Skip to main content

Unit information: American Masculinities in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name American Masculinities
Unit code ENGL30048
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Andrew Blades
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


From the outlaw to the conscript, the white-collar commuter to the ‘rebel without a cause’, American literature and culture abounds with archetypes of masculinity. The frontier necessitated what Theodore Roosevelt called ‘the strenuous life’, but though the wilderness is long since a cultural memory, the qualities and values associated with the pioneers continue to be discussed and challenged right into our own century. Beginning with some early prototypes, this unit will track the development of the American male through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through readings of fiction, drama and some poetry. It will consider how various theories of masculine identity have contributed to our understanding of what it means to be a man in America, and how issues of race, class and sexuality might complicate that understanding.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have (1) developed a detailed knowledge of key issues around masculinity in American literature; (2) developed a critical understanding of masculine identity in American literature; (3) acquired an understanding of major critical approaches to gender in American literature; (4) demonstrated their ability to analyse and compare primary texts; (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 2,000 words (40%) and 1 essay of 3,000 words (60%)

Reading and References

Richard Wright, Native Son (London: Vintage, 2000)

Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (London, 2009)

John Updike, Rabbit, Run (London, 2006)

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club (London, 2010)

Percival Everett, Erasure (London, 2003)

Michael S. Kimmel, Manhood in America: A Cultural History (New York, 2006)