You must pass year four, which counts 67% towards your final degree classification.
You will take a 40-credit, year long dissertation.
American Madness: Mental Illness in History and Culture
Experiences of and ideas about madness, insanity, and mental illness have varied and changed radically within American history and culture. This module will survey and analyse these changes from the mid-19thcentury to the present. We will consider how and why medical authority, gender, and class have all impacted the way in which mental illness is understood, and consider the significance of changing approaches to treatment. Sources used on this interdisciplinary module range from medical accounts and psychiatric theory to memoir, fiction and film. The aim is to place representations of mental illness in their historical context, and to ask what they reveal about related ideas about identity, conformity, social care and responsibility.
Ethnic and New Immigrant Writing
This module will consider the development of ‘ethnic’ and new immigrant literature in the United States from the late 19th century to the contemporary era. You will examine a range of texts from life-writing to short fiction and the novel by writers from a range of ethno-cultural backgrounds, including Irish, Jewish, Caribbean and Asian American. Issues for discussion will include the claiming of the United States by new immigrant and ‘ethnic’ writers; race and ethnicity; gender, class and sexuality; labour and economic status; the uses and re-writing of American history and ‘master narratives’; the impact of US regionalism; how writers engage with the American canon; multiculturalism and the ‘culture wars’; and the growth of ‘ethnic’ American writing and Ethnic Studies as academic fields.
History of the Civil Rights Movement
This module examines a range of documents and scholarly controversies pertaining to the Civil Rights Movement between 1940 and 1970. Documents will include public and organisational records, photo-journalism, speeches, memoir and personal papers.
Controversies will 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.
North American Film Adaptations
This module examines 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 to the analysis of the texts themselves. In particular, the module takes an interest in literary texts whose film adaptations have been produced in different national contexts to the source material.
Popular Music Cultures and Countercultures
This module examines the role played by American popular music in countercultural movements. We focus on the ways in which marginalised, subordinate or dissenting social groups have used popular music as a vehicle for self-definition and for re-negotiating their relationship to the social, economic and cultural mainstream. We explore how the mainstream has responded to music countercultures in ways that range from repression to co-optation and analyse how the music and the movements have been represented and reflected on in fiction, film, poetry, journalism and theory. Among the key moments examined are the folk revival and the 1930s Popular Front, rock 'n' roll and desegregation in the 1950s, rock music and the 1960s counterculture, and postmodernism and identity politics in the music of the MTV age.
Why did National Prohibition officially begin in the United States in 1920?
What were the goals and intentions of the powerful women's reform movements and religious pressure groups calling for dramatic restrictions on alcohol?
Why was there so much political support for state and national restrictions, particularly during the First World War? Why was prohibition so hard to police during the 1920s?
The restrictions on what and how you could drink reshaped American society, politics, and culture during the 1920s and 1930s. Prohibition transformed alcohol consumption, opened up new leisure activities, and increased bootlegging, smuggling, and other criminal activities. However, popular histories and media representations of the prohibition years are full of myths and stereotypes. On this module, you will challenge these to build a better understanding of an important period in the 20th century United States.
This module is worth 20 credits.
Recent Queer Writing
This module explores lesbian, gay, transgender and queer writing, focusing especially on the search for agency and the representation of gender and sexuality in selected contemporary texts. The majority of writers studied will be Canadian, although some American examples will also be included. The module is multi-generic, engaging with forms including novels, short fiction, life writing, poetry, drama and graphic narratives. Topics for discussion will include:
- LGBTQ sexuality;
- constructions of masculinity and femininity;
- the politics of representation: the extent to which writing can enable agency as subjects or citizens;
- intersections between race, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion, and the construction of gender and sexual identites
- writing for LGBTQ youth
- literature studies will be contextualized in relation to relevant debates in feminist, queer, post-colonial and transnational theories
Representative authors for study may include James Baldwin, Jane Rule, Dionne Brand, Dorothy Allison, Shyam Selvadurai, Tomson Highway, Leslie Feinberg, and Ivan Coyote.
Sexuality in American History
From the Puritans to Playboy, sexuality has been a focal point in the culture, politics, and society of the United States. This module will examine Americans' differing attitudes over time toward sexuality. Representative topics covered may include marriage and adultery, homosexuality and heterosexuality, nudity, abortion, birth control, prostitution, free love, and rape.
The Special Relationship, Spit and Slavery - Britain and the US 1776-1877
Reassess the Anglo-American relationship, during an era of major upheaval in both nations.
Spanning from the American Revolution through to the end of the Reconstruction era, you will be challenged to examine how events and ideas forced Britons and Americans to reconceptualize their relationship.
You will engage with concepts that are crucial in the formation of the modern world, including:
This module is worth 20 credits.
Troubled Empire: The Projection of American Global Power from Pearl Harbor to Covid-19
This module will challenge students to critically engage with the period that Henry Luce referred to as the “American Century”. It will cover a range of case studies between Luce’s injunction and the subsequent US entry into World War Two in 1941 and the recent twin-crises marked by the 2008 Great Recession and the Covid-19 global pandemic. In doing so, it will prompt students to consider both the projection of American power on a global scale after 1941 and the considerable challenges that this project faced. Incorporating a series of focused case studies and reflections on the wider contexts relating to them, it will give students first-hand experience of weighing up the practical challenges US policymakers faced and the way that historians have subsequently assessed their efforts and understood their actions.
US Foreign Policy, 1989 - present
Explore US foreign policy in the post-Cold War period.
You will examine the historical narratives of American international relations, considering the drivers behind the foreign policies of Presidents George H W Bush, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
More specifically, we will consider:
- Whether the post-1989 period constituted a break from previous traditions in US foreign policy, or whether there has been an essential continuity through the war on terror and beyond
- The impact of economics, geopolitics, ideology and security issues on post-1989 strategy in different regions of the world
- The impact of a new international environment, marked by the demise of bipolarity and the rise of globalisation
You'll spend around three hours per week in lectures and seminars on this module.
This module is worth 20 credits.
Varieties of Classic American Film, Television and Literature since 1950
What is a film, television or literary classic? How has this term come under pressure and fractured over the past half century or so? In this module you will consider the concept of the mid and late twentieth century American “classic” in a variety of contrasting and overlapping contexts. These contexts will be elaborated on the basis of their formal, generic, period and/or cultural designations that will cover university and exam curricula reading lists, popular opinion and widespread critical consensus (such as the currently prevalent view, for instance, that the early twenty-first century constitutes a ‘golden age’ of US television).