Innovation and Experiment in New York, 1945-2015 - EN588

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19
(version 3)
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6 30 (15) DR B Hickman




Not available as wild



The module is structured around poetry and fiction produced in New York since the Second World War. The emphasis is on New York's experimental and avant-garde traditions, and one organising principle is the inter-connectedness of the arts in New York. The module introduces students to some of the main areas of culture in the city, from the New York school of poetry through Abstract Expressionism, early Punk and on to post-modern fiction. Writers to be studied will include John Cage, Barbara Guest, William Burroughs, John Ashbery and Patti Smith.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Ten 2-hour weekly seminars and ten 1-hour weekly lecture occasions.

Method of assessment

The module will be assessed on the basis of two essays of 3000 words each (45% for each essay, forming a total of 90%), with the remaining 10% coming from a seminar performance mark (assessed in accordance with the criteria published in the School of English Undergraduate Handbook).

Indicative reading

J CAGE, 'Silence', Wesleyan UP
M FORD (ed.) - 'The New York Poets: An Anthology', Carcanet,
W BURROUGHS - 'Naked Lunch', Penguin

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following subject specific learning outcomes:

1. Wide-ranging knowledge of the literature of the post-war American avant-garde, including key works of the period's poetry, fiction and aesthetic theory;
2. An ability to relate the literature of the period to historical, cultural, philosophical, political and artistic contexts relevant to the American avant-garde;
3. Sophisticated analytic skills, including close textual analysis
4. A thorough understanding of critical and theoretical work informing and reflecting on avant-garde work of the post-war period;
5. An understanding of the American avant-garde's relation to the wider contexts of Modernist and Postmodernist aesthetic experiment.
6. An ability to relate avant-garde and post-avant-garde literary work to developments in other contemporary art forms

On completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following generic learning outcomes:

1.Apply sophisticated close reading techniques to a range of literary texts and genres and to make productive and complex comparisons between them;
2. Display strong presentation skills and an ability to actively participate in group discussions;
3 .Show an increased capacity for self-directed research and the ability to discuss, evaluate and creatively deploy secondary critical and theoretical perspectives making use of appropriate scholarly sources;
4 .Frame and identify appropriate research questions and to construct original, clear and well-substantiated arguments.

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