In American Studies you will be introduced to a range of themes and issues in American literature and culture. These are explored in historical context and cover the period from American independence to the present day. You will also study major themes in Canadian literature, film and culture. In English, you will have a choice of three core modules from the areas of English language, modern English literature, medieval studies and drama.
Canadian Literature, Film and Culture
This interdisciplinary module offers an introduction to Canadian cultural studies through an examination of selected literary, film and visual texts. These cultural texts will be situated in their appropriate historical, political, regional and national contexts. While some reference will be made to earlier periods, the focus will be predominantly on the twentieth century. Particular attention will be devoted to confronting problems of cultural definition, and the construction and deconstruction of cultural stereotypes. Examples of possible topics for discussion include the wilderness, migration, Native culture, bilingualism and biculturalism versus multiculturalism, the emergence of cultural nationalism, popular culture, and Canada’s relationship to the U.S. You will have around 4 hours per week in lectures, seminars and workshops.
American Literature 1: American Literature to 1900
An introductory survey of major American literature, exploring a wide range of nineteenth-century American writers of fiction and poetry. You will also address questions raised about the nature of the 'canon' raised by recent critics. Around four hours per week will be spent in lectures and seminars studying this module.
American Literature 2: American literature 1900 - Present day
A general survey of American Literature from 1900 to the present, you’ll study a selection of American fiction, poetry and drama, with a variety of writers considered. Examples may include: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Gerald Vizenor, Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, Eugene O'Neill and David Mamet. You’ll spend around 4 hours per week in lectures and seminars for this module.
You may choose three out of four modules
Language and Context
This module considers the main forms and functions of English vocabulary, grammar and discourse and explores how they are used in real social and cultural contexts. You will look at how language is used for different purposes and how people use language to reveal and conceal social realities as well other topics surrounding language and context. For this module you will have a one-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar per week.
Beginnings of English
You will be introduced to the language, literature and culture of medieval England and study Old and Middle English texts. In this module you will familiarise yourself with the knowledge needed for reading and understanding medieval texts. In addition you will be introduced to the basics of grammar and spelling conventions. For this module you will have two 1-hour lectures and one 1-hour seminar per week.
This module will introduce some of the core skills necessary for literary studies through focus on specific poetry and prose texts. You will address topics including: close reading, constructing an argument and handling critical material. For this module you will have a combination of lectures and seminars.
Drama, Theatre, Performance
This module, taught through a combination of practical workshops, seminars, and lectures, considers key concepts in the study of dramatic texts, theatre history and performance. The module frames these concepts, taking into consideration questions about who performs, where, to whom, why and how, through explorations of key moments in the Western theatrical tradition.
In American Studies you will broaden your knowledge by undertaking a survey of American thought and culture. Alongside that, you will select from a range of specialised modules allowing you to study certain periods, events, authors or texts in more depth. You will have the option to take modules in American history, politics, media and popular culture if you choose. In English, you will select from a wide range of options to develop deeper understanding of the issues and critical approaches across at least two areas of the discipline, depending on what areas of literature, language and drama most interest you.
North American Regions
This module will deploy the concept of "region" and, more broadly, “place” to explore key North American texts - primarily drawn from the spheres of film, television and literature. The notion of the "regional" will be applied expansively as well as conventionally to incorporate everything from the urban to the suburban/exurban; border territories; the transnational. Possible areas of study may include the American West; the Pacific North-West; New York City; the black inner city “ghetto”; "mountain" people and the Appalachians; Hispanic-America; first nations; French-Canada; Texas; Chicago; New Orleans; California; and the transnational impact of extensive US Military occupations (post-war Japan; South Vietnam; twenty-first century Iraq).
You will pick two modules from American Studies and choose three modules from across four sections in English.
America in the 1960s
You’ll be introduced to debates surrounding the thought, culture and politics of America in the 1960s by examining the reflection of key issues in intellectual documents, from political speeches to acid-rock music, film documentaries to manifestoes. If you study this module you’ll spend around three hours per week in lectures and seminars.
The CIA and US Foreign Policy, 1945-2008
You’ll examine the role played by the Central Intelligence Agency in the development and implementation of US foreign policy from 1945 to the present, considering its contribution in terms of both intelligence analysis and covert operations, from the Cold War to the war on terror. Around three hours per week will be spent in lectures and seminars in this module.
