American Studies and History (with a study abroad year) BA

History

Key information

Duration:
4 years full time
Typical A-level offer:
AAB-ABB
UCAS code:
TV71
Start date:
September 2018

When you study American Studies and History at Sussex, you join a stimulating and collaborative community committed to interdisciplinarity.

You learn from leading experts about topics ranging from Civil War poetry to the history of the Civil Rights movement. You learn to think across disciplinary boundaries covering history, film, photography, literature and music.

Your year abroad in America enables you to gain a range of practical skills and experience that will make you stand out as a graduate.

I chose Sussex so that I could learn from academics who have made groundbreaking contributions to their fields.”Oliver Hypolite-Bishop
American Studies BA 

Entry requirements

A-level

Typical offer

AAB-ABB

GCSEs

You should have a broad range of GCSEs (A*-C), including good grades in relevant subjects.

Extended Project Qualification

We take the EPQ into account when considering your application and it can be useful in the summer when your results are released if you have narrowly missed the conditions of your offer. We do not routinely include the EPQ in the conditions of your offer but we sometimes offer alternative conditions that include the EPQ. If you wish to discuss this further please contact Admissions at ug.enquiries@sussex.ac.uk

Other UK qualifications

Access to HE Diploma

Typical offer

Pass the Access to HE Diploma with 45 level 3 credits at Merit or above, including 24 at Distinction.

Subjects

The Access programme should be in the humanities or social sciences.

International Baccalaureate

Typical offer

32 points overall from the full IB Diploma.

Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma (formerly BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma)

Typical offer

DDD

GCSEs

You should have a broad range of GCSEs (A*-C), including good grades in relevant subjects.

Scottish Highers

Typical offer

AABBB

Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced

Typical offer

Grade B and AB in two A-levels.

GCSEs

You should have a broad range of GCSEs (A*-C), including good grades in relevant subjects.

International baccalaureate

Typical offer

32 points overall from the full IB Diploma.

European baccalaureate

Typical offer

Overall result of at least 77%

Other international qualifications

Australia

Typical offer

Relevant state (Year 12) High School Certificate, and over 85% in the ATAR or UAI/TER/ENTER. Or a Queensland OP of 5 or below.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Austria

Typical offer

Reifeprüfung or Matura with an overall result of 2.2 or better for first-year entry. A result of 2.5 or better would be considered for Foundation Year entry.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Belgium

Typical offer

Certificat d'Enseignement Secondaire Supérieur (CESS) or Diploma van Hoger Secundair Onderwijs with a good overall average. 

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Bulgaria

Typical offer

Diploma za Sredno Obrazovanie with excellent final-year scores (normally 5.5 overall with 6 in key subjects).

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Canada

Typical offer

High School Graduation Diploma. Specific requirements vary between provinces.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

China

Typical offer

We usually do not accept Senior High School Graduation for direct entry to our undergraduate courses. However, we do consider applicants who have studied 1 or more years of Higher Education in China at a recognised degree awarding institution or who are following a recognised International Foundation Year.

If you are interested in applying for a business related course which requires an academic ability in Mathematics, you will normally also need a grade B in Mathematics from the Huikao or a score of 90 in Mathematics from the Gaokao.

Applicants who have the Senior High School Graduation may be eligible to apply to our International Foundation Year, which if you complete successfully you can progress on to a relevant undergraduate course at Sussex. You can find more information about the qualifications which are accepted by our International Study Centre at  http://isc.sussex.ac.uk/entry-requirements/international-foundation-year .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Croatia

Typical offer

Maturatna Svjedodžba with an overall score of at least 4-5 depending on your degree choice.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Cyprus

Typical offer

Apolytirion of Lykeion with an overall average of at least 18 or 19/20 will be considered for first-year entry.

A score of 15/20 in the Apolytirion would be suitable for Foundation Year entry. Find out more about Foundation Years.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Czech Republic

Typical offer

Maturita with a good overall average.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Denmark

Typical offer

Højere Forberedelseseksamen (HF) or studentereksamen with an overall average of at least 7 on the new grading scale.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Finland

Typical offer

Finnish Ylioppilastutkinto with an overall average result in the final matriculation examinations of at least 6.0.

France

Typical offer

French Baccalauréat with an overall average result of at least 13/20.

Germany

Typical offer

German Abitur with an overall result of 2.0 or better.

Greece

Typical offer

Apolytirion with an overall average of at least 18 or 19/20 will be considered for first-year entry.

A score of 15/20 in the Apolytirion would be suitable for Foundation Year entry. Find out more about Foundation Years.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Hong Kong

Typical offer

Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) with grades of 5, 4, 4 from three subjects including two electives. 

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Hungary

Typical offer

Erettsegi/Matura with a good average.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

India

Typical offer

Standard XII results from Central and Metro Boards with an overall average of 75-80%. 

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Iran

Typical offer

High School Diploma and Pre-University Certificate.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Ireland

Typical offer

Irish Leaving Certificate (Higher Level) at H1,H2,H2,H3,H3.

Israel

Typical offer

Bagrut, with at least 8/10 in at least six subjects, including one five-unit subject.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Italy

Typical offer

Italian Diploma di Maturità or Diploma Pass di Esame di Stato with a Final Diploma mark of at least 81/100.

Japan

Typical offer

Upper Secondary Leaving Certificate is suitable for entry to our Foundation Years. Find out more about Foundation Years.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Latvia

Typical offer

Atestats par Visparejo videjo Izglitibu with very good grades in state exams.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Lithuania

Typical offer

Brandos Atestatas including scores of 80-90% in at least three state examinations (other than English).

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Luxembourg

Typical offer

Diplôme de Fin d'Etudes Secondaires.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Malaysia

Typical offer

Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM). As well as various two or three-year college or polytechnic certificates and diplomas.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Netherlands

Typical offer

Voorereidend Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs (VWO), normally with an average of at least 7.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Nigeria

Typical offer

You are expected to have one of the following:

  • Higher National Diploma
  • One year at a recognised Nigerian University
  • Professional Diploma (Part IV) from the Institute of Medical Laboratory Technology of Nigeria
  • Advanced Diploma

You must also have a score of C6 or above in WAEC/SSC English.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Norway

Typical offer

Norwegian Vitnemal Fra Den Videregaende Skole - Pass with an overall average of 4.

