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Unit information: American Literature: 1945 to Present in 2015/16

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Unit name American Literature: 1945 to Present
Unit code ENGL29007
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Cheeke
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will focus upon American writing from 1945 to the present, including novels, short stories, poetry, essays and journalism. The weekly seminar will be based around a particular author or text(s), sometimes a specific subject. The aim of the course is to introduce students to a wide range of post-war American writing and to explore the connections between this work and the extraordinary events and developments in American history and culture from 1945 to the present. Authors to be studied may include: Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Richard Ford, Vladimir Nabokov, Truman Capote, Flannery O’Conner, John Barth, Cormac McCarthy, Mary McCarthy, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, E.L.Doctorow, John Updike, David Foster Wallace, Richard Yates, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Randall Jarrell, James Merrill, the ‘New York Poets’.

The unit aims to introduce students to a wide range of post-war American novelists and poets, and to guide them through the exploration of the connections between this work and American history and culture from 1945 to the present.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have

(1) enhanced their knowledge and critical understanding of a range of post-war American writers;

(2) examined the complex ways in which the literature of this period interacts with the history, and engages with the culture, of the United States;

(3) acquired an understanding of major critical approaches to analysing such writings;

(4) demonstrated their ability to analyse and comment on both primary texts and secondary sources;

(5) strengthened their skills in academic writing, argumentation, and evaluation of evidence from primary texts and critical literature.

Teaching details

1 x 2 hour seminar per week.

Assessment Details

  • 1 essay of 2000 words (40%)
  • 1 essay of 3000 words (60%)

Both summative elements assess ILOs 1-5.

Reading and References

Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March (1953)

Elizabeth Bishop, Poems and stories

Flannery O'Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find (1958)

Philip Roth, American Pastoral (1997)

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)

Josephine G. Hendin (ed.), A Concise Companion to Postwar American Literature and Culture (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004);

Sacvan Bercovitch (ed.), The Cambridge History of American Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), vols. 7 & 8.