In year two, you will be able to choose from a range of options in order to start tailoring your degree to your interests and career aspirations.
In politics and international relations you will choose one core module and will have free choice of two additional modules from the school.
In American studies, you will take a core module studying key texts in social and political thought, along with other options.
Politics core modules
Contentious Politics: The Struggle for Democracy in Greater China
This module compares and contrasts social and political development in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan from the late 1970s until the present day. It introduces you to rapidly changing state-society relations in three distinctive and yet interrelated Chinese communities. You will analyse the interplay between political institutions and civil society in the Greater China region. More specifically, you will appraise how executive overreach and/or factional infighting among ruling elites have time and again led to cracks in the authoritarian edifice.
Drawing on specific case studies on mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan you will recognise how dissidents, civil society practitioners, and social movement leaders have made good use of resulting political opportunity structures and challenged state authority. You will assess to what extent civil society-led contentious politics has managed or failed to bring about political liberalisation and democratisation in the Greater China region.
Democracy and its Critics
Democracy is a contested concept and organising principle of politics both ancient and modern. Its appeal seems to be universal, yet it has always had its critics.
This module investigates the nature of democratic principles, the arguments of democracy's opponents and the claims of those who say that contemporary life is inadequately democratised. A particular feature of the module is the use of primary sources to investigate historic and contemporary debates.
How Voters Decide
Elections are the foundation of representative democracy. The act of voting creates a link between citizens' preferences and government policy. This means that the choices voters make have important consequences.
But, how do voters make these choices? Are they based on the policies that parties promise to enact in the future, or is it more about the policy successes (or failures) that parties have experienced in the past? Does the party's leader make a difference? Can campaigns or the media's coverage change how voters see their electoral choices? Finally, given the importance of elections, why do many citizens choose to abstain from the process altogether?
How Voters Decide will explore the choices that citizens make when they participate in elections and it will provide students with the skills necessary to evaluate arguments about electoral behaviour in Britain and beyond.
International Politics in the 20th Century
The module examines issues and themes in 20th-century international politics, from the eclipse of the 19th-century European diplomatic order to the collapse of the global bipolar system at end of the Cold War.
The course is taught from the disciplinary standpoint of international relations rather than that of international history. Therefore, various theoretical perspectives are brought to bear on each of these themes. For instance, we discuss:
- the broad differences between the disciplines of international relations and international history in respect of explaining and understanding the international politics of the 20th century
- questions of causality in international relations with reference to the onset of the Cold War
- questions about political psychology with respect to the Cuban missile crisis
- questions about prediction and the purposes of theory in relation to the end of the Cold War
American studies core modules
Key Texts in American Social and Political Thought
From its colonial past to its present status as a global superpower, American history has been riven with debates about society and politics. This module will reconstruct these debates by analysing key texts in the history of American political and social thought, from the settlement period to the present.
You will be introduced to debates over such perennial issues as religion, race, class, capitalism, gender, sexuality, and war, as they arose in different periods. We will use primary sources to probe and interpret these debates, and show how they continue to shape American society and politics in the present.
Plus two additional modules from the Department of American and Canadian Studies.
American studies optional modules
A History of Crime and Punishment in the United States
This module will explore the history of crime and punishment in British Colonial North America and the United States, this year from the mid-17th century through to the 1930s “War On Crime.” It looks at the shift from public to “private” punishments, including the early nineteenth century “invention” of the penitentiary, the emergence of regional differences in rates of violent crime and official reponses, and the origins of federal responses during the 1920s and 1930s. There is particular emphasis on how race, gender, class and region have shaped responses to violence, crime and disorder, and attitudes toward offenders. A key theme this year will be the history of homicide.
African American History and Culture
This module examines African American history and culture from slavery to the present through a series of case studies that highlight forms of cultural advocacy and resistance. Examples may include the persistence of African elements in slave culture, the emergence of new artistic forms in art, religion and music during the segregation era, and the range and complexity of African American engagement with US public culture since the 1960s across art, literature and popular culture. You will spend three hours per week studying this module.