Pakistan

Typical offer

Bachelor (Pass) degree in arts, commerce or science.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Poland

Typical offer

Matura with three extended-level written examinations, normally scored within the 7th stanine.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Portugal

Typical offer

Diploma de Ensino Secundario normally with an overall mark of at least 16/20. 

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Romania

Typical offer

Diploma de Bacalaureat with an overall average of 8.5-9.5 depending on your degree choice.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Singapore

Typical offer

A-levels, as well as certain certificates and diplomas.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Slovakia

Typical offer

Maturitna Skuska or Maturita with honours, normally including scores of 1 in at least three subjects.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Slovenia

Typical offer

Secondary School Leaving Diploma or Matura with at least 23 points overall.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

South Africa

Typical offer

National Senior Certificate with very good grades. 

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Spain

Typical offer

Spanish Título de Bachillerato (LOGSE) with an overall average result of at least 8.0.

Sri Lanka

Typical offer

Sri Lankan A-levels.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Sweden

Typical offer

Fullstandigt Slutbetyg with good grades.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Switzerland

Typical offer

Federal Maturity Certificate.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

Turkey

Typical offer

Devlet Lise Diplomasi or Lise Bitirme is normally only suitable for Foundation Years, but very strong applicants may be considered for first year entry. Find out more about Foundation Years.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

USA

Typical offer

We look at your full profile taking into account everything you are studying. You must have your high school graduation diploma and we will be interested in your Grade 12 GPA. However, we will also want to see evidence of the external tests you have taken. Each application is looked at individually, but you should normally have one or two of the following:

  • APs (where we would expect at least three subject with 4/5 in each)
  • SAT Reasoning Tests (normally with a combined score of 1300) or ACT grades
  • and/or SAT Subject Tests (where generally we expect you to have scores of 600 or higher). 

We would normally require APs or SAT Subject Tests in areas relevant to your chosen degree course.

Please note

Our entry requirements are guidelines and we assess all applications on a case-by-case basis.

My country is not listed

If your qualifications aren’t listed or you have a question about entry requirements, email ug.enquiries@sussex.ac.uk.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

6.5 overall, including at least 6.0 in each component

IELTS scores are valid for two years from the test date. Your score must be valid when you begin your Sussex course. You cannot combine scores from more than one sitting of the test.

If you are applying for degree-level study we can consider your IELTS test from any test centre, but if you require a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) for an English language or pre-sessional English course (not combined with a degree) the test must be taken at a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)-approved IELTS test centre.

Find out more about IELTS.

Other English language requirements

Proficiency tests

Cambridge Advanced Certificate in English (CAE)

For tests taken before January 2015: Grade B or above

For tests taken after January 2015: 176 overall, including at least 169 in each skill

We would normally expect the CAE test to have been taken within two years before the start of your course.

You cannot combine scores from more than one sitting of the test. Find out more about Cambridge English: Advanced.

Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)

For tests taken before January 2015: grade C or above

For tests taken after January 2015: 176 overall, including at least 169 in each skill

We would normally expect the CPE test to have been taken within two years before the start of your course.

You cannot combine scores from more than one sitting of the test. Find out more about Cambridge English: Proficiency.

Pearson (PTE Academic)

62 overall, including at least 56 in all four skills.

PTE (Academic) scores are valid for two years from the test date. Your score must be valid when you begin your Sussex course. You cannot combine scores from more than one sitting of the test. Find out more about Pearson (PTE Academic).

TOEFL (iBT)

88 overall, including at least 20 in Listening, 19 in Reading, 21 in Speaking, 23 in Writing.

TOEFL (iBT) scores are valid for two years from the test date. Your score must be valid when you begin your Sussex course. You cannot combine scores from more than one sitting of the test. Find out more about TOEFL (iBT).

The TOEFL Institution Code for the University of Sussex is 9166.

English language qualifications

AS/A-level (GCE)

Grade C or above in English Language.

Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE)/ AS or A Level: grade C or above in Use of English

French Baccalaureat

A score of 12 or above in English.

GCE O-level

Grade C or above in English.

Brunei/Cambridge GCE O-level in English: grades 1-6.

Singapore/Cambridge GCE O-level in English: grades 1-6.

GCSE or IGCSE

Grade C or above in English as a First Language.

Grade B or above in English as a Second Language

German Abitur

A score of 12 or above in English.

Ghana Senior Secondary School Certificate

If awarded before 1993: grades 1-6 in English language.

If awarded between 1993 and 2005: grades A-D in English language.

Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE)

 Level 4, including at least 3 in each component in English Language.

Indian School Certificate (Standard XII)

The Indian School Certificate is accepted at the grades below when awarded by the following examination boards:

Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) – English Core only: 70%

Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) - English: 70% 

International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB)

English A or English B at grade 5 or above.

Malaysian Certificate of Education (SPM) 119/GCE O-level

If taken before the end of 2008: grades 1-5 in English Language.

If taken from 2009 onwards: grade C or above in English Language.

The qualification must be jointly awarded by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES).

West African Senior School Certificate

Grades 1-6 in English language when awarded by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) or the National Examinations Council (NECO).

Country exceptions

Select to see the list of exempt English-speaking countries

If you are a national of one of the countries below, or if you have recently completed a qualification equivalent to a UK Bachelors degree or higher in one of these countries, you will normally meet our English requirements. Note that qualifications obtained by distance learning or awarded by studying outside these countries cannot be accepted for English language purposes.

You will normally be expected to have completed the qualification within two years before starting your course at Sussex. If the qualification was obtained earlier than this we would expect you to be able to demonstrate that you have maintained a good level of English, for example by living in an English-speaking country or working in an occupation that required you to use English regularly and to a high level.

Please note that this list is determined by the UK’s Home Office, not by the University of Sussex.

List of exempt countries

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada**
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United Kingdom
  • USA

** Canada: you must be a national of Canada; other nationals not on this list who have a degree from a Canadian institution will not normally be exempt from needing to provide evidence of English.

Admissions information for applicants

Transfers into Year 2

Yes. Find out more about transferring into Year 2 of this course. We don’t accept transfers into the third or final year.

If your qualifications aren’t listed or you have a question about entry requirements, email ug.enquiries@sussex.ac.uk.

Why choose this course?

