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Unit information: Critical Issues in Contemporary Publishing in 2020/21

Unit name Critical Issues in Contemporary Publishing
Unit code ENGLM0076
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Mimi Thebo
Open unit status Not open



Students can opt to take the placement unit instead

School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


In this unit, students will read, discuss and analyse key issues in contemporary publishing. This unit will help students to: contextualise their own writing in the wider world of contemporary publishing; understand the roles and concerns of various individuals and organisations in the publishing world; and develop the skills needed to articulate their own responses to those issues and concerns.

Intended learning outcomes

By the successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Examine the relationship of reading to their own creative practice and analyse the relationship between writing and its commercial and aesthetic contexts, articulating an understanding of the relationship between writing and genre, literary convention, publishing, performance, and different media.
  2. Work independently, including by setting goals, managing workload and meeting deadlines.
  3. Anticipate and accommodate requirements that may change when creating an original work. Be able to work productively and negotiate creative contexts that are ambiguous, uncertain and unfamiliar.
  4. Evaluate the role of readers and audiences in realising texts and the ways that performance can impact an audience’s imaginative experience.
  5. Use and develop information retrieval and analytical skills, including the ability to interpret, evaluate, synthesise and organise material.

Teaching details

Teaching will be in large 2 hour seminar/workshop style, where guest lecturers will provide an introduction to a role, issue or process within contemporary publishing, supported by an experienced tutor who may be called upon to support the guest lecturer to a smaller or greater extent (i.e. some guests will prefer to be interviewed, some will be happy to give a prepared talk). Students will normally participate in Q and A sessions after the formal talk.

Assessment Details

A portfolio of writing to include:


1x 1500 word summative essay, explaining a key role in Publishing, Broadcasting, Events Management or other related industry and how it relates to contemporary literature or


1x 1500 word summative critical commentary on an interview with someone in a key role in Publishing, Broadcasting, Events Management or other related industry, analysing how the role relates to contemporary literature. (The interview itself should normally be included as an appendix.)

[ILOs 1, 2 and 5]. (30%)


1 x 3500 summative portfolio (or equivalent, where continuous prose is not submitted) of professional writing (which may include, but not be limited to AI sheets, synopsis, cover letters, reviews, self-interview, press release, etc) [ILOs 2, 3, 4, 5]. (70%)

Reading and References

Each guest lecturer will be able to set their own required reading for the session and this might vary quite considerably from lecturer to lecturer, depending on their role.

Below please see an indicative list of unit lecturers (note that this is not an indicative schedule):

  1. The directors of the Bristol Short Story Prize on Prize Culture
  2. Sharmaine Lovegrove, Publisher on The Role of Publishers
  3. Carrie Etter, Poet, on Building a Publication Career in Small Presses
  4. Two X Agents to speak (with the Centre for Material Texts) Two X lectures on the materiality of book production – one session may include this history of book production.
  5. Nikesh Shukla in conversation with Billy Kahora about anthologies.
  6. Adrian Muller from the Crime Writers Association to talk about genre and festival events
  7. A bookseller to discuss the life cycle of a new fiction release.

Each session to include the guest lecture/interview/discussion as well as an extensive Q&A session.