Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction (1)

Lately MOOCs are on the uprise. In case you don’t know, a MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course, which is basically a course held over the Internet, no participant limit, and lots of forums to create community feelings. I semi-accidentally signed up for Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction, a MOOC on (did you guess?) historical fiction!

The course is offered for free through Coursera by the Unversity of Virginia and takes 8 weeks.


The course is comprised of:

  1. What Is Historical Fiction?
    • 1.1 Defining the Genre
    • 1.2 The Pre-History of Historical Fiction
    • 1.3 From Archive to Novel
    • 1.4 The Question of Origins
    • 1.5 Historical Fiction: A Global Genre
  2. Poetry and Exile in Ancient Rome: Jane Alison. Seminar with Jane Alison on The Love Artist
  3. Two Centuries of Historical Fiction
    • 3.1 Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales: Fiction on the Frontier
    • 3.2 Brown’s Clotel: Slavery, Fiction, and a Founding Father
    • 3.3 Dickens and the French Revolution: A Tale of Two Cities
    • 3.4 Anna Katharine Green and the Invention of the Historical Mystery
    • 3.5 Modernism, Metafiction, and the Mass Market, 1920-1980
    • 3.6 The New Historical Novel in Latin America
  4. Witchcraft and the Early Americas: Katherine Howe. Seminar with Katherine Howe on The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
  5. A Plague Year in Renaissance England: Geraldine Brooks. Seminar with Geraldine Brooks on Year of Wonders
  6. Disease and the Written City: Mary Beth Keane. Seminar with Mary Beth Keane on Fever
  7. Ghosts and Marriage in Colonial Malaysia: Yangsze Choo. Seminar with Yangsze Choo on The Ghost Bride
  8. Wrap-Up and Conclusions

The course offers a diploma given that you:

  1. Pass three online quizzes on the content of the lecture
  2. Ask a question to every guest writer
  3. Write a small essay about a historical primary source

I don’t think I’ve ever been an avid reader of historical fiction, but I have enjoyed a few books by Spanish authors from the Medieval and Arabic-Spain times, and I thought it might be interesting considering a tentative idea I have in mind (Have you ever heard of the Keichô Embassy?)

It has made me realise that it is hard for me to just listen to a lecture without having any kind of written anchor, so I found that I either needed to take notes or use the subtitles. I chose this last option and it worked nicely, I was able to concentrate much better once I could read along. I guess I’m a written-words person XD

I’ve currently finished unit 1 and worked my way through the reading of unit 2 – awaiting for the lectures to be posted. I will keep you posted.


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