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America Rewired: US Literature and Culture since the 1960s


Module description

This module takes as its starting point the dramatic transformation of the US cultural landscape that occurred in the 1960s. Against the backdrop of the explosion of second wave feminism, the successes of the black civil rights movement, the deepening war in Vietnam and the looming nuclear threat, US writers and artists reacted to the times with a wave of experimentation and innovation.

This module explores the reverberations of this tumultuous decade, alongside new developments in literature and culture, into the latter decades of the twentieth century and the first decades of the twenty-first. It charts the social and aesthetic revolutions unleashed by the 1960s and the successive backlashes that have followed in their wake.

Indicative module syllabus

Lost in the Funhouse: Postmodernism and After

  • John Barth, ‘Lost in the Funhouse’ (1968)
  • Thomas Pynchon, V. (1963)
  • Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979)
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club (1997)
  • Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010)

America in Black and White: Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter

  • James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963)
  • Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley (1965)
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
  • Claudia Rankine, Citizen, an American Lyric (2014)
  • Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped (2013)

Underworld USA: Crime Fiction

  • Ross MacDonald
  • Walter Mosley
  • Sara Paretsky
  • Jonathan Lethem
  • Megan Abbott

Screening War: Cold War to ‘War on Terror’

  • The Manchurian Candidate, dir. John Frankenheimer (1962)
  • Apocalypse Now, dir. Francis Ford Coppola (1979)
  • Full Metal Jacket, dir. Stanley Kubrick (1987)
  • The Dark Knight, dir. Christopher Nolan (2008)
  • The Hurt Locker, dir. Kathryn Bigelow (2008)

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • identify and discuss the key literary texts and thematic issues in American literature and culture since the 1960s
  • analyse and assess the work of a range of American writers from across the period
  • articulate an understanding of the relationship between literature, history and politics within the context of late twentieth-century and early twenty-first-century US literature
  • reflect upon some of the key theoretical interventions and concepts employed in the study of postmodernism, minimalism and post-postmodernism
  • demonstrate an awareness of how literature and language produces and reflects cultural change and difference.