BA English Literature and American Studies

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
American Cultural Studies

Course unit fact file
Unit code AMER20331
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit introduces students to a number of concepts from cultural studies and social theory, using these concepts as a lens to examine contemporary American politics, culture, and society. Organized into ten themes, it explores cultural, sociological, political, and historical writings and popular cultural texts to develop our understanding of contemporary America. At the heart of this exploration is the complex interplay between the discursive (the stories people tell about US society, for instance, in political statements, films, press articles) and the material (social and economic conditions in the contemporary US). Students will develop the ability to construct interdisciplinary arguments, primarily by learning cultural studies keywords, methods, and interpretive frameworks.


  • To introduce students to key themes and issues in contemporary American culture and society
  • To introduce students to key terms and concepts in the field of cultural studies
  • To encourage critical and analytical skills through the close, interdisciplinary study of a variety of contemporary American issues, texts and practices
  • To develop skills in oral and written communication.

Knowledge and understanding

  • A knowledge and understanding of key issues and themes in recent American life
  • A general grasp of the approaches involved in cultural studies

Intellectual skills

  • The ability to analyse a variety of contemporary American cultural texts using key cultural studies terms
  • The ability to use cultural texts to test out, critique, and compare different theoretical frameworks

Practical skills

  • Skills of independent research and written expression about contemporary topics.
  • The ability to generate productive discussion questions about scholarly readings


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • The capacity to take responsibility for learning and intellectual development
  • The capacity for active, critical reading, listening and viewing
  • The capacity to apply cultural studies concepts in everyday situations.


Employability skills

This course enhances student employability by giving students a range of transferable skills. These include: logical thought; good oral and written communication skills; resourcefulness in the ability to gather, interpret, analyse and/or evaluate critical sources; time management skills through the completion of deadline-driven work; articulacy and presentation skills through seminar discussions. This course enhances employability by encouraging students to identify and understand a range of different viewpoints and/or critical approaches to contemporary American culture and society.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 40%
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%

Portfolio 40%

Recommended reading

Melinda Cooper, Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2017)

Lisa Duggan, The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy (Boston: Beacon Press, 2004)

Annie McClanahan, Dead Pledges: Debt, Crisis, and 21st Century Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016)

Stuart Hall, “Notes on Deconstructing the Popular”

Kathi Weeks, The Problem with Work: Feminist, Marxism, Antiwork Politics and Postwork Imaginaries (excerpt)

Lisa Marie Cacho, Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected

David Harvey, “Accumulation by Dispossession”

Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (excerpt)

Jasbir Puar and Amit Rai, “Monster, Terrorist, Fag”

John Storey, Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Molly Geidel Unit coordinator

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