  • Ranked 1st in the UK for American Studies (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018).
  • More prestigious American partner institutions – including UC Berkeley and Georgetown – than any other programme in England.
  • Our teaching is informed by the latest research. History at Sussex is ranked 1st for the quality of its research outputs (2014 Research Excellence Framework).

Course information

How will I study?

American Studies modules introduce you to the history, politics, visual culture and literature of the Americas. Your studies traverse America from Columbus’ encounter of the ‘New World’ in 1492 to the counterculture of the 1960s to 9/11.

In History, you cover periods from 1500 to 1900, and tackle key areas of continuity and change. You develop skills in digital history, and learn how digital media is transforming our world.

You also explore how historians use evidence to look at areas of controversy and debate.

Modules

These are the modules running in the academic year 2017. Modules running in 2018 may be subject to change.

Core modules

Options

How will I study?

In American Studies you choose from a range of modules. Some focus on New Orleans, where you explore the roots of jazz music. Others focus on New York City, where you will analyse the long, rich, transnational history of this centre of immigration, business, entertainment and culture.

You analyse significant texts by writers including Gertrude Stein and Zora Neale Hurston, and learn about American modernity and postmodernist aesthetics.

American history modules include a survey of the black freedom struggle, and a study of memories of the American Civil War. You develop the skills needed to understand and present knowledge of the past.

You study how connections across the world have shaped the histories of human rights, democracy and migration, choosing specialisms to suit your interests.

Modules

These are the modules running in the academic year 2017. Modules running in 2018 may be subject to change.

Core modules

Options

You spend your third year studying at one of our US or Canadian partners’ campuses. Our range of partner institutions represents every facet of the American experience, and includes:

  • UC Berkeley and UCLA
  • Tulane University in New Orleans and the University of North Carolina
  • Georgetown University and George Washington University, Washington, DC.

Whether you are interested in Native American culture, the Civil Rights movement, or American modernist poetry, Sussex offers you a unique experience while studying in North America.

“Studying at UC Berkley for a year was the best decision I’ve ever made. I matured and feel inspired for my future.” James HopeAmerican Studies and History BA
Studied abroad at UC Berkley, US

Please note

Programs with a study abroad year are not eligible for USA federal Direct Loan funds. Find out more about American Student Loans and Federal Student Aid

How will I study?

You write a dissertation on a topic of your choice, with one-to-one supervision.

Your American Studies dissertation can be on topics as varied as gun control, the 60s counterculture, Black Lives Matter, trans rights issues or the musical Hamilton.

In History to handle a range of primary sources and conceptual material, and explore different approaches to the past. You can choose from a range of modules.

Modules

These are the modules running in the academic year 2017. Modules running in 2018 may be subject to change.

Options

Find out about American Studies at the University of Sussex

Fees

UK/EU students:
Fees are not yet set for entry in the academic year 2018. The University intends to set fees at the maximum permitted by the UK Government (subject to continued satisfaction of the Teaching Excellence Framework). For the academic year 2017, fees were £9,250 per year.

The UK Government has confirmed that if you’re an EU student applying for entry in September 2018, you’ll pay the same fee rate as UK students for the duration of your course, even if the UK leaves the EU before the end of your course. You’ll also continue to have access to student loans and grants. Find out more on the UK Government website

Channel Islands and Isle of Man students:
The University aligns fees for Channel Islands and Isle of Man students with fees for UK/EU students. These fees are not yet set for entry in the academic year 2018. We intend to set fees at the maximum permitted by the UK Government (subject to continued satisfaction of the Teaching Excellence Framework). For the academic year 2017, fees were £9,250 per year.
International students:
£15,500 per year
Study abroad:
Find out about grants and funding, tuition fees and insurance costs for studying abroad

Note that your fees may be subject to an increase on an annual basis.

Find out about typical living costs for studying at Sussex

Scholarships

Our focus is personal development and social mobility. To help you meet your ambitions to study at Sussex, we deliver one of the most generous scholarship programmes of any UK university.

Careers

Graduate destinations

American Studies at Sussex is ranked 1st in the UK for career prospects (The Guardian University Guide 2018).

100% of American Studies and History (with a study abroad year) BA were in work or further study six months after graduating. Recent graduates have taken up a range of jobs, including:

  • event coordinator, 3Fox International
  • talent scout, Adobe EMEA
  • fundraising intern, Cancer Research UK.

(Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Survey 2015)

Your future career

By thinking critically across disciplines, you learn a broad range of analytical and communication skills. These will be enhanced on your year abroad where you’ll gain invaluable cultural and social perspectives. As a result, you will be in demand in fields such as:

  • journalism and marketing
  • TV and film production
  • finance and industry.

Working while you study

Our Careers and Employability Centre can help you find part-time work while you study. Find out more about career development and part-time work

Introduction to American Studies

  • 15 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 1
This module introduces you to a range of key concepts, methodological tools, and theoretical approaches to the interdisciplinary study of American culture.
 
You'll use these analytical and intellectual frameworks throughout your degree and beyond. Throughout the module, you apply these concepts, methods, and theories to a range of cultural material, including:
  • film
  • music
  • images
  • literature.
We also provide guidance and instruction in essay writing, referencing and effective reading of academic texts.

The Early Modern World

  • 30 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 1

This module introduces you to what may be an unfamiliar period of history by exploring some of the central themes of early modern history, and the various ways in which they have been debated by historians. It also equips you with the writing and research skills essential for a successful university career.

Focusing on the period between 1500 and 1700, debates over social polarisation, cultural differentiation, cultures of Protestantism, the context of the English civil war, issues of gender, and the meanings of monarchy and republicanism will be examined.

Modern America

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 1

The early years of the twenty-first century have witnessed the United States achieve unsurpassed global economic and cultural power. This module assesses the dramatic developments that have shaped the U.S. during the twentieth century, often described as the 'American century'.

We will explore the transformations in American political and social life as the U.S. achieved economic supremacy, and extended this power on the world stage. As the nation increased its influence abroad, of module, it underwent a parallel series of turbulent changes at home. Hence we will also consider an America seen through the critical (and sometimes not-so-critical) lenses of writers, artists, commentators and filmmakers as they articulate the tensions and anxieties of modern U.S. life.

