Course syllabus



ENGLISH 207/311

Creating Stories

SEMESTER 2, 2019


15 points

Course delivery format:

2 hours of lectures and 1 hour of tutorial


Course Convenor and Teacher:

Brian Boyd (Rm 602, Arts 1, Office Hours Wed 1-3 or by arrangement,



Mon 11-12, Wed 12-1, 105S-039 (Clocktower South, Room 039)



English 207

Mark Bond (Rm 304, Arts 1, Office Hours Tue 10-12)


English 311

Brian Boyd (Rm 602, Arts 1, Office Hours Mon 12-1, Wed 1-2 or by appointment,


Tutorials (Tutorial details can be viewed on Student Services Online)

English 207 

Mon 1-2 206-210 (MB) (Tutorial 4)

Mon 4-5 206-210 (MB) (Tutorial 2)

Tue 9-10  206-210 (MB) (Tutorial 1)

Tue 1-2 206-210 (MB) (Tutorial 3)

English 311

Tue 2-3 201E 508 (Hum Sci East) (BB)


 Summary of Course Description:              

We explore why humans create stories, why we live surrounded by them, what difference they make to us, how we co-create them when we read or watch them, and how we can get more out of them. We aim to become better readers and analysts of stories, and to understand better both what it is to be human, both through stories and in other ways, and why and how we learn, discover, question, and criticize.

We focus on some particularly creative stories from before Shakespeare to now.

We enjoy and examine a range of stories in different media

  • drama
  • “classic” and modern novels
  • short story
  • children’s story
  • non-fiction prose
  • comics and graphic novels
  • comic strip
  • film

and from different eras

  • from the sixteenth century to the 2010s—most closer to “now” than to “then”

and from different regions

  • Europe, North America, Asia, Middle East.

We learn about narrative theory and analysis, about the origin of stories, about the telling, imagining, retelling, and adapting of stories, and about their effects on readers, writers, and others.

We consider how stories reflect and affect minds and societies, and vice versa, and how stories can try to challenge the limits or assumptions of storytelling.

We consider briefly

  • how narrative plays a part in other fields (anthropology, biology, business, education, geology, history, law, medicine, politics, psychology)
  • and how fictionality plays a part in human communication outside works we call fiction.

We consider narrative in terms of theory, criticism, and empirical research.

As well as reading a wide range of stories, we also have a special focus on two highly acclaimed storytellers, novelist Vladimir Nabokov and comics artist Art Spiegelman, who stretch the boundaries of stories in their own unique ways, but differently each time. 

Course outcomes:

Skills and capacities you will develop in English 207 /311 include:

  • how to understand, enjoy, analyze, appreciate, compare and evaluate works of fiction of different kinds, levels and eras
  • how to maximize your own creative input into realizing in your mind the stories you engage with
  • how to understand and discuss the role of narrative, factual and fictional, in human life and thought, at different ages, in different periods, social roles and disciplines, and in your own life
  • how to understand, assess, critique, extend and deploy key terms and arguments of narrative theory
  • how to understand the role of narrative traditions, models and innovations
  • how to understand human similarities and differences within and beyond narrative, within and beyond particular times, places, and cultures
  • how to evaluate the possibilities and limitations of narrative
  • how to evaluate the role of empirical research on narrative

 Assessment Summary:

25% 3 Portfolio entries         

Portfolio 1, Aug 7, noon; Portfolio 2, Sep 18, noon; Portfolio 3, Oct 16, noon 

(three short pieces of your reflections on any aspect or example of narrative: students find the freedom strange at first but do well with it )

to be submitted through You do not have to submit a physical copy 

25% essay         Oct 9, noon

to be submitted through You do not have to submit a physical copy 

50% exam


Primary (required) Reading and Viewing:

Jane Austen,  Sense and Sensibility (1811)

Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010)

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who! (1953)

William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night (1600)

Art Spiegelman, The Complete Maus (1986, 1991)

Art Spiegelman, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! (2008) (essential parts on Canvas)

Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes (1985-1995) (representative samples on Canvas)


Tokyo Story (dir. Yasujiro Ozu, 1953)

A Separation (dir. Asghar Fahradi, 2011)


Support (strongly recommended) reading:

James Wood, How Fiction Works (New York: Picador, 2008).  

