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Unit information: American Masculinities in 2016/17

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Unit name American Masculinities
Unit code ENGLM0047
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Lesel Dawson
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


From the outlaw to the conscript, the white-collar commuter to the ‘rebel without a cause’, American literature and culture abounds with archetypes of masculinity. The frontier necessitated what Theodore Roosevelt called ‘the strenuous life’, but though the wilderness is long since a cultural memory, the qualities and values associated with the pioneers continue to be discussed and challenged right into our own century. Beginning with some early prototypes, this unit will track the development of the American male through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through readings of fiction, drama and some poetry. It will consider how various theories of masculine identity have contributed to our understanding of what it means to be a man in America, and how issues of race, class and sexuality might complicate that understanding.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have (1) developed a detailed knowledge of key issues around masculinity in American literature; (2) developed a critical understanding of masculine identity in American literature; (3) acquired an understanding of major critical approaches to gender in American literature; (4) demonstrated their ability to analyse and compare primary texts; (5) strengthened their skills in academic writing, argumentation, and evaluation of evidence from primary texts and critical literature.

Additionally (specific to level M), students will be expected to (6) display high level skills in evaluating, analysing, synthesising and (where apt) critiquing images and ideas; (7) apply existing analytical strategies to new evidence with flexibility and creativity; (8) demonstrate the capacity for independent research.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour seminar per week

Assessment Details

One summative essay of 4000 words and one 1000 word presentation (100%). Measures ILOs 1-8.

Reading and References

  • E.E. Cummings, The Enormous Room (London, 1999)
  • Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (London, 2009)
  • John Updike, Rabbit, Run (London, 2006)
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club (London, 2010)
  • Percival Everett, Erasure (London, 2003)
  • Michael S. Kimmel, Manhood in America: A Cultural History (New York, 2006)