The module addresses many social contradictions. The `Roaring Twenties, for example, was a period of consumerism and cultural experimentation that also gave rise to religious fundamentalism and Prohibition. Similarly, while the United States government in the 1950s was trying to `keep the world safe for democracy' in the face of communist expansion, it abused the constitutional liberties of its own citizens during the McCarthy witch-hunts. Although the country as a whole attained unprecedented levels of affluence in these years, poverty remained a persistent problem, and Americans continued to struggle with the repression of women, political dissidents and racial minorities. A crisis in American liberalism accompanied this proliferation of social and political protest, primarily due to American involvement in the Vietnam War. We will seek to understand how this war shaped protest politics, altered the relationship between Americans and the liberal state, and led to the Conservative resurgence in the 1980s. These events shattered the consensus belief in a modern America. We will evaluate what it then meant to live in a post-modern America, and how people adapted the conditions of post-modernity to cope with new and recurrent crises of difference, inequality, and insecurity. Through lectures that focus on the historical, literary and more broadly cultural aspects of the modern United States, students will learn to recognise the importance of cross- and inter-disciplinary work as they pursue the dynamic relationship between cultural forms and social, political and economic realities.

The Making of the Modern World

  • 30 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 1

This module will introduce a period of momentous social, political and cultural change in British and European history by focusing on some of the key debates that have preoccupied its historians.

Historical controversies over events such as the British Union, the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution will be examined and used to introduce various historiographical approaches.

You will consider central themes such as gender, popular culture, conceptions of the state (from absolutism to democracy), sociostructural and demographic change, and empire and nationalism, which will give you a range of perspectives on the past and issues of continuity and change.

American Literature to 1890: Part I

  • 15 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 1

This module will introduce you to the major trends and texts of colonial America from the Iroquois Indians and Christopher Columbus through to Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine. These are not simply 'authors,' in the modern sense, writing 'great books' but diverse voices whose class, gender, race, nationality and religious persuasion influence the sense they make of America, and of themselves, in their writing. For example, some texts articulate ancient native traditions and myths without the benefit of a written tradition, while others are trying to come to terms in literary ways with experiences of migration to an unknown and wild place, captivity by the Indians, conflict, and slavery. Questions of national identity and the role that literature plays in constructing and communicating an 'American experience' are therefore central to the module.

We will look at the writing of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, beginning with Native American accounts of creation, the travel journals of Columbus, and an account of the conquest of the Aztec empire. American literature in this early period does not come in the usual forms of fiction, poetry, and drama that we are used to studying in European literature, nor is all of it written in English. We will be reading a variety of forms, such as Native American stories, accounts of conquest in South America and settlement in the English colonies, Puritan sermons, autobiography, political tracts, captivity narratives, poetry, and letterssome in translation, others in their original English. While these texts are not all recognisably what you might think of as 'literature,' they are the founding documents and genres of the Americas and their influence is felt in American culture to the present day.

Roots of America: From Colonial Settlement to the Civil War and Reconstruction

  • 15 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 1

This module provides a foundational survey of the history, literature, and culture of the United States (and the colonies which preceded it) to 1900. It begins with the Columbian encounter in 1492, when two worlds were brought into sharp conflict with each other and continues through English settlement and colonisation in the 17th century to growth, expansion and the articulation of a specific American identity by the middle of the 18th century. It assesses the creation of the American nation through war with Britain and through the imaginative construction of a new political relationship between people and government.

We will then proceeed to political and cultural formations in the 19th-century republic. You will focus on why the newly formed nation should ultimately falter on the issue of slavery and why the concept of the United States and the 'Union' became such contested terms. You will examine how contested visions of America's future and its 'manifest destiny' cohered and divided the citizenry, and ultimately ask, as Abraham Lincoln so aptly put it in 1855, 'can we, as a nation, continue together permanently--forever-half slave, and half free?'

Our attention subsequently turns to the mammoth transformations to American life unleashed by the Civil War and Reconstruction; events, historian James McPherson calls the 'Second American Revolution.' Among the many topics, we will consider the emergence of a modern activist central government committed, albeit temporarily, to constitutional protected civil rights; we will address how Americans, in both North and South, understood the meaning of Union and nation after the carnage of Civil War; and how industrialists, immigrants, and union activists attempted to shape and influence the rapid growth of American urban life in the final quarter of the 19th century. Finally, we will consider the plight of black Americans as the promises of emancipation gave way to racial segregation in the South and the rise of the urban ghetto in the North.

Students will be required to approach these topics from both a historical and a literary perspective, paying particular attention to formative texts. The writings of John Smith, John Winthrop, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, James Fenimore Cooper, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Henry James, Edith Wharton (among others) will be examined as a distinct American literary culture evolves in the 19th century. That culture – like all social values in the years preceding Civil War – would split in the North-South divide of the 1850s, but in the final lectures of the module, students will examine how literary works would ultimately bolster resurgent American nationalism in the decades following the War. Students will also be encouraged to think about the imaginative formulation of American identity and American character through representations of such matters in film.

American Humour

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 1

Humour is probably among the most approachable of ways to introduce first year students to core issues in American Studies, and one of the most telling. Jewish humour, for example, which clearly informs, say, the films of the Marx Brothers, Heller's Catch-22,or the TV comedy of Seinfeld, can teach us much about the history and culture of immigration and assimilation so integral to American identity. Likewise, African-American comedians from the 70s to the 90s exemplify a particular, 'signifying' tradition, in Henry Louis Gates' phrase, as well as providing comment on the politics of the day. Or we might view the relationship between American economy and culture - a grand narrative of the twentieth century - as dramatised in the Fordist dystopias of Chaplin, the Southern Gothic of Flannery O'Connor and the acceleration from post-war boom in Thomas Pynchon to the vision of Wall Street excess in Ellis' American Psycho. In all these cases, humour provides both spectator or readerly pleasure and a form in which a more covert critique takes place, making it an invaluable mode for you to experience and consider key cultural and historical questions.

