Course Syllabus

Storytelling Lab:

How Narrative Works

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2019 – DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Elective Course – 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Communication, Creative Writing, Literature

Faculty Member:

Anne Bachmann

Program Director:

Andreas Brøgger - 

Academic Coordinator:

Mark Peters - 

Time & Place:

Mondays and Thursdays 11:40–13:00, 1E-510

Course Description

How do stories work? How does media technology influence the way in which we tell stories? How does our cultural background shape storytelling aspects such as character and representation? This course combines narrative theory and writing exercises to explore the art of storytelling. Our material for analysis ranges from literature and cinema, over TV ads and still photography, to oral literature, transmedial practices and gaming. We start out in the familiar territory of popular culture discussing George Lucas and J.R.R. Tolkien, but soon enough turn to experimental feminist science fiction and black and white cinema as well. We make stops to explore some classics and revisit theoretical classics, too. In the theoretical field we cover classical narratology as well as feminist and unnatural narratology, Russian formalism, semiotics and a taste of postcolonial theory. 

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course you will have a working knowledge of story basics such as plot, character and structure, and how these apply to different kinds of text. You will also be familiar with critical approaches to narrative and theoretical endeavours to classify, understand or universalise it. You will also have practiced brief creative writing of your own in different genres. This course is seen as a complement to a breadth of academic disciplines, including comparative literature, film, media studies, culture and communication, as well as studies in rhetoric and creative writing.

Field Studies

We spend one field study exploring transmedia narratives with a board game. The second field study TBA.

Reading List

John Yorke, Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them (310 pp). London: Penguin, 2013

Other reading is supplied on Canvas, including among other texts: 

Barthes, Roland. "The Rhetoric of the Image". In Image, Music, Text: Essays Selected and Translated by Stephen Heath. London: Fontana, 1977. First published in 1964.

Gaines, Jane. "The Queen Christina Tie‐ups: Convergence of Show Window and Screen," Quarterly Review of Film & Video 1989, 11:1, 35–60.

Genette, Gérard. Narrative Discourse: an Essay in Method. Translated by Jane E. Lewin (selection of previously published works in French). Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell U.P., 1980.

Peel, Ellen. "Unnatural Feminist Narratology"Storyworlds: A Journal of Narrative Studies, Volume 8, Number 2, Winter 2016. 81–112 (excerpt).

Propp, Vladimir. Morphology of the folktale. Transl. by Laurence Scott. 2nd rev. ed. Austin, Tex.: Univ. of Texas Press, 1968. Orig. 1928. Excerpt (chapter 2). 


Anne Bachmann holds a PhD in Cinema Studies from Stockholm University, and a Master of Studies in European Literature from University of Oxford. A former publisher's editor, she has taught cinema and media studies at several Swedish universities and published in a number of academic journals. With DIS since 2017. 


Approach to Teaching

This course combines theoretical and a practical levels, and depends on a high level of interaction.


Attendance is obligatory. Please note that participation and workshop contribution make up as much as half of the final grade. A workshop missed for whatever reason needs to be made up for by handing in equivalent work in writing. Please come to class prepared, either with completed assignments, or having read the material posted before each class. You should be prepared to take part in class discussions and to provide constructive feedback to others. 


You will be assigned two essays over the course of the semester.

The grade breakdown is as follows:



Essay 1: Short story analysis based on course readings


Essay 2: Theoretical essay


The six workshops and participation in general


Participation includes coming prepared to class and joining thoughtfully in class discussions, as well as completing the reading and the creative writing exercises. Most workshops include creative writing, and although the quality of the result does not count towards the grade, the involvement shown does.

Areas for assessment

  • Handling of course material 
  • Scholarly argumentation and analytical abilities 
  • Command of relevant terminology 


A = Excellent. The assignment is notably elucidative, knowledgeable, inventive and critical. 

B = Well above average. The assignment is sound, well-reasoned and independent.

C = Average. The assignment is competently understood with good individual reasoning. 

D = Below average but passing. The assignment shows adequate understanding and treatment of course contents. 

P = Pass

F = Failure or failure to complete

I = Incomplete (only issued in place of final course grade if an agreement exists for completion

   by a definite deadline which is approved by the instructor and the DIS registrar).

Plus (+) and minus (-) grades are used for examinations and home assignments as well as for final grades. For purposes of calculating grade points and averages, the "+" equals 0.3 and the "-" equals minus 0.3 of a grade.

Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:


DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -


Course Summary:

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