BA English Literature and American Studies

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Twentieth Century American Literature

Course unit fact file
Unit code AMER10312
Credit rating 20
Unit level Undefined
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


In this course unit we will examine a range of American literary texts from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century, including fiction, poetry and drama. We'll look at some major American writers including Henry James and William Faulkner, but we will also pay attention to the evolution of twentieth century American literary history in relation to the political and social upheavals at the time. During the course you will also encounter Native American literature, African American and Chicano/a literature. The course unit will consider the aesthetic and generic developments of twentieth century American literature from realism, modernism to postmodernism in the context of key political and cultural developments, such as the two World Wars, Vietnam, the civil rights movement, second wave feminism, late capitalism and neo-liberalism.


Essay – written feedback via Turnitin, with additional oral discussion if requested 

Exam – written feedback, with additional oral discussion if requested


  • To introduce students to some major themes in American Studies through readings of a number of significant and under-explored literary works published between the late nineteenth and late twentieth century;
  • To develop students’ critical awareness by encouraging them to attend to variations and similarities in language, theme, tone and genre amongst the texts we will study;
  • To introduce students to the specifically American historical and social influences which find expression in the literary works of this period;
  • To encourage and develop students’ writing skills (including skills of scholarly presentation) and their capacity to construct a sustained and coherent argument

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students will acquire:

• A broad knowledge of American literature from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth century, together with a basic comprehension of the larger historical and cultural influences that have shaped key eras of American literary production and the ongoing legacy (and relevance) of these literary and cultural forms;

• An awareness of the range of genre produced in this period and greater understanding of American modernism in this period;

• An awareness of the interdisciplinary approach to American Studies;

• Skills in written expression and in critical and analytical thinking appropriate to Level One.

Intellectual skills

  • Formulate arguments on the basis of textual evidence and historical context;
  •   Develop critical readings of texts in different genres, including fiction, poetry, essays, and plays;
  •  Express arguments in writing that reaches a Level 1 standard.
  • Navigate and utilize the resources available on Blackboard.

Practical skills

  •  An ability (in the assessed essay) to effectively research and construct a convincing argument using appropriate methods of scholarly presentation;
  • To hone and practise oral and written skills

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Critically analyze different kinds of texts
  • Carry out independent research
  • Increased confidence and facility in communicating ideas in written and oral form

Employability skills

The ability to clearly, methodically, and reflectively communicate a response to information in written and verbal forms; · The ability to demonstrate sympathetic appreciation of the cultural particularities of different eras, geographic regions, identities, and communities; · The ability to interpret information and produce an original response through synthesis, evaluation, and creative input; · The ability to demonstrate time-management and effective performance of a task within a pre-designed brief.

Assessment methods

Exam 50%
Essay 50%


Recommended reading

Philip R. Yanella, American Literature in Context After 1929 (2010)
Catherine Morley, Modern American Literature (2012)
Robert M. Crunden, American Modernism (2000)
Christopher Bigsby, The Cambridge Companion to Modern American Culture (2006)
Edward Lucie-Smith, American Realism (2002)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Amy Bride Unit coordinator

Return to course details