Beyond Chaps and Maps: Themes in American Foreign Policy
In this module, you’ll consider the way that US foreign policy has been influenced by a range of factors, such as conceptions of empire, race, religion, gender, domestic politics, and the agency of nations beyond the US. You’ll consider the influence that these factors have had, through broad and specific case studies in a three hour workshop once per week.
African American Protest Literature
You’ll examine protest movements from the nineteenth century to the present day, studying, fiction, drama, speeches, pamphlets, autobiographies, photographs and more. From abolitionism to contemporary activism, voices of resistance that pointed the nation towards a better collective future will be considered. You’ll spend around three hours in seminars and workshops per week, and will also visit exhibitions, protest sites, and guest talks by protest writers and activists.
North American Film Adaptations
You will examine North American short stories and novels and their film adaptations, paying attention to the contexts in which both the literary and the cinematic texts are produced, as well as analysing the texts themselves. If you study this module you’ll spend around 2 hours in lectures and seminars, and 4 hours in film workshops, per week.
The American Pop Century
Beginning with a survey of the development of African American music, you’ll consider genres such as the minstrel show, blues, jazz, rock and roll, electronic music, and rap. In addition, the popular music industry will be situated in relation to other modern cultural industries such as radio and television. You'll spend around 3 hours per week in lectures and seminars for this module.
The Contemporary American Novel
You’ll be given an understanding of the wide range of ideas, forms and themes examined in the contemporary American novel. Examples of works explored include Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, and Don DeLillo. If you study this module, you’ll spend around three hours per week in lectures and seminars.
Civil Rights Media Cultures
A range of narrative forms (such as photography, journalism and movies) used to promote civil rights initiatives, or to mobilize massive resistance to the movement, will be analysed. Examples include texts such as Stetson Kennedy’s mock tourist Jim Crow Guide, satirical journalism by P.D. East and William Faulkner, William Bradford Huie’s investigative journalism and films including Mississippi Burning. Around 2 hours per week will be spent in lectures and seminars, along with around three hours per week in workshops.
American Utopianism from the Settlement Narrative to Science Fiction
Beginning with Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), this module will track utopian thought through the Revolutionary period into its most influential incarnations in Henry David Thoreau’s Walden (1854) and Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1887). Moving into the twentieth century, texts considered may include Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1915), George Schuyler’s Black No More (1934), and Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974). You’ll spend around three hours per week in lectures and seminars studying this module.
Twentieth Century Neo-Slave Narratives
You’ll examine the survival of slave narratives after the abolition of slavery, by the study of novels based upon the form and/or the material of slave narratives. Authors considered will include: Charles Johnson, Sherley Anne Williams, David Bradley, Toni Morrison and Octavia Butler. You’ll study topics such as: differences between nineteenth- and twentieth-century slave narratives; issues of the politics of identity; race and representation. You'll spend around three hours per week in lectures and seminars for this module.
You must choose three modules in English covering at least two of the following areas:
Literature 1500 to the present
Each of the modules offered will provide a comprehensive introduction to the changes in the genres of prose, poetry and drama across the period studied, placing the works encountered in the context of key aesthetic, social and political/historical contexts.
English Language and Applied Linguistics
Building on the study of English language undertaken in year one, your second year language modules provide the exciting opportunity for you to explore aspects of language use in the mind, in society and in literature.
Medieval languages and literatures
You can choose to pursue one or more of the medieval areas introduced in year one, or you can opt to study a new but related area. In all cases you will develop your understanding of language change and variety, registers, styles, modes and genres, as they appear in medieval texts, and become more expert in reading with reference to wider medieval cultures.
Drama and Performance
Year two modules provide the opportunity to develop approaches from the first year by studying 20th and 21st-century theatre; by exploring key critical approaches to drama in theory and practice, and by focusing on a key period in the development of our nation’s theatre.
For a sample of typical modules from each area please see our single honours BA English listing.
You will extend the process of specialisation and by the end of the degree will be expected to show initiative in your work and have some independence of judgement. In American studies, you will write a dissertation and choose from a selection of advanced level modules in North American history, literature, culture and film. In English, you will choose from a range of advanced-level options enabling you to specialise in key areas.
You will undertake an in-depth study into a chosen subject within American and Canadian Studies and produce either a 6,500 word or a 12,500 word dissertation.
You’ll explore the United States' experiment with Prohibition during the period 1918 to 1933, with particular focus on crime, disorder and policing. The rise of organized crime will be considered, along with gangsters and G-men, the expanding crime fighting role of the state, the federal crime crusade of the early 1930s and the inglorious end of Prohibition. You’ll spend around four hours per week in lectures and seminars.