Incorporating literature, film, TV, live performance and visual art, the module will thus address the social, political and philosophical issues each topic raises and the context from which it has sprung, from the 19th century 'Connecticut wits' to more recent 'gross-out' comedy. By way of materials, an on-line module reader will be made available to YOU composed of a number of readable essays on the theory of humour as well as selected essays more directly relating to each specific topic and/or work. Interdisciplinary in nature, the module will hence encourage you to investigate how ideas about humour can work with other texts to become forms of critical thinking: Bergson's notion of comedic automatism, for example, read alongside accounts of the factory system can illuminate Keaton or Chaplin's cinematic commentary on the fate of the American industrial worker. Through such connections, you will be introduced to influential writers like Bergson and Freud in an accesible fashion and find ways to apply and adapt their ideas in the wider cultural field.

American Literature to 1890: Part II

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 1

American Literature to 1890 II introduces you to the major trends and texts of a multi-ethnic America from Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper to Emily Dickinson and Henry James. These are not simply 'authors', in the modern sense, writing 'great books', but diverse voices constructed by class, gender, race, nationality and religious persuasion. Some texts articulate ancient native traditions and myths, others come to terms in writing with experiences of migration, captivity, conflict, and slavery. Central to the module are questions of national identity, and the role that literature plays in both constructing and communicating an 'American experience'.

Ideas of History

  • 15 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 2

In this module, you learn about the revival of classical ideas and politics during the Renaissance and Reformation, the debate between ancients and moderns in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the nature of modern political thought as it developed from the middle of the 19th century to the present day.

The aim is to give you an ability to place modern ideas about politics in their historical context, through the study of central figures and themes whose writings continue to be cited in political argument.

The authors considered include: Machiavelli, Milton, Hobbes, Locke, Harrington, Mandeville, Montesquieu, Hume, Rousseau, Smith, Bentham, Hegel, Constant, Tocqueville, Marx, Weber, Lenin, Gramsci, Schmitt, Arendt, Chomsky, and Rawls.

You look at:

  • virtue and security
  • the origins of democracy
  • absolutism and empire
  • perpetual peace
  • reason of state and amoral politics
  • the debate about commerce, luxury and markets
  • the size of the state and its form of government
  • the nature of liberty and the means of maintaining it
  • totalitarianism and slavery in politics
  • modern democracy, philosophy and the modern state
  • civil liberty, war and empire.

Theoretical Concepts for American Studies

  • 15 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 2
This module provides theoretical tools for interpreting literary, historical, and cultural objects found in American Studies.
 
You'll familiarise yourself with important concepts that you may encounter in your reading and research. You'll be able to apply these concepts accurately and appropriately, focusing on social and political theory.
 
Topics covered may include:
  • historical materialism
  • ideology and ideology critique
  • cultural capital
  • sexuality
  • nationhood/nationalism
  • biopower
  • intersectionality
  • neoliberalism.

Global History 1500-2000: Trade, Science, Environment and Empire

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

In this module, you look at how global history has helped us understand the past, the present and the future.

You'll study how societies and communities have interacted with each other through history, and explore the emergence of an integrated global society.

You look at:

  • communication and war
  • race, slavery and anti-slavery
  • colonial encounters and environments
  • civil and human rights
  • global order and disorder
  • empire, science, trade and environment.

You also study the emergence of the 'great divergence,' the widening gap in the 19th century between living standards in the Atlantic basin and those in the rest of the world, and the global expansion of European empires.

American Cinema B

  • 15 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 2

An awareness of how Hollywood cinema was shaped, how it acquired its position of dominance, and the forms and aesthetic conventions that characterise it, is essential to an understanding of cinema more generally. Accordingly, this module will focus on the formation of Hollywood in the 1910s through to the post-World War 2 era, with particular emphasis placed on the development of the 'studio system' and Hollywood's 'golden age' of the 1920s to 1950. You will view a range of representative Hollywood films made during the period and analyse them in relation to the industry and its practices. You will also situate Hollywood cinema within the political and social life of the United States in the period.

American Literature Since 1890: Part I

  • 15 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 2

This module will introduce significant and canonical texts by American writers produced since 1890 and throughout the first part of the twentieth century. By analysing the working of class, gender and race in these texts we will explore many of the social and cultural issues associated with the evolution of American modernity and American modernist aesthetics. We will observe the different ways in which writers tackle or avoid important economic and social questions of the period. We will examine how important socio-economic developments such as the rise of industrialisation and urbanisation, war, consumer culture, the question of women's rights and ideas of national identity shape the stylistic and thematic fabric of these works.

History Short Period: Britain in the 20th Century

  • 15 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 2

This module concentrates on British history since 1914. You will be introduced to some of the major themes in the social, cultural and to a lesser extent, economic and political, history of 20th-century Britain, and will critically examine the most important contributions and debates within the historiography of each topic.

You will also be introduced to some of the sources available to the historian of this period. We will cover a number of topics including war, work, leisure, youth culture, and immigration, in a broadly chronological fashion.

Fundamentally, the module aims to equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to a historical understanding of Britain across the 20th century.

History Short Period: England in the 16th Century

  • 15 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 2
This module introduces you to the Tudor period in England, from 1485–1603. At the turn of the 16th century, England was a war-torn backwater. By the end, it had established a national identity and the foundations of a global empire. You explore elements of cultural, political, religious and social history in the Tudor century and examine the scale of change through case studies of individuals, families, communities and artefactsYou focus on England’s place in European politics in an increasingly globalised world.
 
It develops on The Early Modern World module, allowing you to continue your study of this period with more focus. You'll be able to explore issues only touched on in your previous studies, as well as encountering new material.
 
You engage critically with both primary and secondary sources, and question some of the predominant assumptions about this controversial period.

History Short Period: Europe in the 20th Century

  • 15 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 2

The module addresses the long sweep of European history from the First World War to the present.

While essentially chronological in structure, it hinges around the apparent contrast between the two halves of the century. On the one hand, the history of 20th-century Europe in particular has been overshadowed by the disastrous events of the first half of the century. On the other, and from a bird's eye point of view, the second half of the century seemingly forms the prosperous 'happy ending' to what has sometimes been called the 'Age of Extremes'. The extent to which Europe has escaped the influence of the first part of the century will therefore be one of the key questions of the module.

Alongside this consideration of the overall narrative structure of 20th-century European history, you are invited to take a broad comparative approach. The module identifies specific themes of overall importance and explores how they emerge within particular national trajectories. The module therefore ranges across Europe as a whole, cutting across distinctions of east and west, north and south, and encompasses a way of approaching certain events that is designed to draw out common features across the continent over the last century.

