Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
Visions of Culture and Society in the Modern American Novel
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Practical Assessment Oral Presentation  1 x 15 minute individual oral presentation  40%
Semester Assessment Essay Assignment  1 x 3500 word critical essay  60%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit Oral Presentation  Resubmit failed or missing oral presenation with the use of slides and scripts.  40%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit Essay Assignment  Resubmit failed or missing 3500 word critical essay  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the core literary texts, and of appropriate critical approaches to the study of those texts;

2. Demonstrate an understanding of the historical and cultural contexts in which the set material was produced.

3. Write about the set material in a well-structured and well-argued way;

4. Illustrate their knowledge and views by drawing upon appropriate literary, historical and critical sources beyond the core literary texts.

5. Demonstrate developing skills in critical analysis.

6. Demonstrate developing skills in oral presentation, both individually and in small group presentations.


This module examines how American authors have employed the novel in its multiple forms to engage with issues of history, politics and social change within and beyond the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. It focuses on literature published in the years between 1915 and 1945, a period bookended by two world wars and during which the nation experienced both the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression.

Brief description

This module examines a range of issues pertaining to the character of American culture and society as they are dramatised in three distinct aspects of literature produced between the two world wars.

Section One, ‘Modern America’, examines manifestations of modernist writing in three novels. Willa Cather's My Antonia (1918) looks backward to evoke the landscapes and communities of the western prairies. Jean Toomer’s Cane (1923) is a multi-vocal experimental fiction that captures the spirit of the ‘New Negro’ Renaissance of the 1920s. This section also addresses innovative forms of narrative developed by John Dos Passos in The Big Money (1936) to convey a panoramic vision of modernizing America in the 1920s.

Section Two, ‘Expatriate Americans’, focuses on novels produced by the so-called Lost Generation of authors who migrated to Europe in the aftermath of World War One. Ernest Hemingway’s first novel The Sun Also Rises (1926) is set in Paris and Spain, while much of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night (1934) takes place on the French Riviera.

Section Three, ‘Political Fictons’, explores radical visions of American identity in three Depression-era texts: Tillie Olsen’s Yonnondio, a narrative drafted in the 1930s but not published until the 1970s; Sinclair Lewis’s anti-fascist novel It Can’t Happen Here (1935); and John Steinbeck’s epic study of poverty and migration, The Grapes of Wrath (1939).


Week 1. Introduction to the module

SECTION ONE: Modern America

Week 2. Cultural Memory and the Settling of the American West
Willa Cather, My Ántonia (1918)

Week 3. The Harlem Renaissance
Jean Toomer, Cane (1923)

Week 4. Innovations in Narrative Form
John Dos Passos, The Big Money (1936)

SECTION TWO: Expatriate Americans

Week 5. In Search of Masculine Identity
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (126)

Week 6. The Beat Generation
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night (1934)

SECTION THREE: Political Fictions

Week 7. A ‘Lost’ Novel from the 1930s
Tillie Olsen, Yonnondio (1974)

Week 8. American Totalitarianism
Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here (1935)

Week 9. The Dispossessed
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939)

Week 10. Revision session

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written: By developing a sustained critical argument. Oral: Through class discussion, small group exercises, and assessed individual presentations.
Improving own Learning and Performance Through independent reading and research and time management. Expression and use of language.
Information Technology By using word-processing packages; using AberLearn Blackboard and other e-resources to research and access course documents and other materials; by submitting assignments via Turnitin.
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 the use of critical skills.
Research skills By relating literary texts to historical contexts and by synthesizing information in an evaluative argument.
Subject Specific Skills Through the reading, writing and researching skills involved in the interrogation of literary texts; through comparative models of reading and understanding; and through the conceptual/theoretical analysis of works of imaginative literature in relation to a range of other non-literary texts.
Team work Through group work in seminars; and through preparation for paired presentations in seminars.


This module is at CQFW Level 7