BA American Studies

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Love American Style

Course unit fact file
Unit code AMER30161
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This class explores the discourses of love, romance, the couple, marriage, loneliness, friendship, gender ,sexuality, race, ethnicity, and nationality in American culture from the mid-twentieth century to the present day. In interrogating a wide range of American texts we will focus not only on representations of femininity, masculinity, and sexuality, but also on the development of discourses of love, desire, and their intersections with ideologies of Americanness. Finally, we will also look at how constructions of race and ethnicity influence gender and sexuality, and how changing representations of mixed-race, crossed-class, and same-sex unions contribute to the meaning of American national identity.

Love American Style, a 'comedic television anthology' that ran for four seasons starting in 1969, was a light, slick, and pretty misogynistic and racist look at love, romance, and human emotions and relationships in America. Its title (and perhaps its opening credits and theme music) will set the premise for how we interrogate the ways America tells the story of love to itself through low, medium, and high culture. Through this interrogation we might find the underlying assumptions and constructions of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and class - and indeed assumptions about national identity and its concomitant cultural, political, and personal aspirations


- To introduce students to the major themes of love, anomie, and nationality in American literature, film, and other media (e.g. television), particularly in the late twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first;
- To develop students' critical awareness by encouraging them to attend to the language, themes, narratives, and political elements of the literary works we study;
- To develop students' awareness of cultural, historical, and theoretical concerns relating to the concepts of gender, race, marriage, desire, sexuality, and nationality that are particular to the United States;
- To encourage and develop students' research, presentation, and writing skills and their capacity to construct a sustained and coherent argument.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students should display:
Knowledge and understanding of the social, ideological, and political issues and themes regarding love, marriage, intimacy, desire, nation, race, sex, and sexuality, as expressed through works of U.S. cultural representation from the mid twentieth century to the present day;
Ability to understand and theorize ideological constructions of, as well as intersections between, race, gender, sexual identity, desire, and nationality in historically specific contexts;
Ability (in the assessed essay and oral presentation) to construct a sustained and cohesive written argument and to deploy scholarly methods of presentation.
Ability to analyze texts, speak in front of groups, make connections to present-day concerns, engage critically with primary material; improved writing; self confidence in abilities.

Teaching and learning methods

Weekly 3-hour seminars will focus substantially on class discussion and may include student presentations, feedback about essays, journal writing and discussion, short video screenings and discussion, or other activities.

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%)
Journal Essay (40%)
In-Class Presentation (10%)

Recommended reading

Over the summer students should read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (any edition) in preparation for the beginning of term.

Readings might also include:

Kristen Roupenian, “Cat Person” (2017)
Carmen Maria Machado, “The Husband Stitch” (2017)
James Baldwin, Another Country (1962)  Book 1
Marilyn French, The Women’s Room (1977)  Part I
Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982)
Carol Anshaw, Aquamarine (1992)
Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation (2014)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Monica Pearl Unit coordinator

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