University of Technology Sydney

57134 Theory and Creative Writing

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2024 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Communication: Journalism and Writing
Credit points: 8 cp
Result type: Grade, no marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This is a core subject for two of the graduate writing programs and one which provides students with valuable practice-based and theoretical contexts for their own writing. Students research major developments in literary theory and examine in close detail a number of key texts from several genres that illuminate the use of theory for the practising writer. Students also research some of the major developments in western literature, such as realism, modernism and postmodernism, as well as the theories that underlie these developments, particularly in relation to contemporary writing. Students critically explore ideas on writing directly arising from their theoretical and other reading, both in classroom discussion and in their written work. Students also workshop their creative writing, which is expected to reflect aspects of writing and literary theory that has been explored in the subject.

This subject:

  • contextualises writing by examining literary movements, ideas and developments
  • promotes essential critical and creative thought in relation to reading and writing
  • enables a practical understanding of aesthetics and cultural debates
  • enables exploration and experimentation of ideas in specialised writing practice.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

a. Understand the complex relationship between literary theories and writing practices
b. Demonstrate the development of their own critical voice
c. Apply that critical voice to their own work and that of others
d. Demonstrate their advanced skills in analysing the writing of others
e. Appreciate the diversity and possibilities of theoretical approaches to writing
f. Apply theoretical approaches to their own creative writing

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject engages with the following Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILOs), which are tailored to the Graduate Attributes set for all graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences:

  • Negotiate and understand the specifications of commissioned writing tasks in diverse environments (1.2)
  • Critically analyse their work and the work of others, acquiring high-level professional editorial skills (1.3)
  • Understand, reproduce and experiment with genre and form (2.1)
  • Critically and reflexively engage in research and writing practice for a major work with a high degree of personal autonomy and accountability (2.3)
  • Seek to engage with other cultures through examining and producing creative writing across a range of genres (3.1)
  • Convey complex ideas in writing clearly and effectively to specialist and non-specialist audiences, across a range of media formats (6.1)

Teaching and learning strategies

Reading and writing activities will be conducted via several modes, including formal and informal lectures, seminar presentations, workshopping activities, research, in-class discussion and analysis. Students will also participate in the UTS Online Blackboard learning system to exchange material for discussion and to circulate drafts of their work for feedback prior to classes. Material supplementary and complementary to the weekly lectures will also be posted on UTS Online.

Content (topics)

Critical Reading and Writing
While readers can read without being writers, the reverse is impossible. As Alberto Manguel reminds us in A History of Reading (1997), the first maker of messages and creator of signs was meaningless without his/her logical other: 'Writing required a reader.' Therefore students are required to read closely the work of other writers to understand the possibilities open to them. The readings include exemplary texts in several genres, critical essays, literary and cultural theory. We shall be doing a close study of the readings, paying particular attention to the relationship between critical theory and practice, as represented in the key set texts, and to the broader cultural and historical contexts of the authors studied. Students will present a seminar paper reflecting a close reading and analysis of the examples they choose to illustrate the exploration of their topic. These examples shall be from the reader or the list of set texts. However as students are encouraged to read widely, examples from other texts may be considered for study and discussion; if this is the case, it will be each student's responsibility to provide copies of these readings to the class before their scheduled seminar presentation. Drafts of these presentations may be circulated beforehand via UTS Online.

Creative Reading and Writing
Every workshop is informed by the belief that continual and detailed examination of one's writing within a group provides the best context for developing creative writing. This philosophy stretches back at least as far as Dorothea Brande's writing workshops in the 1930s, where she promoted 'corrective reading': the refinement of work by application of constant self-criticism. The workshop enables students to acquire and develop the process of corrective reading within an atmosphere of generous yet rigorous scrutiny. Each student will present their own writing for discussion in workshop either in small groups or to the whole class at least once during the semester, and will receive both oral and written feedback from the rest of the class. The workshop will be supportive of risk-taking and experimentation, and the feedback will aim to raise questions and identify problems through constructive criticism offered with goodwill and generosity. One piece of creative work is to be handed in for assessment; this work will be partly inspired and shaped by the theoretical components of the subject and will ideally be an example of theory in practice.


