Undergraduate prospectus

Course Information

American Fictions

Module summary

Module code: AMER1003
Level: 5
Credits: 30
School: Liberal Arts and Sciences
Department: Humanities and Social Sciences
Module Coordinator(s): Justine Baillie


Pre and co requisites



The course aims to introduce students to canonical texts as well as more ‘marginal’ works and encourages a broad interdisciplinary approach to questions of culture, representation and interpretation. While not dependent on any one critical approach, the course will guide students through relevant theoretical material in ways that complement study of theoretical and critical concerns on core courses. Seminars, lectures and student presentations will encourage and develop students’ critical awareness of the issues at stake in the texts they encounter and assessment will provide students with opportunities to put learning outcomes into practice.

In terms of students’ overall degree patterns, a course specialising in American literature and related cultural issues will offer students a clear pathway to Level 6 courses, including core courses.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course a student will be able to:

1 ally critical arguments with close readings of literary texts
2 identify key movements in the development of American literature
3 understand the cultural and ideological processes in the construction of texts
4 examine the contribution of American writers to aesthetic and theoretical debates
5 convey an awareness of wider American historical contexts in the analysis of texts
6 Demonstrate effective writing and research skills

Indicative content

The course structure is chronological in order to convey a sense of developing American literary traditions. Students examine the Declaration of Independence as an early example of the textual construction of American identity before moving on to analyse twentieth-century American fiction and freedom narratives in relation to landscape, the journey from South to North and emerging ethnic and gendered American identities. The development of rhetorical traditions is considered through the speeches of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Barack Obama and American modernism is studied in relation to the Jazz Age and the Harlem Renaissance. Themes of American anxiety and paranoia are examined in adolescent, first-person narratives and a selection of documentary texts will be studied before the analysis of the postmodern novel and twenty-first century post-apocalyptic narratives.

Teaching and learning activity

There will be a lecture followed by a seminar. The teaching in seminars will focus on students developing their close reading, critical and oral presentation skills in relation to the themes and learning outcomes of the course.


Essay Draft 1 - 10% weighting, 40% pass mark.
Learning outcomes 1 - 6.
Essay draft or detailed plan on two or more course texts

Essay Draft 2 - 10% weighting, 40% pass mark.
Learning outcomes 1 - 6.
Essay draft or detailed plan on two or more course texts

Portfolio - 80% weighting, 40% pass mark.
Learning outcomes 1 - 6.
Portfolio containing the two previously submitted essay draft /plans, having been developed into full essays in the light of tutor feedback.
6-8,000 words.

Students are not required to pass all elements of assessment in order to pass the course.

Formative Assessments - Student presentations in seminars.