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Unit of study_

ENGL6101: Approaches to Genre

Semester 2, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

This is a core unit for the Master of English Studies. In this unit students will critically examine significant theoretical definitions of and debates about genre through time. They will apply an advanced understanding of genres (or 'kinds' or 'forms') to representative and problematic texts in order to develop a deep appreciation of the function, limitations and transformations of genre in literature. The complex relationship between formal properties, creativity and historical context will be explored.

Unit details and rules

Unit code ENGL6101
Academic unit
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Jennifer Nicholson,
Lecturer(s) Jennifer Nicholson,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Essay #1
20% Week 05
Due date: 08 Sep 2021 at 23:59
1500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3
Assignment Essay #2
50% Week 08
Due date: 05 Oct 2021 at 23:59
2500 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment Essay #3
30% Week 13
Due date: 10 Nov 2021 at 23:59
2000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

The following table provides general guidelines on marking criteria within English.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

  • The work demonstrates a deep and intelligent understanding of, and individual engagement with material;
  • presents a very close analysis of focal texts or issues;
  • addresses a specific issue and develops an independent critical or theoretical argument successfully;
  • indicates awareness of complexities and qualifications in argumentation;
  • demonstrates careful thought about the critical, historical and/or theoretical context of the texts or issues;
  • provides evidence of wide-ranging reading;
  • is properly referenced and well-presented. The writing is characterized by creativity, clarity, and independent insight.

A High Distinction is distinguished from a Distinction by the work’s demonstration of awareness of subtleties, nuances, qualifications and a possible other case. Work which is awarded a mark of over 90% in Senior level units of study will often contain some publishable or potentially publishable elements. 


75 - 84

  • The work demonstrates an intelligent understanding of, and individual engagement with material;
  • analyzes focal texts or issues appositely;
  • addresses an issue and presents a well-argued, coherent case;
  • demonstrates careful thought about the critical, historical and/or theoretical context of the texts or issues;
  • provides evidence of reading beyond what is strictly required for the task;
  • is properly referenced and well presented. The writing is characterized by individuality, clarity, and independent insight.

A Distinction is distinguished from a High Credit chiefly by the quality of theoretical understanding and the range of intellectual enquiry it demonstrates.


65 - 74

High Credit

  • The work provides evidence of independent reading and thinking about focal texts or issues and their contexts;
  • shows some clear understanding of relevant critical and theoretical considerations and of the conceptual issues raised by a unit of study;
  • uses close critical analysis;
  • avoids summary;
  • indicates an intelligent attempt at a critical or theoretical argument;
  • is clearly and effectively written;
  • is well-referenced.

A High Credit is distinguished from a Low Credit chiefly by the extent of independent discussion of focal texts or issues, and by some obvious attempt to interpret the outcome of close analysis. 

Low Credit

  • The work shows some understanding of relevant critical and theoretical considerations and of the conceptual issues raised by a unit of study;
  • demonstrates some independent reading and thinking about focal texts or issues and their contexts;
  • uses close critical analysis;
  • avoids summary;
  • attempts a critical or theoretical argument;
  • is clearly and effectively written;
  • is adequately referenced.

A Low Credit is distinguished from a High Pass by the extent of independent discussion of focal texts or issues, the clarity of the writing and the extent to which it attempts a more general critical and/or theoretical argument. 


50 - 64

High Pass

  • The work gives some evidence of ability to attempt an independent argument and to structure material coherently;
  • demonstrates a genuine attempt at independent reading and thinking about focal texts or issues though the essay may contain some oversimplification or superficiality;
  • generally avoids summary, paraphrase or unsubstantiated assertion;
  • may sometimes present quotation for illustrative purposes merely, but does also present the outcome of some critical analysis;
  • is adequately expressed;
  • is adequately referenced.


  • The work provides clear evidence of having read and thought about focal texts or issues;
  • attempts a coherent argument though there may be ellipses in argumentation;
  • uses some close critical analysis;
  • may paraphrase fairly extensively;
  • tends to use quotation for illustrative purposes only;
  • may tend towards generality in answering a question;
  • may present simplistic comment or unsubstantiated assertions;
  • is adequately expressed though there may be some weaknesses in this area;
  • may contain some referencing errors. 