Assessment task 1: Academic essay


a, b and d

Weight: 50%
Length: Word Limit is 2,500–3,000 words
Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Logical and thorough development of critical ideas 35 b 1.3
Application of theoretical approaches/arguments to the set text/s 35 a 3.1
Clarity and appropriateness of expression to the essay form 30 d 6.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: Creative writing piece


a, c, e and f

Weight: 50%
Length: 3,000 words or equivalent
  • Originality and imaginative quality of work
  • Structural and stylistic accomplishment
  • Creative reflection of theoretical approaches
  • Professional presentation of the work.
Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Originality and imaginative quality of work 25 a 6.1
Structural and stylistic accomplishment 25 c 1.2
Creative reflection of theoretical approaches 25 e 2.3
Professional presentation of the work. 25 f 2.1
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Minimum requirements

Students are expected to read the subject outline to ensure they are familiar with the subject requirements.

Classes are based on a collaborative approach that involves essential work-shopping and interchange of ideas with other students and the tutor.

In this subject assessment tasks are cumulative so that each task builds understanding and/or skills, informed by formative feedback. Consequently, all assessments must be submitted in order for you to receive feedback. Students who do not submit all assessments will not pass the subject.

Required texts

Online readings available through library website and UTS Canvas.


The following is a select list of references which students will find useful for this subject. All books are available in the UTS library.

Reference works:
Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms (1988)
Fowler, Roger (ed). A Dictionary of Modern Critical Terms (1987)
Harris, Robert. 'A Glossary of Literary Terms'
Lentriccia, Frank & Thomas McLaughlin (eds). Critical Terms for Literary Study (1987)
Peck, John & Martin Coyle. Literary Terms and Criticism, a students' guide (1984)
Saunders, Ian. Open Texts, Partial Maps: a literary theory handbook (1993)
Wolfreys, Julian (ed). Critical Keywords in Literary and Cultural Theory (2003)

Theory and criticism:
Bal, Mieke. Introduction to the Theory of Narrative (1985)
Barthes, Roland. A Roland Barthes Reader, ed. & introd. Susan Sontag (1982)
Derrida, Jacques. Acts of Literature, ed. Derek Attridge (1992)
Eagleton, Mary (ed). Feminist Literary Theory, a reader (1986)
Eagleton, Terry. Marxism and Literary Criticism (1976)
—————— Literary Theory: an introduction (1983; 1996)
Foucault, Michel. The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (1984)
Frow, John. What Was Postmodernism? (1991)
Jameson, Frederic. The Political Unconscious: narrative as a socially symbolic act (1981)
Kermode, Frank. The Art of Telling: essays in fiction (1983)
—————— An Appetite for Poetry: essays in literary interpretation (1989)
Hawkes, Terence. Structuralism and Semiotics (1977)
Holquist, Michael. Dialogism: Bahktin and his world
Homer, William Innes. The Usage of Contemporary Criticism Clarified (1999)
Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism: history, theory, fiction (1988)
—————— & Joseph Natoli (eds). A Postmodern Reader (1993)
The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (ed Michael Groden, Martin Kreiswirth & Imre Szeman) (2004)
Kerschner, R.B. Joyce, Bakhtin and Popular Literature: chronicles of disorder (1989)
Lodge, David. Modern Criticism and Theory: a reader (1988)
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism (Gen Ed Vincent B. Leitch) (2001)
Norris, Christopher. Deconstruction: theory and practice (1982)
Rimmon-Kenan, Shlomith. Narrative Fiction: contemporary poetics (1983)
Rivkin, Julie & Michael Ryan (eds). Literary Theory: an anthology (1998)
Tompkins, Jane P (ed). Reader-Response Criticism, from Formalism to Poststructuralism (1980)
Wolfreys, Julian. Literary Theory: a reader and a guide
—————— Introducing Literary Theories; a guide and a glossary (2001)

Cultural/historical commentary:
Davis, Mark. Gangland: cultural elites and the new generationalism (1997)
Docker, John. In a Critical Condition; struggles for control of Australian literature (1984)
Gelder, Ken & Paul Salzmann. The New Diversity: Australian fiction 1970-88 (1989)
Manguel, Alberto. A History of Reading (1997)

Writing guides/writers on writing:
Brande, Dorothea. Becoming a Writer (1981)
Dillard, Annie. The Writing Life (1989)
Disher, Gary. Writing Fiction (1983)
Lodge, David. The Practice of Writing (1996)
Plimpton, George (ed). Writers at Work, the Paris Review interviews (1981)