Post-45: American Literature and Culture in the Cold War Era - ENGL8650

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Spring Term 7 30 (15) Ben Hickman checkmark-circle


This module is designed to introduce postgraduates to high level research in the field of post-45 American literature and culture, spanning the period from the end of World War Two to the late twentieth century. Proceeding in chronological fashion, it will address key issues such as the cultural Cold War, Black Power, feminism and cosmopolitanism through the close analysis of cultural items in their historical moment. These will include texts such as novels by Ralph Ellison and, Thomas Pynchon; essays by Susan Sontag and Joan Didion; cultural criticism by Clement Greenberg and Lionel Trilling; and sociological analysis by C. Wright Mills. In addition, painting and film will be discussed where appropriate. Students will be encouraged to approach and understand aesthetic texts and objects both on their own terms and in relation to broader historical phenomena such as shifting geopolitical configurations, changing race and gender relations, and the rise of neoliberalism. Ultimately they will be in a position to address fundamental questions about the nature and function of "culture" itself in the period. Throughout the module, students will also explore the latest research in the field, reading influential contemporary scholarship and acquainting themselves with salient critical debates concerning methodology, including those over the sociology of culture, the demise of postmodernism as a critical paradigm, and periodization.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 280
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:
Essay (5,000 words) – 100%

Reassessment methods:

Indicative reading

Indicative reading list:

Any edition of the following:
Cleaver, Eldridge, (1968). Soul on Ice
Delillo, Don, (1999). Underworld
Didion, Joan, (1979). The White Album
Ellison, Ralph (1952). Ralph Invisible Man
Pynchon, Thomas, (1963). V
Sontag, Susan, (1966). Against Interpretation

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 a systematic understanding of a selection of key topics in the history of post-45 American literature and culture;
2 Demonstrate a conceptual understanding of the principal critical issues in post-45 American literature and culture;
3 Demonstrate a knowledge of recent developments in scholarship in the field, including new methodologies and areas of research, and an ability to situate one's own research in relation to them;
4 Demonstrate the ability to use the techniques necessary to interpret and apply new literary and cultural knowledge in original ways.

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

1 Demonstrate the ability to deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively;
2 Demonstrate the ability to use self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems;
3 Demonstrate the ability to plan and undertake the learning of new knowledge and understanding autonomously.


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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