Faculty of Arts


Oral Tales and English Fictions

Please note: this is archived course information from 2012 for ENGLISH 750.


On this course we work from the assumption that stories which are persistently retold within a long cultural tradition must continue to be important and will always repay the effort of investigation and interpretation. Reading for the course is built round matched sets of oral narrative “ur-texts” and literary retellings and other forms of creative adaptations of these narratives. For example, two myths central to western cultural history in many ways, the myths of Creation and the Fall of Man from Genesis 1-3, are read in relation to William Golding’s novels Lord of the Flies and The Inheritors; both Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and the Hitchcock film Rebecca are discussed in relation to the fairy tale of Bluebeard.

As well as being introduced to a selection of versions of some myths, legends, fairy tales and contemporary legends ("urban myths") which continue to command their own retelling in further literary and media reformulations and adaptations, students will read in oral literature theory and criticism (eg Propp, Dundes, Haring, Tartar, Zipe, Warner) and be introduced to some narrative theory. Oral narratives are provided in course readers which also draw attention to traditions of representation of scenes from these narratives in the fine arts. Our matching literary or authored texts include some films and short stories, but most are novels of the 19th and 20th centuries. The course also enables students to grasp something of the history of the last two centuries’ idea of, and study of, the folktale and its genres. Questions will, inevitably, be raised about the astonishing survival of particular narratives in recognisable form despite widespread geographical dissemination and relocation, and over centuries of social change. 

Availability 2012

Semester 1 and 2 (full year)


Coordinator(s) Dr Rose Lovell-Smith


Set texts:
William Golding. The Lord of the Flies (1954) Faber & Faber; The Inheritors (1955) Faber & Faber.

Elizabeth Gaskell The Grey Woman(1861) in Curious, If True OR A  Dark Night’s Work and Other Stories Oxford World’s Classics, OUP.

Margaret Atwood “Bluebeard’s Egg” in Bluebeard’s Egg and Other Stories (1987).

Angela Carter. “The Bloody Chamber” in The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories (1979).

Daphne du Maurier Rebecca (1938).

Hitchcock (dir) Rebecca.

Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility (1811) Penguin Classics.

E. M. Forster. Howard’s End (1910).

A. S. Byatt. The Game (1967).
Apuleius. The Golden Ass. Penguin Classics.
C.S. Lewis. Till We Have Faces. In C.S. Lewis. Selected Books, Harper Collins.

Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise (Dirs.) Beauty and the Beast. (1991) Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Anthony Powell. Temporary Kings (1973).

Iris Murdoch. A Severed Head (1961).
Salley Vickers. Miss Garnet’s Angel (2007).

Stephen King. “Riding the Bullet” in Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales (2002).

Elizabeth Jane Howard “Mr Wrong” (1975).

Dir.GaylenePreston Mr Wrong 1985 (New Zealand film).
NB. Texts of all of the oral tales will be distributed to the class. Some short stories will be distributed in class, depending if reasonably priced texts are available for students to buy.

Recommended Reading

Robert Scholes, James Phelan, Robert Kellogg. The Nature of Narrative. Fortieth anniversary edition, rev. and expanded. Oxford; New York: Oxford UP, 2006.

Hilda Ellis Davidson and Anna Chaudhri, ed. A Companion to the Fairy Tale.  Cambridge: D.S. Brewer; Rochester, N.Y.; Boydell & Brewer, 2003.

Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan. Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics. 2nd ed. London: Routledge 2002.  



ENGLISH 750A: 15.0 points

ENGLISH 750B: 15.0 points

ENGLISH 750: 30.0 points



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