CCHU9028 Humanities
Happy Endings: How a Text Ends

Course Description

“And they lived happily ever after!” We are all accustomed to the fairytale ending where all the good people are happy, and all the bad people are punished (or dead). The Harry Potter series ended with an epilogue, detailing the happiness awaiting young Harry. This mirrors the kind of ending we find in novels like Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. But, what exactly is a happy ending? Actually, what is happiness? Which stories have happy endings? Which lives have happy endings? Do we hold the same standards of happiness to both?  Where do such standards originate? The life and art of happiness are historically beautiful acts to reconsider closely. Many approaches and disciplines are important for studying human happiness, and in particular a drive toward the “happy ending,” whether philosophy, psychology, or folklore: in this course we will look especially at literary texts and films in English to consider in detail core acts and experiments in representation and expectations for “endings,” and the bent toward happy ones.

There are many cultural and historical assumptions that claim attention for happy endings, such as acts of renewal, flexibility, and the “common good.” This course will look at happy endings in different global and generic contexts: is a European “happy ending” the same as an Asian “happy ending”?. Do films end differently from their literary sources? The course will highlight the production and politics of point of view in stories across different periods and genres. Offering playful and ideological dimensions to the art of endings, this course will bring new literary and historical awareness to evolving representations of ideals, rituals, and practices with regard to human relationships and societies.

Students will be given text-endings through MOODLE, and, where appropriate, a summary of the story (e.g. in novels and films) leading up to the “happy ending.” You will also be given some short stories to examine.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Appraise critical and aesthetic qualities of literary texts.
  2. Produce critical analyses of literary texts.
  3. Demonstrate an awareness and understanding of the ideological nature of narrative endings.
  4. Analyze the ideological effects of particular kinds of endings.
  5. Recognize and address alternative points of view left out in certain endings.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 22
Tutorials 8
Reading / Self-study 60
Preparation for tutorial discussions 10
Assessment: Essay writing 20
Assessment: Journal writing 20
Assessment: In-class writing exercise 2
Total: 142

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Essay 35
In-class writing exercise 25
Weekly questions and reflective journal 40

Required Reading

Written texts, including the following (and other miscellaneous texts, TBA):

  • Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. [Final 2 chapters]
  • Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. [Last chapter, XXXVII––Conclusion]
  • Mansfield, Katherine. The Doll’s House. [Short story]
  • Orwell, George. 1984. [Last chapter]
  • Perrault, Charles. Little Red Riding Hood (and other fairytales).
  • Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. [Chap. 36, Epilogue; and film]
  • Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. [Last chapter; and film]

Film endings, including the following:

  • Citizen X.
  • Crazy Rich Asians.
  • Matilda. [Based on novel by Roald Dahl]
  • Paddington 2. [Based on character in A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond]
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. [Musical]
  • Thompson, Emma. Sense & Sensibility. [Based on novel by Jane Austen]

Recommended Reading

Sample List:

  • Abbott, H. P. (2008). The Cambridge introduction to narrative (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK; New York:  Cambridge University Press.
  • Daničić, M. (2010). On the borders of storytelling: Do unconventional beginnings lead to (un)conventional endings? On the Borders of Convention. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars. [pp. 47-58]
  • Kermode, F. (2000). The sense of an ending: Studies in the theory of fiction. New York: Oxford University Press.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor J.C. Kuehn
School of English, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 1921
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr G.E. Gould
School of English, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2290