History Short Period: The Middle East and North Africa since 1908

  • 15 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 2

In this module, you examine the key political, social, cultural and economic themes in Middle Eastern and North African history since 1908.

You look at the:

  • politics of reformism
  • impact of World War One
  • rise of pan-Arab nationalism
  • impact of World War Two
  • foundation of Israel
  • end of British and French Empires
  • Suez and the politics of pan-Arabism
  • rise of political Islam.

The African American Experience

  • 15 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 2

This module examines the history of African-American political, cultural, and social developments from 1863 to the present.

Its principal goal is to familiarise you with the debates that African Americans have had among themselves between emancipation and the present day, thus establishing a deep historical understanding of the ongoing freedom struggle in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

It assesses intraracial arguments over the relationship of blacks to the US government in war and peace, over racial and class identities, and over diverse tactics and strategies for the advancement of the race.

Although particular attention is given to the longrunning campaign to destroy de jure segregation in the southern states (culminating in the successful nonviolent direct action campaigns of the 1960s), the module is predicated on the demonstrable fact that racial prejudice was a national, not a regional, phenomenon.

Lectures and seminars analyse the connections between African American history and culture. Emphasis is given to well-known black leaders like Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and Martin Luther King Jr., but female activists and the unsung black masses themselves also receive close attention.

Women in America

  • 15 credits
  • Autumn Teaching, Year 2

In this module, you explore the changing experiences of women in America as recorded in history and represented in literature and film.

You also look at the relationship between gender, race, class, and ethnicity and how this is reflected in politics, economics and social developments in the United States.

You'll study historical and political debates about women's work, family life and citzenship and the different ways women have challenged gender oppression through social movements and creative arts activism.

In your lectures, you'll learn about women's history and gender relations in America from the pre-Colonial period to the present day. And in your seminars you'll study individual women's lives and artistic productions in relation to the weekly lecture topic.

American Cities: New Orleans

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

The Big Easy evokes dozens of images from Spanish moss draped buildings, mint juleps by the Mississippi, Mardi Gras parades and Louis Armstrong's horn, to desperate crowds in Hurricane Katrina. Some of the images are based in reality, others in fantasy and others form part of a constructed narrative. In this module you will contextualise the city's place in French and Spanish colonisation and we will consider the growth and expansion of the city, considering New Orleans' pivotal role in the slave trade and the regional cotton economy. You will examine the environmental history of the city, assess the importance of the Mississippi to its growth and consider its liminal position between the Caribbean and America.

Turning to the 20th century you will assess why New Orleans was among the first cities to institute racial segregation and how its black population resisted those efforts in politics, writing and of course in jazz music. You will also assess the rich literary tradition of New Orleans' writers from George Washington Cable to Kate Chopin, William Faulkner and to more contemporary writers in south Louisiana such as Earnest Gaines. You will explore why the city became America's notorious center of vice (long before Las Vegas) and we discuss why Americans have long considered the city a den of iniquity, mired in gothic exceptionalism, somehow removed from the national story, but so representative of it. Finally we take our story to the present and unpack why in a land of exceptional plenty there should be such urban poverty exposed for the world to see during Hurricane Katrina.

American Cities: New York

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

From New Amsterdam to 9/11 and beyond, New York has always been iconic. We experience the Big Apple through the sounds and sights that came before us: the movies, the music, the literature, the songs. But what goes on behind these images of ceaseless activity and glamour? Now the hub of global finace, New York was also a haven for immigrants, with Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty sitting right there in its harbour. Because of its diversity of population and ever-changing urban development, we will in this module be looking at the city from many perspectives, and find that to study its history and culture is to discover that the city that never sleeps never ceases to pose questions either.

American Drama

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

American Literature Since 1890: Part II

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

This module will introduce significant and canonical texts by American writers produced since 1945. By analysing the working of class, gender and race in these texts we will explore many of the social and cultural issues associated with the American modernity and American post-modernist aesthetics. We will observe the different ways in which writers tackle or avoid important economic and social questions of the period.

American Popular Music

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

This module examines the historical, social and cultural contexts of American popular music, focussing predominantly on the USA. Emphasis is placed on popular genres and styles of the twentieth century, the period in which the USA took on a dominant role in the creation and spread of popular culture across the globe.

As well as charting this growth in dominance, the module analyses popular music as representative ‘people’s music’. Genres and styles – including the blues, jazz, country, soul, funk, punk, disco, hip hop and grunge – are used to read aspects of change and continuity in the American twentieth century. Rather than providing a simple chronological history of musical styles in the USA, the module uses the music to examine concepts of race, place, tradition, commerce and authenticity. The music industry is analysed in terms of American business models, and recording and revival are explored as ways of thinking about representation, commercialization and exceptionalism.

Vital socio-historical moments, such as the emergence of rock and roll and the use of music in the civil rights era, are studied alongside the ‘invention’ of the teenager and the rise of a counterculture. The module concludes with a series of reflections on the various soundscapes associated with America and with the notion of multiple Americas audible through the myriad of non-Anglophone genres that exist within North America.

Politics of Governance: USA

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

This module examines four approaches to understanding contemporary US politics that emphasise the role of institutions, ideas, individuals and interests. These approaches are applied to the three main institutions of the Presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court and to the nature of political parties and voting in the US.

The Nineteenth-Century American Short Story

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

This module will be an in-depth examination of the nineteenth-century American short story. In the wake of Washington Irving’s influential 1820-1 The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., writers such as Catherine Maria Sedgwick, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville quickly developed the short story into a potent and enduring American literary form.

In addition to these writers, we will read a wide range of authors who used the genre:

  • to creatively examine the nation’s colonial past and to articulate new possibilities for American individual and collective identity
  • to question the often violent exclusion of women, African Americans, Native Americans and immigrants from public life
  • to end slavery and improve working conditions
  • to describe the alienation of urban and frontier life
  • to confront the demands of industrialization and mass culture
  • to orient themselves within intellectual terrain shaken by new movements in philosophy, religion and science.

At the same time, we will pay close attention to how these writers cultivated the art of the short story itself. They undertook bold stylistic experiments in narrative form, characterization, and tone, accented their work with words from foreign languages or regional dialects, wrote with journalistic clarity or created densely allusive arabesques. They often became the sharpest theoreticians and critics of the genre in their essays and reviews. In short, whether these writers sought to educate their readers concerning social inequities, to horrify or to titillate them, they opened new, dynamic possibilities for the short story within a growing nation and an emerging literary marketplace.

