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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL32460 Writing America

20 creditsClass Size: 30

School of English

Module manager: Dr David Wylot

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as a discovery module


- To introduce students to American literature in its cultural context.
- To prepare students for more advanced work in American literature and culture.
- To enhance students' critical and analytical skills with respect to written texts.
- To enhance students' skills in oral presentation and essay writing.

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.


Writing America serves primarily as a key and important foundation to US American literature and its cultural contexts for those students who think they may wish to take further options in the subject or who have taken,or may intend to take, the core module American Words, American Worlds. At the same time we expect no prior engagement with American literature and it is also suited to students who would like to know more about American literature more broadly. The module introduces students to some of the key concepts that have animated both US letters and their critical reception. It takes writing to be a dynamic act and asks how the writing of ‘America’ participated in the nation’s development. Organised around the core contexts/concepts of Domesticity, Slavery and Citizenship, the module interrogates some of the most significant literary texts of the United States in the nineteenth century.

The module examines how these texts reveal, negotiate and elide the central preoccupations of the still-young United States by situating them in the broader contexts of the developing nation’s relationships with Europe, with the Americas as a hemispheric formation, and with its own citizens and non-citizens. How did the United States’ early preoccupations with nationhood and democracy obfuscate the country’s imperial ambitions? What is the relationship between statehood and national identity? What does it mean to call the United States (a state formation) ‘America’ (a national formation)? What is claimed by that choice? How do the issues of slavery and American Indian removal problematise the ideals of democratic citizenship upon which the United States were founded? How did they produce the conditions which have led to contemporary movements such as #blacklivesmatter? How does the Civil War look different when viewed through the domestic lens of Alcott’s Little Women? What does it mean that the action of one of the nation's most celebrated novels – Moby Dick -- largely takes place at sea? By taking this course you will encounter the works of the poets Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, writers of fiction such as Louisa May Alcott, Henry James, Herman Melville, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, writers of slave narratives such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, and intellectual polemicists such as W.E.B. DuBois.

The course combines weekly seminars with four lectures, giving you a deep and contextualized access to the texts we engage with and preparing you either to be introduced to new interests or to develop existing engagements.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours186.00
Total Contact hours14.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Teaching will be through weekly seminars (10 x 1 hour) and 4 lectures (4 x 1 hour).

- Private Study: Seminar preparation, reading, essay writing.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Contribution to seminars including formal presentations (unassessed)
- Unassessed essay plan and feedback on unassessed work
- Feedback on assessed essay

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3,000 words plus an unassessed essay plan100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

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: 29/04/2022 15:24:13


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