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SEL3378 : Landscapes of American Modernism

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Fionnghuala Sweeney
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 48 student places

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


•       To introduce students to US modernist literature
•       To examine a range of American literary responses to the period 1910-1945
•       To explore the aesthetic politics and political aesthetics of American modernism and its relationship to
the American literary work that precedes it
•       To consider the ways in which critical reading of American literary texts needs to concern itself with
questions of race, class, historical identity, myth and gender in America and beyond
•       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 a ‘modern’ subject in the early 20th century. We will be looking at American modernist writers’ attitudes to contemporary politics, to history, Europe and to transnational and regional landscapes in 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, gender, 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 ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00N/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.

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 either one or two module texts, selecting from the questions provided.

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

Reading Lists