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Unit information: American Literature in 2020/21

Unit name American Literature
Unit code ENGL20124
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Gournet
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit aims to introduce students to a selection of poetry and prose that gives a flavour of the development and variety of American literature. Examples will be chosen from across the nineteenth- and twentieth centuries, and may include authors such as: Gertrude Stein, Marylinne Robinson, Toni Morrison, Maggie Nelson, John Steinbeck, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac.


This unit aims to introduce students to a variety of prose and poetry that reflects the range of writing in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature. Students will be encouraged to consider in depth the American voice (or American voices); use of form and forms; parallel developments in American society; and the relationship to, and commentary on, the European tradition

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will be able to:

1) demonstrate knowledge of the chronology, range, and variety of American literature in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries

2) critically analyse novels and poetry, as well as non-fictional prose

3) draw comparisons and consider differences within this tradition and beyond it

4) communicate their ideas about these issues effectively

5) present a persuasive written argument appropriate to level I/5

Teaching details

The unit will normally be taught in 1 x 3-hour seminar per week for 10 weeks; each of which will utilise a range of teaching methods including lectures by the tutor(s), formal and informal presentations by students, and small group discussion.

Assessment Details

One 2000-word essay (40%). [ILO 2, 4, 5] One 3000-word essay (60%). [ILO 1-5]

Reading and References

  • Gertrude Stein, selection from Tender Buttons
  • John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
  • James Baldwin, Giovanni's Room
  • Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved
  • Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems