Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Introduction to American Literature and Culture
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 20 x 1 hour lectures (two per week)
Seminars / Tutorials Weekly one hour seminar


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment One x 2000 word essay  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Pre-released paper, 48 hours before exam.  50%
Supplementary Assessment Make good any missing assessment elements and/or resubmit failed coursework (writing on a fresh topic), and/or sit the supplementary examination paper 
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Pre-Release Paper 48hrs before exam date  Resit examination  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate critical and interpretative skills appropriate to Level 1 and deploy an appropriate critical vocabulary

2. Demonstrate an analytical approach to issue of form, genre and language in American literature

3. Demonstrate an ability to relate literary texts to appropriate historical and cultural contexts


1. Module introduction / Creating Puritan New England
2. Republican Voices
3. Defining American Culture: Benjamin Franklin's Autobriography
4. Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalist Movement
5. The American Renaissance
6. Tales I: Washington Irving
7. Tales II: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville
8. Walt Whitman and the Poetry of Democracy
9. The Literature of Slavery and Abolition: Frederick Douglass and Frances Harper
10. Academic Writing: Good Practice in Written Assignements for American Studies
11. Emily Dickinson's Poetry
12. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 'The Yellow Wallpaper'
13. Modern America
14. The Great Gatsby and the Roaring Twenties
15. American Literature and the Cold War
16. Literary Voices in the Civil Rights Movements
17. Contemporary American Literature
18. Multicultural Voices
19. American Literature in the Twenty-First Century
20. Retrospective Overview of module

Note: All selections, apart from The Great Gatsby, from The Heath Anthology of American Literature (Concise Edition)

1. Introduction/Colonial America:
John Winthrop, 'A Modell of Christian Charity' (149-57)

2. Founding America:
Crevecoeur, 'Letter III: What Is an American', from Letters from an American Farmer (441-45); Thomas Jefferson, 'A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress Assembled' (481-84);
William Apess, 'An Indian's Looking-Glass for the White Man' (645-50)

3. Defining American Culture
Benjamin Franklin, excerpts from The Autobiography (drawn from 381-434)
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'The American Scholar' (694-706)

4. Early Narrative
Washington Irving, 'Rip Van Winkle (941-53)
Nathaniel Hawthorne, 'Young Goodman Brown' (968-76)
Herman Melville, 'Bartleby, the Scrivener' (1058-83)

5. The Poetics of American Democracy
Walt Whitman, excerpts from 'Song of Myself' (1225-275)

6. Slavery
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (867-931)
Frances Harper, 'The Slave Mother' (933-34)

7. Women's Voices
Emily Dickinson, Poems (drawn from 1298-317)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 'The Yellow Wallpaper' (1597-608)

8. Modern America
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

9. Cold War and Civil Rights
Allen Ginsberg, 'Howl' (2367-375)
Martin Luther King, Jr., 'I Have a Dream' (2266-269)
Amiri Baraka, Poems (2607-613)

10. Contemporary America
Maxine Hong Kingston, 'No Name Woman' (2477-485)
Helena Maria Viramontes, 'The Cariboo Cafe' (2542-55)
Joy Harjo, 'The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window' (2657-59)
June Jordan, 'Poem About My Rigths' (2619-21)

Brief description

This module introduces students both to a range of American literature from the colonial period to the twenty-first century and to the skills needed to analyse and critique American literature in its historical context. It focuses on the role of literature in dramatizing and debating the myths and realities of American experience. Simultaneously it investigates the relationship between literature and society, while also paying attention to literary genre.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number n/a
Communication (written) By developing a sustained critical argument. (oral) Through group discussions and seminar presentations.
Improving own Learning and Performance Through independent research and reading.
Information Technology By using word-processing packages and making use of Blackboard and other e-resources to research and access course documents andn other materials.
Personal Development and Career planning Through increased critical self-reflection and the development of transferable, ICT, communication and research skills.
Problem solving By evaluative analysis and critical skills.
Research skills By independent research and synthesizing information in an evaluative argument.
Subject Specific Skills Textual analysis of a range of American literature. Development of contextual understanding of American literature and culture from the colonial period to the present day. Continuing development of reading and writing skills taught in Part One
Team work Through group work and presentations in seminars.

Reading List

Essential Reading
Bercovitch, Sacvan gen.ed. (1994-2005) Indicative Secondary Bibliography Cambridge University Press Primo search Curnutt, Kurk (2007) The Cambridge Introduction to F. Scott Fitzgerald Cambridge University Press Primo search Elliot, Emery gen.ed. (1988) Columbia Literatary History of the United States Columbia: University of Press Primo search Fisher, Benjamin F (2008) The Cambridge Introduction to Edgar Allan Poe Cambride University Press Primo search Fitzgerald, F. Scott The Heath Anthology of American Literature (Consise edition) The Great Gatsby Primo search Grice, Helena et al (2001) Beginning Ethnic American Literatures Manchester University Press Primo search Hayes, Kevin J (2007) The Cambridge Introduction to Herman Melville Cambridge University Press Primo search Killingsworth, M Jimmie (2007) The Cambridge Introduction to Walt Whitman Cambridge University Press Primo search Martin, Wendy (2007) The Cambridge Introduction to Emily Dickinson Cambridge University Press Primo search Matthiessen, F O (1941) American Renaissance Oxford University Press Primo search Person, Leland S (2007) The Cambridge Introduction to Nathaniel Hawthorne Cambridge University Press Primo search Schofield, Martin (2007) The Cambridge Introduction to the American Short Story Cambridge University Press Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 4