This module will examine American radicals since the American Revolution. 19th century subjects will include the abolitionists, early feminism, utopian socialism, anarchism, and farmer populism.
20th century subjects will include the Socialist Party in the 1910s, the Communist Party and the anti-Stalinist left in the 1930s, opponents of the Cold War, the 1960s New Left, Black Power militancy, and recent radicalisms, including the gay liberation movement, women's liberation, and resistance to corporate globalisation.
American Violence: A History
This module analyses the patterns and prevalence of violence in the USA. It will consider theories about its origins in frontier settler societies, the relationship between violence and the gun control debate and the related issue of American ideological antipathy to state power.
It will consider the celebration of violence as a source of conflict resolution and examine the US government's use of violence as an instrument of foreign policy.
Contemporary North American Fiction
This course will consider the contexts and development of contemporary fiction and the novel in the United States and Canada since the 1990s. It will do so by positioning literary works within their wider historical, political and cultural context. The course will examine the dominant ideas and concerns of a number of fictions and novels by writers from a range of ethno-cultural backgrounds. Issues for discussion will include the impact of race, ethnicity, gender, class, generation and sexuality on North American fiction and the novel; the bearing of technology on contemporary fiction; and various debates about the nature of the historical novel in the twenty-first century.
Immigration and Ethnicity in the United States
This course examines the history of immigration to the United States from Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. It traces the development of immigrant communities, cultures and identities from the 19th century to the present day.
The module draws on historical, literary and cultural texts, with sources ranging from political cartoons, fiction and testimony to photography, documentary film, digital art and video performance.
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 and 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, 21st-century Iraq).
The American Pop Century
This module examines the history of American popular music in the 20th century, focusing on the major genres and exploring the artistic, cultural and political issues they raise. You will examine music's aesthetic qualities genre by genre, as well as key developments within the music industry, the ways in which commercial and technological changes have influenced the production and consumption of music, and the ways in which musicians and audiences use pop music to engage with American culture and society. You'll spend around four hours per week in lectures and seminars for this module.
The US and the World in the American Century: US Foreign Policy 1898-2008
This module examines how America's involvement abroad has changed over time from the war of 1898 to the 21st century. It analyses how traditional political and diplomatic issues, the link between foreign and domestic policies, and the role of foreign actors and private organisations - from religious groups to NGOs - have shaped America's actions abroad.
It also explores the significance of race, gender, emotions, and religion in shaping US foreign policy.
The above is a sample of the typical modules that we offer at the date of publication but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. This prospectus may be updated over the duration of the course, as modules may change due to developments in the curriculum or in the research interests of staff.
(If taking year three abroad)
In your final year, you will undertake a dissertation on a topic of your choice in politics or American studies. You will be allocated a dedicated supervisor and will also take optional modules from a wide selection to make up your remaining credits.
Dissertation in American and Canadian Studies
You will undertake an in-depth study into a chosen subject and produce either a 5-7,000 word or a 10-12,000 word dissertation. There may also be scope to write a project comparing topics within the fields of North American literature and culture.
Plus additional modules from the Department of American and Canadian Studies.
Politics optional modules
Brexit: British Foreign Policy and the Withdrawal from Europe
This module interprets Brexit as the latest manifestation of a prolonged, vexed national debate about Britain's role in the world. It will build on and develop your understanding of material taught at year one and year two.
You will cover a wide variety of topics, all unified by analysis of the question that motivated policy-makers facing these dilemmas at the time: 'in or out of Europe?'
The module content unfolds around the debates that surrounded major foreign policy-related events such as the Cold War, Suez, the end of Empire and decolonisation, the turn to Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, the 1975 EEC membership referendum, the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty, EU enlargement and the Eurozone crisis.
Business and Human Rights
According to international law, states are the main duty bearers of human rights. However, in many areas states are not capable of protecting human rights effectively. Here, multinational corporations are often more powerful, and the argument has been brought forward that they might be able to step in and foster human rights. At the same time, NGOs and the media are very critical of corporate violations of labour rights, environmental rights and human rights in general.
