English and drama

Documentary America: Non-Fiction Writing

Module code: Q3142
Level 6
30 credits in spring teaching
Teaching method: Workshop, Seminar
Assessment modes: Dissertation, Coursework

The study of American fiction often precludes an examination of some of the best writing and forms of self-representation produced in America: political and photo-essays, social science publications, journalism, reportage, and documentary films. This module examines the development of iconic non-fictional literature and other forms of visual representation (such as film and photography) from the 19th and 20th centuries. We will look at the style, content and circulation of non-fictional forms and examine their relationship with other aspects of cultural, social and political representation in America. We will also look at the ways that these forms intersect with the development of modernist and postmodernist literature in the US more broadly.

For this module you will have to read from a broad selection of materials that do not necessarily fit into conventional literary genres. We will analyse why writers and artists have chosen to represent events in the way that they do and the wider cultural and ethical implications of those forms.

Module learning outcomes

  • Identify key features and trends within non-fictional forms of writing and representation and identify the chronology of non-fictional forms into the 20th Century.
  • Understand the overlap between trends in fiction and non-fictional forms of American literature.
  • Understand the various ways that Americans have represented key historical moments to themselves within and outside of the US.
  • Communicate the above in written form using the appropriate academic conventions.