English and drama

Recent American Writing

Module code: Q3173
Level 6
30 credits in autumn teaching
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

The period spanning the late twentieth century to the present has been a rich one for American writing and has seen the emergence of many types of experimentalism and indeed conservatism, at times subsumed under the rubric of the "postmodern." This module explores a range of texts from the mid-80s to the contemporary period to examine how writers have responded to the challenge of America's recent history - its various emergencies and crises, from the consequences of the Vietnam War, the end of Fordist economics, shifts in global migrancy, to the attacks of 9/11 and beyond. It asks whether the label "postmodern" - developed as a concept over the same period - is helpful to describe the ways in which writers have managed literature's traditional concerns with class, gender, ethnicity, capital, the family, the past. It also examines diasporic and "peripheral" literatures like those of the Caribbean as American-ness becomes an increasingly dominant and hegemonic shaper of cultural identity. America's relation to the wider "globalized" world is considered too. All these questions are addressed through close readings and appropriate theoretical commentaries.

Module learning outcomes

  • Students gain detailed knowledge of recent American fiction and poetry from religious writing to pornography.
  • Students learn about the foremost critical cultural, historical, and theoretical paradigms through which the period might be read.
  • Essay-writing skills and argument are honed as the course stages a 2000 and then 3000 word essay with seminar time devoted to essay skills.
  • Research skills and writing skills are also improved through the long essay.