Therefore, module will address the questions: Should businesses be responsible human rights protection? Is the impact of businesses on society positive or negative? Is Corporate Social Responsibility useful to improve businesses’ impact on society, or merely window-washing? We will examine cases across different regions and industries.
At the end of the class, you will have a clear understanding about cutting-edge research on the topic of business and human rights and how to design your own study.
Campaigning in the US
This module will focus on the theory, science, and practice of modern political campaigning in the US, in particular during presidential elections. We will delve into the strategic environment that political candidates manoeuvre throughout elections and discuss the campaign strategies that they employ.
We will cover topics such as the power and limits of campaigns, the changing nature of campaigns, political advertising and micro targeting, issue marketing, appealing to emotions, visual framing, attacking the opponent (negative campaigning), (mis) information and social media, minority candidates running for office, televised election debates and election news coverage. The field of campaigning rests upon knowledge from various disciplines, such as political science, communication science, psychology, marketing and neuroscience. Throughout the course the 2016 presidential campaign serves as prime example.
This module is for students who wish to get a better understanding of political campaigns and for students who wish to be part of a campaign team in the future.
Countering Terrorism in the 21st Century
This module will cover the following:
- Understanding the Threat of 21st Century Terrorism
- Conceptualising Counter-Terrorism
- Policing and Counter-Terrorism
- Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism
- Military Force and Counter-Terrorism
- The Politics of Torture
- Counter-Terrorism Simulation
- International Collaboration (the UN and NATO)
Crises and Controversies in Immigration
This module will introduce you to the current issues around migration. You will learn to differentiate between different types of immigration such as asylum, labour, family, and irregular as well as different aspects, such as integration and citizenship. The module will identify and analyse political responses to immigration at both national and supranational levels.
Disasters, Rehabilitation and Resilience
This module will focus on post disaster recovery and rehabilitation and how ‘resilience’ is articulated and experienced. Key themes will include vulnerability (to shocks and slow onset disasters), risk and resilience.
Examples will be drawn from various real world disasters and you will be able to research the disasters of your choice.
This module enables you to undertake a sustained piece of research and analysis into a subject within the discipline of politic and international relations.
Dynamics of Regional Economic and Security Development: China, Japan and ASEAN
East Asia is one of the world's most dynamic and diverse regions. It is also becoming an increasingly coherent region through the inter-play of various integrative economic, political, and socio-cultural processes, otherwise known as regionalism. Studying these regionalism processes may be understood in the broadly context of East Asia's regional political economy. Moreover, the integrative processes of regionalism are closely bound to East Asia's regional economic development. Japan played a particularly important initial role here from the 1950s onwards, and now China has become the locomotive of East Asia's economic growth.
This module explores the various aspects of East Asia's regional political economy with special reference to the influence of China. Key themes include regional organisations, international business, cities and infrastructure, environment, international migration, energy security, international development, trade, finance and geopolitics.
Fictionalised Politics: How Politics and Politicians are Represented in the US and UK
The module assesses changing attitudes to representative politics in the US and UK, specifically political parties and those who lead them, Prime Ministers, Presidents and the voters themselves through their representation, mostly in films and television dramas and comedies, up to and including The Iron Lady, The Thick of It, Dr Who, The Simpsons, The West Wing and the Ides of March, amongst many others.
The module explores what these fictions say about politics – and assesses what effect they have on how we see 'real' politics?
Gender and Development
This module examines major themes, debates and issues in the field of Gender and Development. We will focus on the relationship between ideas and concerns of gender (in)equality and processes, policies, and practices of economic, social and political development.
We will explore the key literature and major debates in the field of feminist political economy, linking academic, policy-related and practitioner/activist debates. We will cover theoretical and conceptual frameworks as well as key contemporary issues explored through thematic and sector/policy case studies. We will explore how political, economic and social processes of globalisation and development intersect, impact, and are in turn influenced by gender relations in the South.