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

Work may fail for any of the following reasons:

  • no evidence of having read the prescribed material closely;
  • sloppy, inconsistent presentation;
  • preponderance of paraphrase, mere plot summary or listing of superficial characteristics;
  • excessive use of quotation for illustrative purposes only, without any attempt at analysis;
  • excessive level of generality in answering a question;
  • inappropriate or obscure expression;
  • incoherent general structure;
  • inadequate referencing;
  • late submission of work without extension

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Genre Theory 1: Genre, Kind, Mode Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 02 Old Comedy in The Clouds Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 03 Nonsense Genres Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 04 Genre Theory 2: System Failure Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 05 The essay, philosophy, and friendship Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 06 Contemporary essays, autobiography, and textual relations Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 07 Wittgenstein's Nephew: novella, essay, or autobiography? Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 08 Internet Comedy Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 09 Genre Theory 3: Fantastic Genres and Genre Fiction Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 10 Interpreting Slaughterhouse-Five: antiwar satire and science fiction Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 11 The Tempest: comedy, mixed-mode, romance, problem play Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 12 Taymor's The Tempest: ecocriticism, feminism, and late style Seminar (2 hr)  
Week 13 Genre Theory 4: Genre's power Seminar (2 hr)  

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: according to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.
  • Lecture recording: most lectures (in recording-equipped venues) will be recorded and may be made available to students on the LMS. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.
    • ​Please note that this unit of study is seminar-based, so lectures are not a formal component of our unit.
  • Preparation: students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

Most readings for this unit can be accessed on the Library eReserve link available on Canvas.

However, the following texts will need to be aquired by students (either bought or borrowed) to read and bring to class for the relevant weeks:

  • Aristophanes. "The Clouds," in Lysistrata and Other Plays (Penguin Classics, revised edition - ISBN 9780140448146)
  • Bernhard, Thomas. Wittgenstein’s Nephew (any edition)
  • Frow, John. Genre (2nd edition - ISBN 9781138020580)
  • Le Guin, Ursula. A Wizard of Earthsea (any Penguin edition)
  • Shakespeare, William. The Tempest (Arden3, revised edition - ISBN 9781408133477. This text is also available entirely online via our library, so you may choose to forgo a hard copy)
  • Vonnegut, jr., Kurt. Slaughterhouse Five (any edition)

Some copies of each have been ordered to the independent bookshop Gleebooks on Glebe Point Road, near campus. You will be able to order them via the ‘Textbooks’ link on their website ( closer to the beginning of semester. Gleebooks will include a 10% student discount on your purchases. Please contact them as soon as you can, to ensure that they order adequate copies of the appropriate texts you need. Information about this will also be posted on Canvas.

You may also wish acquire texts by your own means. However, please pay attention to which texts’ editions are important. This will help you follow along in those texts when we discuss them in class, and give you access to the relevant editorial apparatuses. If you have any concerns about access to these texts, please contact the unit coordinator and we can find ways to borrow copies or buy second hand if necessary.

All other readings will be made available to you online and/or in PDF form.

You will need to view Julie Taymor’s film, The Tempest towards the end of the semester, too. This movie is widely available. You can view it in the library, buy it, rent it, or watch it online. Information about this will also be outlined on Canvas.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Expansion of students’ knowledge of genres and genre theory and opportunity to conduct independent, rigorous and original research displaying analytical and creative skills.
  • LO2. Development of students’ ability to source, evaluate and deploy primary and secondary information relevant to genre studies.
  • LO3. Extension of students’ ability to work independently and sustainably and be self-motivated in the pursuit of new ideas and ways of thinking within the field of literary genre studies.
  • LO4. Development of students as literary scholars possessing appropriate ethical standards in the conduct of their research and relations with their peers, teachers and the broader scholarly community.
  • LO5. Opportunity in class discussion and in assessable written work to develop communication skills and methods appropriate to the study of genre in English literature and transferrable to other fields.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

This unit last ran in 2020. In 2021, the following alterations will be made as a result of student feedback in that cohort: 1) the reading list has been updated to provide a more inclusive and nuanced range of readings; however, this could continue to be improved, so any feedback or ideas you may have about this would be warmly received this semester! 2) choices of theory have been further narrowed down slightly to allow us to focus on key concepts more clearly. 3) The order of texts has been changed to better facilitate connections between texts and assessment, and to allow for less reading pressure in the final part of the semester.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.