Time and Place 1851: Science, Empire and Exhibitionism

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

In 1851, the census results revealed that Britain's population stood at about 20 million, having more than doubled in the first half of the century. But what was more astonishing was that the majority of the British people now lived in towns and cities. At mid-century, Britons were living in what one contemporary observer called 'the age of great cities'.

This course will examine life in Victorian town and cities by using contemporary poetry, novels and journalism to analyse people's experiences of modernity. The Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace was, in many ways, an exhibition of the things the Victorians perceived as having changed their world, from cheap, manufactured consumer goods, to the latest scientific discoveries and devices, and above all the wealth of the expanding empire.

The sciences and technologies that were exhibited in 1851, and which made the exhibition itself possible, are central topics for this course. However, the Exhibition put the Victorians themselves on display, allowing large crowds from diverse classes to meet in public and celebrate their sense of themselves as a unified, modern nation. This course will subject the Victorians' self-congratulatory sense of themselves to close critical scrutiny.

Time and Place 2008: The Spectacle of the Beijing Olympics

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

In this module, you explore the socio-spatial transformation of Chinese cities, with particular emphasis on Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai.

You analyse each city's history, its multi-layered society, its distinctive culture, its politics and economics, and its evolving position in national, regional and global frameworks. 

You look at major Chinese events including the Beijing Olympics.

You also examine how Beijing's political power has been constructed, how it is expressed, maintained and reproduced, and will also analyse how citizenship is defined, investigating the relationship between Beijing citizens, migrants and foreign settlers.

Time and Place: 1517: Self, Sex and Emotions in Early Modern Europe

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2
In 1517, Martin Luther circulated his 95 Theses and launched a sustained attack on the abuses of the Church. This critique profoundly transformed Christianity.
 
In this module, you explore whether 1517 and the birth of Protestantism marked a new age of modernity. You examine the experience of common folk during one of the most transformative periods in Western history. Through a range of ego-documents – from diaries and letters to trial records – you'll examine how people understood themselves and gave meaning to their lives.
 
In the wake of the Reformation, gender and sexuality became a key battleground between Catholics and Protestants. In the witch-hunts that swept early modern Europe, it was primarily women who were accused and executed. Understanding how ideas about emotions and gender interacted is one of the keys to understanding the mass violence of early modern witch-hunts. This course will start in 1517 and will span the 16th and 17th centuries.

Time and Place: 1796: Lithography and the Mass Produced Image

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2
The discovery of lithographic printing made it thinkable – and achievable – to mass produce free-hand images, texts and image-text hybrids. This module introduces the making of reproducible graphic culture a century either side of this discovery.
 
These developments were global in scope. However, we focus on analysing their transformative impact on images, texts, and objects in 18th- and 19th-century Britain. Here, the co-existence of multiple printing technologies circa 1750–1850 is especially significant. It provided a fertile environment for technological, artistic, and commercial experimentation with medium and message.

Time and Place: 1831: Slave Revolts

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

In August 1831, Nat Turner launched the most significant slave revolt in American history. Murdering 60 whites in a bloody spree, Turner's revolt convulsed the region. Seventy two hours later, militia units crushed the revolt. The backlash was frenzied with at least one hundred enslaved people executed by local militiamen. Yet despite Turner's subsequent execution, neither the rebel slave nor the insurrection he initiated could be entirely exorcized from the minds of contemporary southerners.

In December 1831, 60,000 enslaved people in western Jamaica rebelled against the island's slaveholding elite. It was the final, and one of the largest, revolts in the history of Caribbean slavery.

These revolts laid bare the revolutionary capability of enslaved people, they exposed the enmity that most slaves bore toward their masters, and they visibly revealed that enslaved people would adopt desperate means to secure their freedom. They also demonstrated how enslaved peoples utilized evangelical and small-scale trading networks to mobilize communities. And the revolts exposed how rebel leaders exploited national and transatlantic tensions over the future of slavery and harnessed direct action to the political tide of anti-slavery in Britain and America. But the frenzied backlash also revealed white anxieties over slavery, the nature of race, and the longeveity of slavery. As enslaved rebels demonstrated their rage against slaveholders and their aspirations for freedom, whites responded with fear, resentment, and paranoia to the rebel threat. Some condemned outside agitators, notably vocal abolitionists and evangelical liberals, while others redoubled their commitment to racialized slavery.

This module will address:

  1. the role of enslaved peoples (and the concept of 'agency') in shaping liberation movements in a comparative context
  2. the factors underpinning the disintegration of Jamaican slavery and its defense in America
  3. the growth of anti-slavery in the Anglophone Atlantic and the expansion of abolitionist sentiment in Britain and the USA
  4. white slaveholding identities and meanings attached to slave ownership, including anxieties surrounding the loss of white racial authority during and after the revolts
  5. the value of comparative methodologies for understanding historical change.

In short, the module examines the material, political, psychological, and gendered parameters to racial slavery and emancipation within the early nineteenth-century Atlantic world and considers the rise and fall of slavery in two key settings.

Time and Place: 1938: Kristallnacht

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

During the night of 9 November 1938, SS and SA forces launched an assault on German Jews, their property, their synagogues, and their businesses. This so-called ‘Kristallnacht’ can be understood as a violent rehearsal for the Holocaust, which Nazi Germany implemented three years later. It also marks the end of over a century of a prolific and (mostly) peaceful co-existence between Jews and Christian non-Jews.

In this module, you learn about the relationship between Jews and Christian non-Jews since the early 19th century. You look at the complex processes of political emancipation, of social integration, and of cultural adaptation through which Jews became an integral part of the German political, social and cultural life. At the same time, these processes changed Jewish religious, economic, social and cultural life.

You'll focus on the period from the mid-19th century to the beginning of the Holocaust, emphasising Jewish life in Imperial and Weimar Germany, as well as under Nazism. You'll discuss issues of Jewish identity along with aspects of modern anti-Semitism.

