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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Centre for Open Learning : Literature, Languages and Cultures

Undergraduate Course: The Unreliable Narrator 3 (LLLG07107)

Course Outline
SchoolCentre for Open Learning CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 7 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThis course examines five novels that utilise the device of an unreliable narrator. It explores the elements that make a narrator unreliable, the distinction between intentional unreliability and unintentional, and the ways in which unreliability is exposed. The course will consider how we, as readers, build a relationship with an unreliable narrator and to what extent our bond of trust with our touchstone in a novel is finally compromised by their unreliability.
Course description During this course, students will explore the narrative technique and the other stylistic characteristics of five novels which use an unreliable narrator. We take as a starting point Wayne C. Booth's identification of the difference between a reliable and unreliable narrator, first made in the 1960s as part of his reader-centred approach to critical thinking. Examples of unreliable narratives span both centuries and genres and a student on this course can expect to read closely a wide range of texts such as ghost stories, epistolary fiction, confessional fiction and literary hoax, from a range of eras and literary movements. We shall interrogate the use of the device in assisting the development of suspense, and how it has been used to create very complex narrative strategies with a number of competing unreliable accounts. We shall discuss frame narratives and explore narration with an oral quality, delivered to a silent listener.

Each novel will be discussed in the context of recognised literary arguments as we distinguish intentional unreliability from unintentional, and the role played by the audience; hypothetical and actual. Throughout the course we shall discuss the novels in theoretical contexts and explore their relationship to the historical and cultural concerns of the time.

Students will read the novels independently and then discuss excerpts, chosen by the tutor, in a supportive tutorial atmosphere. Students will be introduced to examples of secondary reading and contemporary criticism, and be encouraged to draw on these in their analyses of the works. Students will develop skills in close reading, critical analysis, academic writing and using and interpreting secondary reading.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Identify narrative techniques and devices and evaluate how they influence the relationship between reader and narrator;
  2. Construct original, clear and coherent arguments, drawing on secondary material, and using recognised critical terminology and methodologies;
  3. Apply knowledge of cultural, political and socio-historical contexts in arguments;
  4. Evaluate the various ways in which authors use an unreliable narrator to inject suspense and drama;
  5. Analyse contemporary responses and reactions to the texts, and explore theoretical contexts.
Reading List
James, Henry. 2008. The Turn of the Screw. Oxford: Oxford World's Classics.
McEwan, Ian. 1998. Enduring Love. London: Vintage.
Macrae Burnet, Graeme. 2015. His Bloody Project. Glasgow: Contraband.
Bronte, Emily. 2009. Wuthering Heights. Oxford: Oxford World's Classics.
Hamid, Mohsin. 2013. The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Mullan, John, 2008. How Novels Work. Oxford: OUP.
Booth, Wayne C, 1995. The Rhetoric of Fiction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Olson, Greta, 2003. Reconsidering Unreliability: Fallible and Untrustworthy Narrators. Narrative. 11(1), p. 93.
Rabinowitz, Peter J., 1977. Truth in Fiction: A Reexamination of Audiences. Critical Inquiry. 4(1), p. 121.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Enhanced verbal communication including listening and questioning;
Ability to evaluate information and communicate complex ideas and arguments;
Ability to read closely and critically;

Course organiserMs Rachael King
Course secretaryMs Kameliya Skerleva
Tel: (0131 6)51 1855
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