Globalisation and Resistance: Contesting the Political Economy of Global Restructuring
The module is divided into two parts. Part I will focus on understanding globalisation and resistance conceptually. This part is based on the general lecture plus seminar style of teaching.
Part II is dedicated to student research projects. You will choose one resistance movement of your choice, critically discuss it in an assessed class presentation and analyse its wider implications in an essay.
Case studies of resistance movements can include specific national and international trade unions (for example, Unite, Unison, ETUC, ITUC), transnational social movements such as La Via Campesina or Stop-TTIP, as well as nationally based social movements including the landless labour movement MST in Brazil, the Piqueteros in Argentina or the Occupy Movement. The World Social Forum as a process of resistance could equally be a case study, as could be the experience of a country such as Venezuela under Chavez.
Government and Politics in the USA
This module will offer an overview of the main political institutions and the behaviour of political actors in the United States, applying a variety of analytic concepts and empirical tools to the study of American politics.
It will in particular focus on rational choice theories of voters and politicians' behaviours addressing the incentives and constraints faced by politicians when choosing public policies. By employing theoretical and empirical tools to study public decision making at the federal and state level, the module will highlight the impact of different institutional arrangements on electoral accountability and policies in the United States.
Ideas and Politics in Contemporary Britain
The aim of this module is to explain and assess the nature and role of ideas and ideologies in British politics. It examines how and why the policies of the 'mainstream' British parties (Conservative, Labour and the Liberal Democrats) have been affected by ideas and ideologies, on the one hand, and by political pragmatism, on the other.
It also explores the ideas, ideologies and policies of minor parties and 'new social movements' (ecologism; fascism, Nazism and racism; feminism; multiculturalism, and nationalism) and their significance for the study and practice of politics in Britain today.
International Political Economy of China
This module introduces you to the major topics in China's interaction with and role in international political economy (IPE). It includes useful concepts and theories in IPE, the evolution of China's ties with international political economy since 1949, the linkage between domestic and international political economy of China and players in the making of external political economic policies in China.
It also examines China's role in key international organisations (such as the WTO) and in the global and regional orders of political economy. It provides a survey of the political economy of China's ties with the major powers and regions such as the US, Russia, East Asia, and major oil producing nations.
International Politics of Race
This module is designed to provide an introduction to the international politics of race for final-year students.
The module begins discussing changing historical meaning of race and the changing historical critiques of race focusing on the shift from universalist to relativist approaches. The module goes on to discuss the historical meaning of race in international politics; the colonial experience, Second World War, after the Second World War, and the discrediting of racial theories.
The module then considers the evolving international policy approaches toward race and culture, in particular looking at UNESCO's approaches. Finally the module analyses the changing international debates over the politics of race in light of the election of US President Obama.
Living Ideologies: Ideas, Politics and Everyday Life
This module examines the politics of everyday life; we will look at the ways in which ideas about order, rule, freedom, a sense of time and place, violence, myth, and ritual, interact with institutions, social and cultural practices, and the lived experience of individuals in 20th century Europe. The analysis of political thinking therefore moves away from the traditional focus on great thinkers and great texts toward the vernacular forms of political thought that characterise most people's interaction with politics and social relationships.
The module will examine the ideological dimensions of everyday practices and the diffusion of political ideas through newspapers, magazines, film, and television, as well as how the interface between culture, politics, and lived practice has been theorised by thinkers such as Barthes, Sorel, and de Certeau.
The module identifies and evaluates the role that Parliament plays in the political system. The module is both descriptive and analytical, comprising an introduction to Parliament (such as its place in the political process, the impact of party) and an investigation into the effectiveness or otherwise of its scrutiny and influence of selected sectors of government responsibility.
It covers the process of legislation, scrutiny, and links with the public. The module also considers the role of the House of Lords.
Politics and Drugs
This module studies the implications of the growing abuse of narcotics for the political system from both a national and international perspective. It will examine the production, consumption and trade in drugs as an international problem.
