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Modes of American Writing


Module description

In this module we introduce you to a diverse range of post-1960s American writing, highlighting issues of form and genre as they intersect with larger cultural trends. While writing produced in the United States will take centre-stage, we will take in the whole of North America and include selected writings from Canada too. Modes considered may include, for instance, speculative fiction, memoir, eco-fiction, crime writing or autofiction.

This eclectic mix of innovative and sometimes experimental writing will also give us the opportunity to explore key contexts and movements that have shaped America since the 1960s, including changing attitudes to the civil and political rights of women and people of colour, rising anxieties about environmental destruction, widening economic inequalities and increasing emphasis on self-actualisation. Against this backdrop, we will consider the role of different modes of writing as forms of commentary, critique and escape.

Indicative syllabus

  • Autofiction
  • Crime
  • Memoir
  • Speculative fiction
  • Eco-fiction
  • Experimental writing
  • Poetry
  • The short story
  • Satire
  • Historical fiction

Learning objectives

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

  • identify, explore and compare a range of different modes of contemporary American writing
  • relate these modes of writing to the wider aesthetic, social and political contexts of the period
  • understand the role of form and genre in the broader traditions of American literature
  • engage with a suitable range of primary and secondary materials relevant to the subject of study
  • articulate this knowledge and understanding in a sustained piece of written work.