Latino Expressive Cultures
Latino cultural expression will be examined, exploring genres, forms and sites involved in the production and consumption of Latino culture and its positioning within mainstream US society. You’ll spend around three hours per week in lectures and seminars if you study this module.
Representing the South: Literature, Film and History
You’ll be introduced to a variety of texts and debates surrounding the construction of the American South in image and idea. Learning to examine and interpret problematic narratives of regional consciousness, you’ll explore how the South has been shaped by popular cultural representations. Around two hours per week will be spent in lectures and seminars, alongside three hours per week in workshops.
Abraham Lincoln Then and Now
The ideas, intellectual and cultural legacies of the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln will be considered. You’ll explore his significance in American thought and culture, and as a global figure, through examining texts such as his speeches, public and private writings, as well as critically analysing the representation of Lincoln in cartoons, cinema, documentary, music, painting and literature. You'll spend around two hours in seminars alongside a two hour workshop per week.
Popular Music Cultures and Countercultures
You’ll examine the role played by American popular music in countercultural movements, focusing on the ways in which subordinate groups have used popular music as a vehicle for self-definition. Considering key issues and moments in American popular music history, you’ll cover topics such as the folk revival and the 1930s, rock 'n' roll and desegregation in the 1950s, rock music and the 1960s, and postmodernism in the music of the MTV age. Around three hours per week will be spent in lectures and seminars studying this module.
African American Photographic Culture
You’ll explore the politics of representation in African American photography, discussing the relationship of photography to central themes in black culture and creative expression, including confined space, invisibility vs. visibility, heroism, and historical “truth.” We’ll set photographs in their historical context, discussing slavery, lynching, migration, segregation and poverty. You’ll spend around three hours a week in seminars and workshops, as well as visiting exhibitions, public art sites, and guest talks by photographers.
Recent Queer Writing
Focusing on the representation of gender and sexuality, lesbian, gay, transgender and queer writing will be considered through the analysis of selected contemporary texts. Issues for discussion will include: constructions of masculinity and femininity; representations of ‘alternative’ sexuality and lifestyles; the relation of race, ethnicity, class and nationality to issues of gender and sexual identity. Authors studied include: Timothy Findley; Daphne Marlatt; Dionne Brand; Shani Mootoo; Shyam Selvadurai; Tomson Highway; Ivan E Coyote; Dorothy Allison; Leslie Feinberg. If you choose this module you’ll spend around three hours per week in seminars.
History of the Civil Rights Movement
You’ll examine a range of documents and scholarly controversies relating to the Civil Rights Movement between 1940 and 1970. Documents considered include public and organizational records, photo- journalism, speeches, memoirs and personal papers. Controversies include those relating to the chronological limits, spatial dynamics, and gender politics of the movement, as well as those relating to the movement’s goals and achievements. You’ll spend around three hours a week in lectures and seminars if you study this module.
In the Midst of Wars: The United States and South East Asia, 1940-1975
You’ll consider American attitudes, perceptions and policies toward South East Asia from the Second World War until the end of the Vietnam War. Focus will be on the course of the Vietnam War, the role of different players (beyond the US) and the reasons that the US became involved. You’ll also consider the wider scope of US policy in Asia during the period and the outlines of the wider Cold War. For this module, you’ll spend around three hours per week in lectures and seminars.
Fictions of America
Exploring a number of works of fiction that engage with the nature of America in a transnational and cultural context, you’ll cover topics including: the consequences of American engagement with the East; the Americanisation of the Holocaust; the Black Atlantic model of the African; American Imperialism and the frontier thesis; the globalisation of the American South. You'll spend around three hours per week in lectures and seminars studying this module.
The Civil War and its Origins 1850-1865
You’ll consider the collapse of the American Republic in 1861, including events in the decade preceding it and at the course of the war which followed it. You’ll focus on the origins of the Civil War and the reasons for Union victory, spending around three hours per week in lectures and seminars.
The final year is when all the different strands of your teaching and learning experience as an undergraduate culminate in the opportunity to demonstrate and apply all the different kinds of skills you have acquired in researching a topic, extended analysis of specialist themes and areas, and in independent study.
You will have the opportunity to study a range of authors, genres, linguistic approaches, and textual forms and contexts, in both national and international contexts, thinking about English in the broadest possible terms. You will also have the opportunity to specialise in areas for which you have developed genuine aptitude and passion during your undergraduate career.
A typical list of options available can be found on our single honours BA English listing.
The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. The above list is a sample of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.