The development of and issues associated with contemporary British drug policy will be explored and the theoretical questions raised by drug control policy will be examined.
The Politics of Celebrity, Sex and 'Alternative' Lifestyles in China
This module will introduce you to developments in Chinese society, media and popular culture. Through the vehicle of 'alternative' lifestyles it will examine the political, social and economic contexts that have given rise to expanded opportunities, and concomitant responses from the state, for personal and political expression.
The module will provide detailed studies of Chinese celebrity, sex, internet culture, self-development, and numerous subcultures through a lens of class, gender, urbanisation and generation change.
The Politics of Ethnic Conflict
Questions relating to nationalism and ethnic conflict have become more prominent in political debate since the end of the Cold War, and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated the continuing importance of constitutional crafting as a means to manage ethnic diversity within states.
This module evaluates differing definitions of the 'nation' and 'ethnic group', examines different state strategies to manage diversity such as multiculturalism, assimilation and integration, and considers different explanations of conflict between different ethnic groups.
It then examines in more detail strategies adopted by particular states to manage their diversity. The countries of India, America, France, Afghanistan, the UK, and Germany are focused upon, but students are encouraged to use material relating to other countries if they have particular knowledge of these cases.
The Politics of State Repression
Why are human rights well protected by some states while others have a notoriously bad repression record? Understanding the conditions under which governments protect human rights is crucial for the field of international relations and policy makers alike.
This module will discuss current quantitative research on political and economic determinants of human rights. We will address the state of the art work on personal integrity rights, civil and political rights, socioeconomic rights and labour rights. The main goal is to rigorously review and assess published research and methodological approaches to identify research gaps and formulate research questions which will advance the human rights literature.
At the end of the module, you will have a clear understanding about cutting-edge quantitative human research, how to select appropriate methodological approaches and how to design your own human rights project.
This module involves a part-time placement (one day a week) in an external organisation, and is aimed at developing hands-on work experience and employability skills in a workplace relevant to students of politics. Pre-placement training will be provided via three half-day workshops at the beginning of the module.
Each placement will be arranged by the work placement officer. Placements will be provided by organisations involved in private, public and third sector organisations, such as the civil service, charities and political parties.
Departmental mentoring will take the form of a weekly drop-in tutorial with the module convenor, in which experiences are shared and work is undertaken on the assessment tasks. Group presentations will occur during the final four hour workshop, at which time each group will critically reflect on their experiences of the ethos and goals of their host organisation.
Populism and Radical Democracy
Populism is a contentious term. Over the last few decades we have witnessed a surge of ideologically diverse populist movements with strong democratically elected leaders acting in the name of the people across the globe. For some, populism is illiberal, anti-pluralist and a danger to democracy, whilst for others, it is the ultimate democratic act of popular sovereignty.
This module examines the controversial relationship between populism and democracy. It surveys key theoretical developments in radical democratic theory and the populist literature. The module compares mainstream and radical definitions and conceptualisations of populism. It examines key concepts to the populist surge, such as 'post-truth' politics, 'propaganda', friend/enemy' relation, 'democratic leadership', 'representation' and 'identification'.
You will have the opportunity to examine a range of different progressive and regressive populist leaders/associations, such as: Donald Trump, Chavez, Andrej Babis, Recep Tayip Erdogan, Rodrigo Durerte, Occupy, Syrizia, Podemos, Jobbik and the Tea Party movement.
Public Opinion and Polling
Democracy and responsive policy-making rest on the will of the people. But how can this 'will' be identified? While elections and referendums are one option, more frequent expressions of citizens' views can be obtained from opinion polls. Indeed, a range of public and private bodies routinely use opinion polls to identify public attitudes. But what are these attitudes supposedly revealing? How do opinion polls go about identifying attitudes and how valid are their results?
