The Art of Storytelling

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Module overview

Storytelling, or narrative, takes many forms within and across cultures. In this module we will explore a variety of types of stories that characterise the cultural output in the regions covered, namely Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and South East Asia. These stories, which may include such genres as the oral epic, the graphic novel, puppet theatre, and internet literature--among other possible genres--will be examined with particular attention to the ways that texts interact with other forms of expression from music and dance to the visual arts. Each of the stories studied will be presented in its cultural context, and connections between cultures will be interrogated in an effort to solidify conceptions of the universal and the local. So, too, will the relationship between folklore and ‘high art’ be discussed and problematised. Videos and sound recordings will supplement or substitute for certain primary ‘readings’ on the syllabus.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module


At the end of a module, a student should be able to:

  1. Think critically about stories and their performance contexts
  2. Analyse stories and situate them culturally
  3. Develop an argument about a text or texts
  4. Communicate insights into forms of cultural expression




Total Taught Hours : 20. 2 hours of lectures per week for 10 weeks.

Independent Study Hours : 130

Total Hours for Module : 150


Scope and syllabus


Specific content will vary from year to year, but material will be organised into three overlapping units:

  1. Storytelling and Sound
    Rhythm, Rhyme, Music
  2. Storytelling and Image
    Narrative Images and Objects, Graphic Novels, Short Films
  3. Storytelling and Movement
    Dance, Theatre, Puppetry


Method of assessment


  • Essay (2,500 words) 60%
  • Virtual presentation (e.g. narrated powerpoint, video, podcast) (10 minutes) 40%
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page


Suggested reading

  • Karin Barber, The Anthropology of Texts, Persons and Publics: Oral And Written Culture in Africa and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  • Francisco Capelo, Silence Speaks: Masks, Shadows and Puppets from Asia (Bangkok: River Books, 2015).
  • Nergis Ertürk, Grammatology and Literary Modernity in Turkey. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Sharon Friedman, Post-Apartheid Dance: Many Bodies, Many Voices, Many Stories ([S.I.]: Cambridge Scholars, 2012).
  • Li Guo, The Performing Arts in Medieval Islam: Shadow Play and Popular Poetry in Ibn Daniyāl's Mamluk Cairo (Leiden: Brill, 2012).
  • Philip Lutgendorf, The Life of a Text: Performing the Rāmcaritmānas of Tulsidas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).
  • Jan Mrázek (ed.), Puppet Theater in Contemporary Indonesia: New Approaches to Performance Events (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, 2002).
  • Francesca Orsini and Katherine Butler Schofield (eds), Tellings and Texts: Music, Literature and Performance in North India (Cambridge: Open Books, 2015).
  • Dwight Reynolds, Heroic Poets, Poetic Heroes: The Ethnography of Performance in an Arabic Oral Epic Tradition (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995).
  • Laurie J. Sears, Shadows of Empire: Colonial Discourse and Javanese Tales (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996).
Additional Reading
  • Adonis, An Introduction to Arab Poetics (London: Saqi, 1990).
  • Bridget Connelly, Arab Folk Epic and Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986).
  • Yorgos Dedes (ed), The Battâlname. Introduction, English Translation, Turkish Transcription and Commentary, 2 vols., Sources of Oriental Languages and Literatures (Cambridge, MA: NELC, Harvard University, 1996).
  • Jennifer Goodlander, Puppets and Cities: Articulating Identities in Southeast Asia (London/New York: Methuen, 2019).
  • Pramod K. Nayar, The Indian Graphic Novel: Nation, History and Critique (New Delhi: Routledge, 2016).
  • Hélène Neveu Kringelbach, Dance Circles: Movement, Morality and Self-Fashioning in Urban Senegal (New York/Oxford: Berghahn, 2013).


Dr Marlé Hammond


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules