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Module syllabus 2009-10

Module Outline

This outline aims to show what primary reading is required. The module bibliography  provides a list of secondary materials from which you can select further reading.

Autumn Term
 N.B. we start in week one!
1. Introduction to Course Themes

Please read introductory essays to at least one or two of the background texts listed in module information, particularly:

Read my introductory lecture to the module.

2. Willa Cather. My Antonia (1918)

In preparation for the seminar you might want to find out about & think about the following topics:

  • Cather's intervention in contemporary debates on immigration
  • Regionalism: the mid-west
  • Revision of classical legacies of pastoral and epic

 Please read my online lecture on the text.

You will find an annotated bilbiography here.


3. F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby (1925)
  • Mythology of the American Dream revisited
  • The 1920s as the 'Jazz Age'
  • Representation of the city

Please read my online lecture on the text.

 You will find suggestions for further reading here.


4. & 5. William Faulkner. Light in August (1932)
  • Regionalism: the American south
  • Racial and gender divisions
  • Impact of Christianity on history of Southern racism

Please read my online lecture on the text.


6. Reading Week
7. Raymond Chandler. The Big Sleep (1939)
  • 'Hard-boiled' American detective fiction
  • Los Angeles
  • Impact of Hollywood cinema
  • Masculinity and 1930s culture

Please read my online lecture on the text

Find further reading here.

8 William Carlos Williams. Collected Poems, Vol.1 (Poetry Pleiade edition)

We will concentrate on the poetry AND prose in the volume Spring and All (1923).

  • American Modernist poetry 
  • American avant garde poetics 
  • Response to technological change and innovation
  •  Locality, 'contact' and the everyday

Please prepare for this class according to Christina Britzolakis's suggestions.

Please read Gail Mcdonald. "Making it New 1: Literary Modernism" from McDonald, Gail. American Literature and Culture, 1900-1960. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007. 128-149. 

9 & 10. Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
  • Modernism / realism
  • Ralph Ellison's dialogue with African-American literary history
  • How do we understand the trope of the “invisible man”?
  • Representation of the city

Please read my online lecture notes on the text.

You will find suggestions for further reading here.



Spring Term


1. Jack Kerouac. On the Road (1957)
  • The Beat Movement
  • Jazz as topic and as stylistic form
  • Race and gender


2. Sylvia Plath. The Bell Jar (1963)
  • Femininity and mental illness
  • Therapeutic discourses of 'adjustment'
  • Critique of Cold War culture

See my essay on "Gender in American literature and culture." Mitchell & Maidment, 69-98.

3. Thomas Herr, Dispatches (1977)
  • Vietnam and American cultural discourse
  • Journalism and 1960s counterculture


Please read my online lecture on the text.


Please find suggestions for further reading, viewing and listening here.


4. Don DeLillo. White Noise (1984)  
  • Postmodernism and spectacle
  • Consumer culture
  • The family
  • Death
5. Adrienne Rich
  • The dream of a “common”—democratic, egalitarian and inclusive—language
  • The interest in recovering a submerged matriarchal cultural tradition 
  • The liminal experience of an American subject who is neither Jew nor Gentile, marginalized nor mainstreamed 
  • The aspiration to follow Whitman in hewing poetry out of the “common living substance”

 Please read my 1991 essay "Adrienne Rich: Consciousness Raising as Poetic Method." In: Easthope, A. and Thompson, J. Contemporary poetry meets modern theory. 1st ed., London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, Ch.15, pp.177-194.

See also my online essay on the different editions of Adrienne Rich's selected poems.

6. Reading Week
7 & 8. Toni Morrison. Beloved (1987)  
  • African-American historical novel and legacy of slavery
  • Revising American history: perspective of the female slave
  • Narratives of suppressed memory and of the Middle Passage
  • Oral vs. written tradition


9. Cormac McCarthy. All the Pretty Horses. (1992)  
  • Literary versions of the Western.
  • Regionalism: American Southwest
  • Revising myths of the Western & of masculinity
  • Border fiction: questioning 'national' identity


10. Linda Hogan, Power (1998) 
  • Native American writing for mainstream audience
  • Literature and ecology
  • Empowering the disenfranchised
  • Justice and law


The library is currently scanning selected extracts for seminar preparation. Please check their list for up to date information on availability of extracts.