Copies of the works by Austen, Egan, Nabokov, Dr. Seuss, Shakespeare, and Spiegelman’s Maus can be obtained through the University Bookstore. Other required reading (such as samples of Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, Spiegelman's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!, and a source of Twelfth Night) is available through Canvas.

Important class notices will also appear on Canvas. You should make sure you have access to it and can receive notices posted on it in a timely way.

Primary reading

You should aim to get read each set work before the lectures on it. You will find it much easier to follow (and think independently about) the lecture discussion if you have your own sense of the book, and you’ll be able to discover the text’s surprises yourself (especially important in narrative) rather than through spoilers.

In fact, if you can read the novels ahead of the semester, so that you can reread them in the semester, you’ll get more out of the books and the course.

You can follow the order of texts and lectures as they appear on the lecture timetable below, or on Canvas.


Secondary reading

In addition to the material covered in lectures, I have prepared a book-length Glossary of terms related to narrative, with examples drawn from thecourse texts (under Pages);  placed supplementary material on Canvas (under Reading Lists); and additional bibliographies (under Pages). You need to read the Glossary but not much of the supplementary material; but if you do choose to read beyond re-reading the set text (which should always be the first priority), these materials will simplify your search. There will also be short lists of recommended secondary material in case you wish to explore further.


 Workload and deadlines for submission of coursework:           

The University of Auckland's expectation is that students spend 10 hours per week on a 15-point course, including time in class and personal study. Students should manage their academic workload and other commitments accordingly. Deadlines for coursework are set by course convenors and will be advertised in course material. You should submit your work on time. In extreme circumstances, such as illness, you may seek an extension but you may be required to provide supporting information before the assignment is due. Late assignments without a pre-approved extension may be penalised by loss of marks – check course information for details.



ENGLISH 207/311: Creating Stories: Schedule 2019: Timetable


Week starts







July 22








Narrative and Human Nature



July 29


Horton Hears a Who! 

Intro / Horton Hears a Who!




Horton Hears a Who! 



Aug 5


Sense and Sensibility

no tutorial


Portfolio 1:
Aug 7, noon




Sense and Sensibility 



Aug 12


Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility





Twelfth Night


Aug 19


Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night





Twelfth Night



Aug 26












Sep 2



M I D – S E M E S T E R   B R E A K


Sep 9



Sep 16









Portfolio 2:
Sep 18, noon


Sep 23


 Narrative / Review

Review /

Calvin and Hobbes




 Calvin and Hobbes



Sep 30










Oct 7


Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!

Spiegelman (Maus and Portrait)

Essay Due:
Oct 9, noon




Film 1 : Ozu, 
Tokyo Story


Oct 14


Film 2: Farhadi,
 A Separation



Portfolio 3:
Oct 16, noon




A Visit from the Goon Squad


Oct 21


A Visit from the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad

and Exam Prep








Exam, 14:15


The Portfolio will consist of three 500 word entries, 1500 words in all (for 207), or three 666 word entries, 2000 words in all (for 311), due August 7, September 18, October 16, noon), to showcase how you have engaged with narrative, and especially with fiction, on your own terms, through your own curiosity, and in varied ways, during the length of the course. The more range you show, along different axes, the better: you would be likely to do well with a mixture of reflections

  • on works on the course, and
  • on other literary or narrative works in your studies and outside, and
  • on aspects of narrative theory (a term, a principle, an argument, an approach), including close reading and wider perspectives.

The more depth, too, within the space limits allowed, the better; plot summaries or lists of works (with perhaps your personal ratings) will not suffice. Each of the three entries must be submitted through on the dates indicated.

