative and literary language, looking at the cultural impact of contemporary historical fiction, and also considering work by poets and film-makers. Authors studied include Virginia Woolf, Sarah Waters, Toni Morrison, Hilary Mantel, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Michael Chabon, and Chinua Achebe. Creative writing workshops introduce key research skills, exploring the methodological implications of using physical and virtual archives. Working with historical newspapers, letters, diaries, prints, photographs and other documents, we immerse ourselves in old-fangled vocabularies, and experiment with using language from the past to inflect our contemporary voices. Topics for discussion include the critical and ethical implications of writing about real historical events and characters. We consider how contemporary writing is founded on a long tradition of writing from history - often re-visiting the past with a particular political or creative agenda. Additionally, we explore how historical fiction interacts with other genres, for example in the crime-historical hybrids of Walter Mosley. We consider theoretical work on historical fiction, memory and nostalgia by critics such as Georg Lukacs and Walter Benjamin.

Teaching and assessment

We’re currently reviewing teaching and assessment of our modules in light of the COVID-19 situation. We’ll publish the latest information as soon as possible.

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 278 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

This module is running in the academic year 2021/22. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. However, we are constantly looking to improve and enhance our courses. There may be changes to modules in response to student demand or feedback, changes to staff expertise or updates to our curriculum. We may also need to make changes in response to COVID-19. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: