Innovation and Experiment in New York, 1945-2015 - ENGL5880

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


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, Patti Smith and Paul Auster.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30
Private study hours: 270
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:
Two essays (3,000 words each) (90%)
Seminar Performance (10%)

Reassessment methods:
Like for Like.

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Burroughs, W. (1959) Naked Lunch, London: London: Penguin
Cage, J. (1961) Silence: Lectures and Writings. London: Marion Boyars
Ford, M. (2004) The New York Poets: An Anthology. Manchester: Carcanet
Sontag, S. (1983) A Susan Sontag Reader. London: Penguin
Epstein, A. (2009) Beautiful Enemies: Friendship and Postwar American Poetry, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Nelson, M. (2007) Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions, Iowa City: University of Iowa Press
Hickman, B. (2012) John Ashbery and English Poetry. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
Shaw, L. (2006) Frank O'Hara: The Poetics of Coterie. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate 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. Relate the literature of the period to historical, cultural, philosophical, political and artistic contexts relevant to the American avant-garde;
3. Utilise sophisticated analytic skills, including close textual analysis
4. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of critical and theoretical work informing and reflecting on avant-garde work of the post-war period;
5. Demonstrate an understanding of the American avant-garde's relation to the wider contexts of Modernist and Postmodernist aesthetic experiment.
6. Relate avant-garde and post-avant-garde literary work to developments in other contemporary art forms.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

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


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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