This module will introduce you to the theory and practice of public opinion. It will discuss what public opinion is, how attitudes are formed, and how far they are 'shaped' by the questions asked. In addition, it will teach how survey research can be used to measure public opinion and how statistical software can be used to analyse the collected public opinion data. You will design your own survey and analyse the data collected as part of your assessment.
The Rights and Wrongs of Climate Change
What should the world do about climate change? How should we proceed in the face of persistent claims that it won't do serious harm, or isn't occurring at all? Should poor countries as well as rich ones be obliged to cut their carbon emissions? Is it wrong for individuals to fly? What if you offset your flight? How much weight should we accord harm that may come many years in the future?
Arguments about climate change raise many of the most controversial issues in contemporary ethics and political theory. This political theory module will examine these debates and the philosophical questions they hinge on.
Secret Intelligence and International Security
This module is an introduction to the concepts and practices of secret intelligence and its place within international security. The module is split into three sections.
The first examines conceptual issues and models; the second explores some of the roles of intelligence in the 21st century; and the third examines how intelligence actors can actively shape international relations. These are highly relevant issues, which are regularly in the media.
Slavery Past and Present
This module examines the progress of anti-slavery movements since the 19th century and in the present day, their successes and failures, and how they fit within global human rights activities. The module evaluates how governments and international agencies have constructed policies to address contemporary slavery, as well as the drivers of slavery, and barriers to its eradication.
The module will draw on Rights Lab expertise to explore typologies, vulnerabilities, measurement, the impact of political change, and using country-based case studies to examine some of the most prevalent forms of modern slavery.
Theories of the Modern State
The state is the predominant site of power and authority in the modern world. Where modern states do not exist there is usually civil war or occupation; where they are ineffective, politics, society and economy tend to be unstable. But the modern state is also itself a site of violence and coercion in the name of which much suffering has been inflicted on those subject to its power, at home and abroad. Modern politics, then, simply cannot be understood unless we also understand the modern state.
By taking this module, you will become familiar with some of the most important theories of the modern state in the history of political thought, from Bodin and Hobbes, through Hegel and Weber, to Lenin, Robert Paul Wolff and Carole Pateman. You will come to appreciate how the power and authority of the modern state have been characterised, justified and repudiated during the modern era.
War and Massacre
This module examines the ethics of war. It focuses on the justice of war (jus ad bellum) and justice in war (jus in bello) from an analytical perspective. The module introduces and explores the questions of when (if at all) war can be legitimate, and what bar to actions (if any) exist in the conduct of war.
Its subject-matter is contemporary in nature, drawing on recent developments in the just war tradition and applied ethics more generally. It uses examples of recent armed conflict (from WWI to Gulf War II) to illuminate and test these positions.
The War in Afghanistan
This module will analyse the causes, evolving aims and conduct of the US-led international military campaign in Afghanistan (2001-present). The module will begin with an assessment of the legacy of the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979-1989), the subsequent civil war, the composition of the Taliban regime and al-Qaeda presence at the outset of the conflict. It will then look at the UN sanctioned US/Northern Alliance operation to remove the Taliban from power and to install a new government.
The module will deconstruct assumptions and models that informed the establishment of new public institutions and a legal framework in Afghanistan alongside continuing counter-terrorism operations against residual elements of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It will also investigate the factors that stimulated a resurgence in support for the Taliban. In turn it will also examine the trajectory of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) counter-insurgency campaign from 2006-2014.
Finally, the module will continuously engage with wider terrorism and insurgency literature, including identifying where a selective reading of scholars' work informed military operations in Afghanistan.
The War in Iraq
This module will comprehensively deconstruct the causes, conduct and consequences of one of the most controversial wars of the modern era: the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It will assess how the road to war was paved at the United Nations and through the formulation of a 'coalition of the willing'. It will then critically evaluate how the swiftly concluded invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Hussein gave way to a vicious insurgency.
The adaptation of the US military to the demands of counter-insurgency warfare will be analysed, as will British military performance in southern Iraq. The module will end by critically assessing the effectiveness of the 'surge' strategy under the implementation of Gen. David Petraeus, and evaluating the utility of 'analogical reasoning' through comparisons with the Vietnam War.
