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SEL3378 : Landscapes of American Modernism

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • 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


•       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

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion174:0074:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture101:0010:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading180:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching132:0026:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity101:0010:00Study Groups
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce students to knowledge outcomes. Seminars develop this knowledge and enable the practice of skills, namely close textual analysis and interpersonal communications. Study groups give students a chance to develop independent study and prepare for the seminars in terms that give them genuine ownership over the material.

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.

Reading Lists