Time and Place: 1942: Holocaust

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

This module offers an opportunity to study the attempt by the Nazis to create a new world order by annihilating the Jews of Europe and targeting other groups – including gay people, gypsies and people with disabilities – for discrimination and death. It provides a multilayered examination of the transition from prejudice to exclusion, to extermination, placing the Holocaust within the broader conceptual framework of genocide in the 20th century. 

The module will consider issues such as: how was the so-called 'Final Solution to the Jewish problem' put into effect? Why is 1942 a key year in the development of the Final Solution? What part was played by the perpetrators across occupied Europe? It will deal with the reaction of the victim, and explore possibilities of resistance. It will ask whether is it accurate to characterise most people as bystanders, and will discuss the rescue options. The module will also deal with question of justice and memory.

Studying what happened will inevitably raise many questions about why it happened. The module will pay close attention to how it was possible for such a plan of mass murder to be carried out so effectively in such a short time at the hub of western civilisation; a plan which relied on the active involvement of many people and the acquiescence of even more.

Time and Place: 1984: Thatcher's Britain (Observing the 1980s)

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984 describes a totalitarian government bent on total manipulation. For many on the left, Margaret Thatcher's government represented elements of an 'Orwellian' state, in which the social democratic consensus established after the end of the Second World War was replaced by a free-enterprise economy and a centralised state. For those on the political right, the 1980s Thatcher governments championed the reassertion of individualism, British nationalism and a retreat from the so-called 'nanny state' in which the fight against the 'enemy within' was as important as the fight against the enemy without. In cultural terms, most writers point to the 1980s as being marked by creative pessimism, with 'anti-Thatcherism' the dominant cultural theme.

This course will examine key events of the 1980s and reflect upon whether Margaret Thatcher's most famous quote, 'There is no such thing as society', is a suitable epitaph for the 1980s. Topic studied include: the 1982 Falklands War; the 1984 miners' strike; the reemergence of mass unemployment, peaking in 1986 at over 3.5 million; privatisation of industry and challenge to trade union power; and the violent mass protest against the Community Charge in 1990.

Rather than producing a top-down political history of the period, this course is interested in exploring the wide variety of evidence available to the contemporary historian. It is built around the 'Observing the Eighties' project which includes oral histories from the British Library and holdings of the Mass Observation Archive and ephemera from the University of Sussex.

Time and Place:1780 The Gordon Riots: Blood Community and Retribution - London 1780

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

In six days of bloody insurrection, London tore itself to pieces in the second week of June 1780. After the violence had stopped, almost 300 people were dead, the prisons destroyed and hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage wrought on the fabric of the capital.

The Gordon Riots were the most violent popular uprising in modern British history. Framed by the American Revolution and War, but apparently arising from the relatively insignificant issue of limited Catholic toleration, the riots redefined the roles of the mob, the state, of religion and the army in the negotiated settlement that was late 18th-century society. In the process, the riots marked a sharp transition from an older system of local popltics – in which the mob collaborated in elite politics – to a new politics of class. 

The ready availability of trial accounts, state papers, newspapers and pamphlets (online and in digital form) allows you to engage with the day-by-day development of the riots. You're also enabled to write about them differently (online, with maps, images and supporting primary sources).

Through the lens of this single tranformative event, you'll also explore larger themes, including:

  • London as the pivot for the development of the Atlantic world
  • the roles of popular protest in pre-modern and modern politics
  • the 18th-century system of criminal justice and policing
  • the roles of religion and the parish community in popular politics
  • the uses of micro-history
  • the 'gender crisis' of the 1780s.

Transatlantic Rhetoric: Public Speech and Anglo-American Writing 1750-1900

  • 15 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 2

What is 'rhetoric' and why was it so important for literary life in nineteenth-century Britain and America? How can we begin to analyse public speaking as writing, and what is its relationship to literature in general?

You address these questions by exploring the cultural history of persuasive public speech between the American Revolution and the turn of the twentieth century, and the role it played in the development of literary expression.

Each week you look at a pair of one or more speeches from either side of the Atlantic, from across a range of genres including parliamentary oratory, radical political speechmaking, sermons, courtroom statements and comic lectures.

By training in the methods of rhetorical analysis you develop an understanding of how to comprehend the meanings and craft of public speech.

By placing speechmaking back into broader literary history, you begin to see rhetoric and voice as central themes in the history of Anglo-American writing.

America in the 21st Century

  • 30 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 4

You examine the state of 21st century America and assess the challenges the country faces - evaluating how it is represented globally. You examine a wide range of texts, media, documentary film, fiction, and cultural theory. 

You look at topics including: 

  • America as a civilisation
  • how American values and concepts have shaped social and cultural formation in American life
  • 9/11 and the War on Terror
  • community and civic decline in American public life
  • the 21st century American city
  • race and ethnicity in 21st century America
  • the contemporary American novel
  • the American West
  • political activism and protest
  • consumer culture and religion in 21st century America. 

Documentary America: Non-Fiction Writing

  • 30 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 4

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.

The United States in the World

  • 30 credits
  • Spring Teaching, Year 4

As the 21st century begins, the United States is still the world's only superpower: no other nation possesses comparable military and economic power or has interests that reach the entire globe. To understand the place and power of the US in the contemporary world, it is vital to understand how its geopolitical strategies function, militarily and economically. Yet because US power is also secured through cultural and discursive strategies, it is equally important to analyse how US cultural/discursive products and processes participate in the construction of the US in all the varied ways it imagines itself. The aim of this module is to analyse how US cultural/discursive strategies participate in imagining the US in the world, either by being embedded within traditional geopolitical strategies or by sitting alongside them. Rather than taking an historical approach, the module is organised around specific theoretical and cultural/discursive themes and practices.

These include:

  • architectural theory and the building of embassies abroad
  • design theory and designing the nation through everyday objects
  • film theory and screening the nation through popular film
  • remediation theory and virtually remediating the nation
  • entertainmentality theory and exhibiting the nation in museums
  • performance/performativity theory and re-enacting the nation though historical re-enactments as well as song
  • advertising theory and advertising the nation to US citizens.

Along the way, significant foreign and domestic policy debates from Cold War politics to the 'War on Terror' to the US domestic 'War on Illegal Immigration' will be considered through political, cultural and discursive theories (eg Said's notion of orientalism, Foucault's notion of governmentality, Butler's notion of performativity and Ranciere's notion of the birth of the nation). 

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