American Culture and Conflict - ENGL9130

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Spring Term 7 30 (15) David Stirrup checkmark-circle


This module studies the ways in which the idea of culture has been contested in the United States from the end of the American Civil War to the close of the twentieth century. It will focus on a series of significant texts that intervened in the cultural debates of their time, bringing questions of aesthetics and representation to bear upon the social and political issues, and each making a claim about the nature and value of culture in the United States. These texts, such as W.E.B. Du Bois' The Souls of Black Folk or Susan Sontag's Against Interpretation do not belong to conventional literary genres such as the poem or novel, but their literary qualities of style, tone, rhetoric and voice are nevertheless to be studied as inseparable their distinctive interventions.

The module begins with the idea that culture is a terrain upon which social and political conflicts take place and proceeds to trace an intellectual history of those conflicts. Topics to be covered include the place of race and ethnicity in determining ideas of culture, the relationship between indigenous and settler-colonial cultures; the politics of culture; the development of modernist and postmodernist aesthetics; transnational cultural exchange; intersectionality; capitalism and culture; and the influence of scientific and technological developments on culture.


Contact hours

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


This module is core and compulsory to the MA American Literature and Culture

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Essay (5,000 words) – 90%
Research Presentation (10 minutes) – 10%

Reassessment methods:

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

de Beauvoir, Simone (2000). America Day by Day [1947]. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Bloom, Allan (1987). The Closing of the American Mind [1987]. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Du Bois, W. E. B. (2007). The Souls of Black Folk [1903]. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mooney, James (1991). Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890 [1896]. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Sontag, Susan (2009). Against Interpretation and other Essays [1966]. London: Penguin.
Wright, Richard (2002). 12 Million Black Voices: A Folk History of the Negro in the United States [1941]. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press.

Learning outcomes

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

1 understand systematically the principal currents, debates and conflicts in American literary and cultural history from 1865-2000, informed by recent research in the field
2 understand comprehensively the appropriate methods and techniques for studying American literature and culture
3 show originality in the application of knowledge relating to American literature and culture between 1865 and 2000
4 show a conceptual understanding that enables the student to evaluate critically recent research in the field and to develop new hypotheses about American literature and culture of this period

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

1 deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively
2 demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems
3 continue to advance their knowledge and understanding, and to develop new skills to a high level
4 motivate themselves in the exercise of personal initiative and responsibility
5 show the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development


  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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