American studies optional modules
American Madness: Mental Illness in History and Culture
This module will provide a historical survey of perceptions and experiences of mental illness in the United States from c.1870 to the present, engaging with such categories as melancholia, hysteria, schizophrenia, mania, depression, and bipolar disorder. The course will use primary and secondary source texts, including psychiatric case studies, psychological treatises, fictional representations of mental illness and its treatment, and feature films, to critically analyse and compare varying representations of mental illness, and ask how and why they varied over time.
American Magazine Culture: Journalism, Advertising and Fiction from Independence to the Internet Age
The magazine has been one of the most accessible and influential cultural forms in America since the mid-18th century. From the wide-ranging political and literary magazines of this founding period through the emergence of specialised and mass-market periodicals in the 19th century to the counter-cultural and consumerist magazines of the 20th century, this distinctive mode of publication has reflected the tensions and ideals of a rapidly developing society. Using a broad range of representative magazines from different eras, this module will encourage students to get to grips with how American culture has shaped, and been shaped by, the periodical, and it will also introduce them to some of the unique literary and institutional qualities of the magazine. Primary sources covered on this module are likely to include The Dial (est. 1840), Harper's (est. 1850), The New Yorker (est. 1925), Life (est. 1936) and Rolling Stone (est. 1967). Looked at in the context of their times, such sources show us how Americans have long engaged with and debated their own identity through the prism of print, as well as the ways in which this self-definition has changed across time. Moreover, alongside the magazine's regular testing of new political and cultural concepts we will be able to see how the periodical form itself embraced other emerging media, including illustration, photography, and popular music. The main content-spine through each week will be a focus on changes in the nature of American journalism, the rise of modern advertising, and the development of the short story as a form, as well as the interactions between these three elements. In addition to the standard lecture/seminar set-up, the module will also incorporate a series of workshops focusing on hands-on study of hard copies of particular publications.
Engaging Asia: The United States, India and Pakistan, 1942-1992
This module examines American relations with India and Pakistan between the Second World War and the onset of market-based economic reforms in the early 1990s that transformed the socio-economic landscape of the Indian subcontinent.
Much of the focus will be on:
- American involvement in conflicts that shaped modern South Asia (Indo-Pakistani hostilities in 1947, 1965 and 1971
- 1962 Sino-Indian War; 1979 Soviet intervention in Afghanistan)
- the influence exercised by external actors on American regional policy (principally Britain, the Soviet Union and Communist China)
- the impact of international trends on America’s relations with India and Pakistan, such as decolonisation, globalisation and nuclear proliferation
In addition, consideration will be given to the cultural dimension of America’s relationship with India and Pakistan. Cinematic and literary depictions of US-South Asian relations, encompassing issues of race, religion, gender and neo-colonialism, will be critically examined.
Ethnic and New Immigrant Writing in the United States
This course will consider the development of ‘ethnic’ and new immigrant literature in the United States from the late 19th century to the contemporary era. It 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.
Feminist Thought in the US: 1970-the present
This module will familiarise students with the major strands of feminist thought which have emerged in the United States since the 1970s: from liberal feminism through radical and materialist to post-structural and neoliberal feminism. Although the module will focus on key texts and thinkers for each strand, we will simultaneously challenge any neat categorisation by exploring the central issues and debates, such as the sex-gender distinction, female sexuality, and pornography, which have preoccupied as well as divided feminist thinkers over the past few decades. Finally, we will contextualise these issues and debates by looking at contemporaneous representations of women in fiction, the mass media, and other cultural sites.
The module introduces students to the key critical concepts and theoretical work on film noir and examines the ways in which 'film noir' came to be applied to a group of 1940s and 1950s American films. The module treats film noir as an historical object of study and as a mode of categorisation referring to a specific historical phenomenon, situated in the US's social, cultural and political contexts. It also examines the cultural moment of the inception of the term by French critics who did much to shape the generic concept. The module also considers the industrial, cultural, social and political factors which had a bearing on noir production avant la lettre.
