Module Catalogue 2022/23

SEL3378 : Landscapes of American Modernism

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Fionnghuala Sweeney
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Code Title
SEL1003Introduction to Literary Studies 1
SEL1004Introduction to Literary Studies II
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



•       To introduce students to US modernism
•       To examine a range of American literary responses to the period 1910-1945
•       To interrogate the ways in which modernism is understood as a set of aesthetic principles based on literary experiment and a rejection of inherited forms
•       To consider the ways in which modernist expression and our reading of texts is politicised by a range of factors, including questions of, race, class, historical identity, myth and gender
•       To consider the specifics of regional forms of literary modernism in the US
•       To develop analytical skills by combining close reading with knowledge of historical contexts, theoretical debates and wider scholarship

Outline Of Syllabus

What is modernity? Where does it happen? Who experiences it and what are the aesthetics of its expression? This module explores a range of American literary responses to what it meant to be ‘modern’ in the early 20th century. We will be looking at American modernist writers’ attitudes to contemporary politics, to history, Europe and the regional landscapes of the United States. There will be a dual emphasis on form and theme in this module, which aims to develop a vocabulary for critical analysis of both in the works studied. We will therefore consider the ways in which the asymmetries of modernity are expressed through focused reading of writers including Larsen, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Cather, Hurston and Steinbeck. We will explore the ‘newness’ of much of the work that emerged in the period, its interest in experimentation, its narrative concerns, its expression of the uneven experiences of American modernity. We will also consider the ways in which these writers engage with debates around region, conflict, migration, labour and race.

Texts will include (i.e. all these texts will be taught this year):

F Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
Nella Larsen, Quicksand and Passing
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Willa Cather, The Professor's House
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

By the end of the module students should be:

- familiar with American modernism as a complex set of texts, ideas and responses to modernity;

- aware of different theoretical approaches to reading American modernism and modernity;

- able to show relevant knowledge of American literary history in this period, its predominant themes and concerns, and its relationship to history and society

Intended Skill Outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:

- assimilate information from a number of sources: literary, critical, theoretical;

- critically evaluate and analyse different texts and contexts;

- identify and explore relevant intellectual and political concerns in the study of American Modernism;

- exercise and develop a sensitivity to literary creativity.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion174:0074:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading180:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops21:002:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity111:0011:00Study Groups and engagement.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce students to knowledge outcomes and model critical approaches and readings. Seminars develop this knowledge and enable the practice of skills, namely close textual analysis, critical engagement and interpersonal communications. Study groups and engagement give students a chance to study independently with their peers and prepare for the seminars, and to expand their critical engagement skills. Workshops will allow students to peer review work, understand assessment criteria, improve their written work and build collegiality. The module talk introduces complex concepts in accessible ways in a format in which students can ask questions and comment. Structured research and reading activities allow concentrated and focused critical activity that builds knowledge and helps with assessment preparation. Drop-in surgeries provide tutorial support for assessments.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M40In course essay 1800 words
Essay2A60End of module essay 2200 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The in-course assessment will ask students to concentrate on one particular text studied in the first half of the module and will be focused on close reading.

The end-of-module assessment will ask students to write an essay focused on one or two module texts.

There will be no separate assessment arrangements for Study Abroad students.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.