You may in a later entry reflect back on some aspect of an earlier entry or entries. The entries should not be as formal as essays, nor as informal as a private diary or journal; they may be personal but should also be informed and shaped for outside readers. They may include images, which will not be included in the word count.

I (BB) and your tutor (TBA) will explain in more detail what is expected in the Portfolio. 

There is a Portfolio Hall of Fame, showing some of the best work from last year's class (shown with the authors' permissions, of course).




CRITICAL ESSAY (1500 words, 207; 2000 words, 311; due 12 noon, October 9): 25%

Write a 1500-word essay (207) or 2000-word essay (311) which addresses one of the given topics on a primary text studied on the course.

  • Remember: if you write on a single text in this essay, you cannot write on it again in the exam. If you choose the comparative essay, you may write about ONE of the texts in the exam.
  • Assessment of this assignment will consider:

                  - Innovation and creativity (thinking for yourself);

                  - Argument supported by textual evidence (close reading skills), and taking into account any evidence that might count against your argument;

                  - Effective writing in developing your argument (writing skills);

                  - Presentation, including proper referencing of sources.

  • If you are not confident about your essay-writing skills or you feel you need extra support, book a place as soon as possible in a Learning Services workshop on “Essay Writing” at


Essays must be submitted electronically to This can be done through Canvas.

 Exam (50%; date TBA):

The exam will offer a series of questions covering the material of the course. You will be required to answer TWO questions in two hours. In Section A you will write three short essays, each based on passages from all the texts or in the case of film or of the non-Maus Spiegelman textsall the kinds of texts in the course. In Section B there will be a question on a single text of your choice to show your understanding of a narrative term used in the course . .

Notes on the exam:   You must not write in the exam on the text you addressed in your essay, if you answered on only one text; if you chose the comparative question, you may write on one of these texts but not both in the exam.

NOTE: IT IS A REQUIREMENT THAT YOU SIT THE EXAM FOR THIS COURSE. For information on Aegrotats and compassionate consideration visit the University Examination website:


The English policy on extensions and late work should be noted:



English requires the timely submission of all coursework.


If you are unable to hand in an assignment by the due date, you must put your case for an extension directly to your tutor or the lecturer (Brian Boyd). If an extension is granted, you must attach to your submitted essay a formal approval document such as an email from the tutor or convenor addressed to you and giving the extension, or otherwise provide clear evidence of an extension granted. Extensions are available for compelling reasons, such as illness, or other unforeseen emergencies or emergent circumstances, and a Doctor’s certificate (or equivalent for other circumstances) may be required as evidence. Wherever possible, an extension should be requested in advance of the due date for the assignment, unless there is a genuine cause preventing this, in which case the extension should be sought as soon as is practicable after the due date.

5 Important Notes on this policy:

  • If something has genuinely gone wrong in your life, please do not hesitate to seek help from the appropriate university support service, but also let your tutor or convenor know and judge whether or not your circumstances merit an extension, including after the due date where necessary. If you don’t get in touch, there’s nothing we can do to help.
  • Co-incidence of deadlines for assignments does not constitute grounds for extension. You are expected to plan your time across a semester. If you know you have several assignments due in the one week, you are expected to plan your work timetable accordingly. If you have planned, however, and something unexpected or unpredictable occurs, you should consult your tutor.
  • Computer meltdowns (unless the university is without computer access on the due date) do notconstitute grounds for extensions in this course. It is your responsibility to back up your work and to have it printed out well in advance of the deadline.
  • The worst possible strategy is to submit work late without obtaining an extension. No marks can be awarded for unexcused late work. It is always better to submit whatever you have by the deadline, even if it is unfinished or of poor quality, than to submit nothing at all. A failing grade (except in cases of plagiarism) will still generate some non-zero marks, and these can be the difference between a pass and fail grade at the end of the semester.
  • Again: if you have missed a deadline and wish to make a case for a retrospective extension for late work based on particular circumstances, you must consult your tutor or the convenor as soon as possible.


Course summary:

Date Details