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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Postgraduate Course: The American Novel 1970-2010 (ENLI11271)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores a range of novels by US authors published between 1970 and 2010. In fiction that engages with questions of racial representation, immigration, political persecution, environmental disaster, financial crises, consumer culture and the dissolution of the nuclear family, we will explore how US writing operates at the intersection of specific stylistic and historical phenomena. The course builds on and complements existing departmental provision on the development of the US novel in the twentieth century.
Course description The aim of this course is to encourage a discussion of a range of American novels written from the post-Vietnam era onwards as we moved into a new millennium, the end of the Cold War, the age of the internet, and the onset of new crises around racial, gendered and sexual representation. The course is concerned with a period in the history of the US novel where the concerns and forms of high postmodernism a sceptical, ironic juxtaposition of high and low cultures, a rejection of (political) reality as an objective of narrative representation begin to evolve in interesting new directions that, in the examples we select for this course, address the intersection of formal experimentation and the tangible effects of power and history.

The novel has always been a genre that reflects social change while aiming to give textual form to emerging worlds and transformational perspectives; at the same time its formal qualities have evolved to respond, at the level of style, to the complexities of historical conditions. The books on this course show how, over a period of forty years across the millennium, the American novel responded both discursively and formally to the rapid changes in the countrys social and cultural construction. Students will engage with both the formal experimentation of postmodernism and the revival of realism as an aesthetic that it provoked; we will see how fiction addresses and responds to historical events; and explore how the often fraught racial politics of the period are staged within its fiction.

Topics to be covered in seminars may include: the myth of Hollywood; the Cold War, containment, and the end of history Vietnam and the New Left; the War on Drugs and racial politics; American politics during the 1990s; the financial crisis of 2008.

The course is assessed by one piece of written work. Preparation for seminars will take the form of a combination of autonomous learning group tasks and individual readings of the novels along with directed secondary reading. Seminars themselves will involve group discussion, close reading, and reporting back on preparatory individual/ALG work.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  6
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% Coursework «br /»
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100% 4,000-word essay
Feedback Written feedback will be provided on the essay, and additional verbal feedback will be available from the course organiser on request.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Construct original, clear and coherent arguments about the modern America novel¿s depictions of racial politics, financial crises, and globalisation.
  2. Analyse literary texts using recognised methods of literary criticism to substantiate and illustrate those arguments.
  3. Evaluate and assess ideas from works of secondary criticism in order to bring them to bear on their own analyses of modern American fiction.
  4. Examine literary texts for evidence of stylistic and formal innovation, and illustrate their findings with examples from the novels on the course.
  5. Orally present the result of research undertaken individually and as part of a small group, respond judiciously to such research undertaken by others, and critically evaluate the importance of such material for an understanding of the chief themes of the course.
Reading List
DeLillo, Don. White Noise (1985)

Didion, Joan. Play It As It Lays (1970)

Doctorow, E. L. The Book of Daniel (1971)

Everett, Percival. Erasure (2001)

Franzen, Jonathan. The Corrections (2001)

Jen, Gish. Mona in the Promised Land (1996)

Roth, Philip. The Human Stain (2000)

Spiotta, Dana. Eat the Document (2006)

Wideman, John Edgar. Philadelphia Fire (1990)

Whitehead, Colson. Zone One (2011)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Knowledge and understanding: students will have had the opportunity to demonstrate their detailed knowledge of some of the key political and social issues that shaped American society between 1970 and 2010.

Applied Knowledge, Skills and Understanding: in their work for class discussion and formal assessment tasks, students will have been able to practice the application of these concepts in their construction of arguments about the course material.

Generic Cognitive Skills: through group work and completing assessed essays, students will have practiced identifying, designing, conceptualising and analysing complex problems and issues germane to the discipline.

Communication: through participating in these tasks students will also have demonstrated the ability to communicate ideas and information about specialised topics in the discipline to an informed audience of their peers and subject specialists.

Autonomy and Working with Others: students will also have shown the capacity to work autonomously and in small groups on designated tasks, develop new thinking with their peers, and take responsibility for the reporting, analysis and defence of these ideas to a larger group.
KeywordsFiction; postmodernism; politics; American; New Left; Cold War; end of history.
Course organiserDr Alexandra Lawrie
Tel: (0131 6)50 8968
Course secretaryMiss Kara McCormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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