BA English Literature / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Occupy Everything

Course unit fact file
Unit code AMER30422
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


This interdisciplinary course unit explores the figure of revolution and the role of radical memory in American culture. Because the time of revolution is always “out of joint”—always looking backwards to 1776 and 1789 and forwards to the flash of the wished-for/ever-feared yet-to-come—our study will proceed on a loosely chronological approach that begins with two takes on revolution in contemporary U.S. culture: Occupy: Scenes from Occupied America, a collection of eyewitness accounts from NYC, and Christopher Nolan’s nightmarish vision of class warfare in The Dark Knight Rises. We’ll then turn to the ways that nineteenth-century American writers and orators recollected the 1791 Haitian revolution as an abolitionist clarion call, a revenant of 1776, and a terrifying portent of antebellum slave revolt before exploring the ways that returning to the Paris Commune of 1871 allowed Americans to refashion their own revolutionary past even as it gave them a new road map for occupying revolution. We’ll conclude our study by examining the aftershocks and promise of revolution in a variety of literary and cultural responses to the 1886 Haymarket bombing and the 1968 trial of the Chicago 8. In addition to situating literary texts within their wider historical contexts, our aim in this module will be to link these cultural issues back to the larger question of the relationship between literary form and cultural memory, interrogating the ways that a variety of genres—among them, manifestos, poetry, oratory, realist fiction, and film—mediate and refashion national narratives of, as well as debates on, revolution and the larger meaning of American identity and democracy. This research seminar will also introduce you to a variety of relevant conceptual approaches to the study of media and cultural memory as well as radical forms and popular culture. Finally, it will give you the opportunity to hone your archival sleuthing skills in relevant digital archives and develop group projects on your findings.


' To consider the enduring significance (and ongoing re-signification) of revolution and its aftershocks to the cultural production and cultural identity of the United States.
- To explore key conceptual debates in the study of radical memory and mass-cultural media in the United States, particularly in the 19th and 20th Century but continuing to the present moment.
- To develop skills of critical thinking and close analysis through a detailed engagement with a range of literary and cultural texts, including oratory, essays, poetry, fiction, film, music lyrics, and manifestoes.
- To encourage and develop student's research, presentation, and writing skills as well as their capacity to construct a sustained and coherent argument of a standard appropriate to final year degree work.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students should be able to:
An in-depth understanding of the complex and unstable significance of revolution within 19th, 20th, and 21st-Century American culture and society and its role in shaping discourses on and divisions across race, class, and gender.
Weigh up competing interpretations and arguments; critically analyze a range of different sources; develop interdisciplinary arguments about revolution and radical memory in American culture; engage in archival research.
An ability (in the assessed essay) to effectively research and construct a convincing argument using appropriate methods of scholarly presentation.
Critically analyze different kinds of texts; carry out independent research; summarize and synthesize complex arguments; work in groups; increased confidence in communicating ideas in written and oral presentation; increased confidence in conducting digitally-based archival research.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students taking this unit will be able to analyse and evaluate arguments and texts. Above all, committed students will emerge from this course unit with an advanced capacity to think critically, i.e. knowledgeably, rigorously, confidently and independently.
Group/team working
Students taking this unit will be able to work courteously and constructively as part of a larger group.
On this unit students are encouraged to respond imaginatively and independently to the questions and ideas raised by texts and other media.
Students on this unit must take responsibility for their learning and are encouraged not only to participate in group discussions but to do so actively and even to lead those discussions.
Project management
Students taking this unit will be able to work towards deadlines and to manage their time effectively.
Oral communication
Students taking this unit will be able to show fluency, clarity and persuasiveness in spoken communication.
Students on this unit will be required to digest, summarise and present large amounts of information. They are encouraged to enrich their responses and arguments with a wide range of further reading.
Written communication
Students on this unit will develop their ability to write in a way that is lucid, precise and compelling.

Assessment methods

Essay 50%
Participation 15%
Creative Project  35%


Recommended reading

Readings for 2017-18 may include:

Carla Blumenkraz, Keith Gessen, et. al., eds. Occupy!: Scenes from Occupied America. [Verso]

Leonora Sansay, Secret History: Or, the Horrors of San Domingo. [Broadview Press]

Jack London, The Iron Heel. [Penguin]

W. D. Howells, A Hazard of New Fortunes. [Penguin]

 Dark Knight Rises dir. Christopher Nolan (2012)

Chicago 10: Speak Your Peace dir. Brett Morgan (2007)

Punishment Park dir. Peter Watkins (1971)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 165

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Joy Michelle Coghlan Unit coordinator

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