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Modern Prose Fiction I: The Elements of Fiction

The Elements of Fiction

The periodic table of the elements provides a visual representation of the chemical elements that are the basic building blocks of matter. But did you know that literary critics also use “elements” to talk about literary works? The Elements of Fiction are the basic building blocks of fiction: plot, conflict, character, setting, viewpoint, language, tone, and theme. Like the elements in the periodic table, the Elements of Fiction have discernible characteristics and interrelationships. Each of the Elements of Fiction has a specific role to play in revealing the deeper themes and meanings of fictional works. By studying works of fiction with the Elements of Fiction, literary critics can uncover the richness and variety of fictional works. In ENGL 161/3.0, we will study the Elements of Fiction by applying them to a selection of some of the most influential works of modern prose fiction. We will study a diverse range of short-fiction authors, including Charlotte Perkins Gilman, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Chinua Achebe, Haruki Murakami, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, and others.


Assessments consist of:

  • Essays
  • Quizzes
  • Online Discussion Forums
  • Class Participation
  • Final Examination


  • Level 2 or above OR
  • Permission of the Department

Additional information

Exclusion: ENGL 160


NOTE: This course is not open to students registered in an English plan. 

Department of English, Queen's University

Watson Hall
49 Bader Lane
Kingston ON K7L 3N6

Telephone (613) 533-2153



Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.