Course

How to Read a Novel


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Get underneath the skin of a novel by understanding some of the main building blocks of modern fiction.

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What makes a great novel? How is a novel woven together? How can we best appreciate works of fiction?

Answer these questions and more with this course from The University of Edinburgh and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

On the course you’ll discover four of the main building blocks of modern fiction: plot, characterisation, dialogue, and setting using examples from a range of texts including the four novels shortlisted for the 2022 James Tait Black fiction prize. You’ll also explore the formal strategies authors use, how they came to be, and how they affect us as readers.

What topics will you cover?

  • The course examines specific techniques relating to plotting and temporality including flashbacks, unreliable narration and framed narratives.
  • The course considers ways of understanding character, such as behaviour and motives.
  • It explores issues relating to the presentation of dialogue, including conversational mood and dialect voices.
  • The course examines the impact of various different settings on the development of plot and character.
  • It invites learners to test their understanding through weekly quizzes and a final peer assessment task.
  • The four novels explored for this course are:
    1. Week 1 (Plot): Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge
    2. Week 2 (Characterisation): Memorial by Bryan Washington
    3. Week 3 ( Dialogue): A Shock by Keith Ridgway
    4. Week 4 (Setting): English Magic by Uschi Gatward

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone who enjoys reading. You don’t need any past experience. You don’t need to have read all four books before you commence the course, but you may find it enhances your learning experience if you have.

How to Read a Novel
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