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Unit information: Imagining Americans in 2018/19

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Unit name Imagining Americans
Unit code ENGL30121
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Emily Coit
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States famously begins, "We the People." But which persons are included in that "People"? Who are "the People," and what is a true American? The bloody fight to resolve this question shapes much of American history and has not stopped yet. This unit examines literature about the American "People" from the years around 1900, a moment of growing immigration, renewed nativism, and intense racial violence. We will take up texts that argue for exclusionary models of personhood and citizenship as well as texts that envision a more inclusive, more open democracy. These texts all ask questions that continue to roil discussions of voting, borders, immigration, and race today: what is an American story, and makes a American citizen? Their answers to these questions also speak more broadly to current debates well beyond the borders of the US.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

1) demonstrate knowledge of American literary and intellectual history concerning democracy and citizenship during the period 1880-1920

2) articulate knowledge and make evaluations of current scholarly approaches towards the unit's primary sources, as well as the controversies that have divided scholars working on these materials

3) demonstrate skills in an oral presentation

4) demonstrate skills in literary research, including finding relevant scholarship and also using digitized primary sources online

5) demonstrate skills in textual analysis, argumentation, close textual analysis, and critical interpretation appropriate to level H/6 using evidence from primary texts and secondary sources.

Teaching details

1 x two-hour seminar weekly

Assessment Details

1 x 10-minute presentation (ILOs 1-3); the mark for the presentation will be combined with the presentation notes submitted on Blackboard (up to 1,000 words) (40%) (ILOs 1, 2, 4)

1 x 3000-word essay (60%) (ILOs 1, 2, 4, 5)

Reading and References

Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson
W.E.B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk
Pauline Hopkins, Of One Blood
Henry James, The American Scene