From Revolution to Rapprochement: Britain and the US 1776-1877
This module encourages students to reassess the Anglo-American relationship during an era of major upheaval in both nations (1776-1877). Taking students from the American Revolution through to the end of the Reconstruction era the module will challenge learners to examine how events and ideas forced Britons and Americans to reconceptualize their relationship. Through the module, students will engage with concepts crucial in the formation of the modern world including race, ethnicity, liberty, republicanism, class, gender, and reform.
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.
In the Midst of Wars: The United States and the Vietnam Wars, 1940-1975
This module looks at American attitudes, perceptions and policies toward Vietnam from the Second World War until the collapse of the South Vietnamese government in 1975. Much of the focus will be on the course of the Vietnam Wars, the role that different players (beyond the US) played in the course of the conflict, the reasons that the US became involved in such a destructive and tragic war and why, ultimately, the world’s greatest power was unable to win against what appeared to be a far weaker opponent.
Although we will necessarily spend a considerable amount of time examining the course of events in Vietnam, we will also analyse other developments in South and East Asia more broadly in order to put the conflicts there into their wider conflict. Hence, you must develop a contextual awareness of the overall course of US policy in Asia during the period and the outlines of the wider Cold War, and also be able to demonstrate the way that these wider trends intersected with events in Indochina.
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 interdisciplinary module examines the role played by American popular music in countercultural movements. It focuses 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.
It explores how the mainstream has responded to music countercultures in ways that range from repression to co-optation. It also analyses how the music and the movements have been represented and reflected on in fiction, film, poetry, journalism and theory.
A central concern of the module is to evaluate the effectiveness and potential of popular music as a socially-critical or oppositional force. The module is built around case studies of key issues and moments in American popular music history. One of the key issues is the debate over the ownership and use of African- American musical resources, from 19th century minstrelsy to 21st century hip hop.
This module explores the United States' bold but disastrous experiment with Prohibition during the period 1918 to 1933, with particular focus on crime, disorder and policing, as well as Race, class, gender, and religion.
We examine pre-1920 temperence, women's reform movements, and state-wide restrictions; changing patterns of alcohol consumption and the rise of the Anti-Saloon League; and the reasons for the shift to national prohibition, along with passage of the Eighteenth Amendment and Volstead Act.
We consider the impact of the outlawed liquor trade on US society, politics, and culture during the 1920; the rise of bootlegging and smuggling; changes to the vice trades and rise of crime syndicates, and the inglorious end of Prohibition.
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 Great American Short Story
This module examines the development of the American short story over the last 200 years, from Washington Irving's Sketchbook (1819) through to contemporary short story writers such as George Saunders and Junot Diaz. It focuses on the emergence of the American short story in comparative context and in the shadow of the critical birth of the Great American Novel; how short story genres emerge and disappear; how critics have theorised the short story form; the relationship between the short story and the magazine; and, in the twentieth century, the relationship between the short story and the creative writing program.
US Foreign Policy, 1989-2009
This module examines the making of US foreign policy in the post-Cold War period, from the end of the Cold War to the end of the ‘war on terror’. It begins by considering the grand historical narratives of American international relations and goes on to consider in depth the motivations and drivers behind the foreign policies pursued by Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. It considers whether the post-1989 period has constituted a break from previous traditions in US foreign policy or whether there has been an essential continuity through to, and including, the ‘war on terror’. It does this through a thematic examination of the impact of economics, geopolitics, ideology and security issues on post-1989 strategy, as well as the impact of a new international environment marked by the demise of bipolarity and the rise of globalisation. The course also covers the limits and constraints of US foreign policy imposed by public opinion, lobby groups, the media and US allies during this period.
The above is a sample of the typical modules that we offer at the date of publication but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. This prospectus may be updated over the duration of the course, as modules may change due to developments in the curriculum or in the research interests of staff.