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Unit information: American Revolutions in 2020/21

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Unit name American Revolutions
Unit code ENGL30108
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Theo Savvas
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit, exploring twentieth-century American literature, aims to give an overview of the richness of the ‘American century’ by focusing on moments of social change, protest and activism, and the ways in which they were represented by and / or effected through literary and cultural movements. Drawing on a range of sources – from speeches to novels, nonfiction prose to drama, poetry to journalism – it will encourage students to think about what is at stake in literary representation; how literature, theory, and action might intersect; and how contemporary ‘America’ and its literatures have been formed through cultural and political ‘revolutions’ through the twentieth century.

Intended learning outcomes

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

  1. demonstrate advanced knowledge and understanding of the breadth and depth of radical American writing in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries;
  2. apply thorough understanding of historical, cultural and intellectual contexts to readings of American novels, plays, nonfiction prose, poetry and journalism;
  3. discriminate between and analyse different critical perspectives on this literature;
  4. present and critically assess pertinent evidence to develop a cogent argument;
  5. demonstrate advanced skills in close textual analysis, argumentation, and critical interpretation using evidence from primary texts and secondary sources;
  6. contribute to group tasks and discussions and demonstrate advanced skills in oral presentation.

Teaching details

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including long- and short-form lectures, group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Details

  • 1 x group project (25%) [ILOs 1-6]
  • 1 x 2000 word essay (75%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

Lola Ridge, The Ghetto (1918)

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962)

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)

Michael Herr, Dispatches (1977)

Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands / La Frontera (1987)

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (1980)