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2008/09 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL3020 American Words, American Worlds, 1900-Present

20 creditsClass Size: 136


Module manager: Dr Denis Flannery

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2008/09

Pre-requisite qualifications

Grade B at 'A' Level in English Language or Literature or equivalent or an achieved mark of 56 or above in a Level 1 module in English.

PLEASE NOTE:- This module is restricted to Level 3 students.

Module replaces

ENGL3015 American Texts in the 20th Century

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

American Words, American Worlds, as its title implies, is a module for people with a serious interest in both American literature and American culture more broadly considered. Thus the lectures elucidate the set texts, but they also tackle major issues that some might consider extra-literary: the United States as a political force in the world; the way race and ethnicity have shaped and sometimes limited individual aspirations; American conceptions of scale as registered in the transcontinental railroad or the rise of the skyscraper; the phenomenon of the 'the road trip' as evoked in countless songs and movies; and 'Yankee know-how', or why the US lauds and fears technology. The seminars, which demand full preparation, both discuss each of the set texts and expect students to respond to a range of contextual material analogous to that treated in the lectures. The module is assessed partly by an examination, and partly by a project-style essay in which students are encouraged to deploy their knowledge of American culture, whether that knowledge embraces 'high culture', such as the painting of the Ash Can School, or the graphic novel, jazz, and other dimensions of popular culture.


On completion of this module, students will possess an increased knowledge of American literature and an enhanced awareness of some of the preoccupations of American culture in the period from 1900 to the present. Also, students will have augmented their critical and analytical skills with respect to different kinds of texts, including poetry, and further developed their skills in essay writing and oral presentation.

Learning outcomes
Students will have developed:
- the ability to use written and oral communication effectively;
- the capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse;
- the ability to manage quantities of complex information in a structured and systematic way;
- the capacity for independent thought and judgement;
- critical reasoning;
- research skills, including the retrieval of information, the organisation of material and the evaluation of its importance;
- IT skills;
- efficient time management and organisation skills;
- the ability to learn independently.

Skills outcomes
Skills for effective communication, oral and written.
Capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse.
Ability to acquire quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way.
Capacity for independent thought and judgement.
Critical reasoning.
Research skills, including information retrieval skills, the organisation of material, and the evaluation of its importance.
IT skills.
Time management and organisational skills.
Independent learning.


This module examines American texts in their cultural contexts in the period from 1900 to the present, the so-called American century. It consists of a series of probes that reflect three preoccupations. The first is geographies, including the frontier, the suburbs, and the city and America's global reach. The second is memories, which we take to embrace both personal reminiscence, as in autobiography and 'confessional' poetry, and cultural memory, as in Toni Morrison's 're-memories' of African American history. The third is technologies; here we will look at a variety of responses -- in poetry, drama, fiction and film -- to the objects and media that increasingly occupy American life. In the course of seminars and lectures, we will often be asking whether, and how, the chosen texts may usefully be described as distinctively 'American.' In addition to studying the set texts, students will be invited to draw on their own interests in film, painting, photography, music, or other forms to explore the broader terrain of American cultures and society.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours168.00
Total Contact hours32.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Seminar/Essay/Exam preparation

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Participation in seminar discussion.
1 x unassessed assignment (allocated by tutor)

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,000 words40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)40.00

One unassessed assignment (allocated by tutor) must be submitted in order for you to receive the credits for the module.

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)2 hr 60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)60.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 06/08/2008


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