All modules in Year 1 are Core for Single Honours students, and Optional for Combined Honours Students. This ensures you have a grounding in each of the disciplines and ways of thinking that, together, make American Studies. All modules are 20 credits unless otherwise noted.
Divided by A Common Language: Culture, Power, and Society in the UK and the USA
The module aims to prepare undergraduate students for global citizenship by immersing them in a pointedly transnational learning environment. American Studies students will learn alongside visiting North American students on the British Studies Semester Programme. The module encourages students to recognise and understand the similarities and differences in the social and cultural structures of Britain and the USA. As the first in a core series of modules to focus on the idea of colonialism, students will build core knowledge of the role of empire in the shaping of the modern world. America, as site of colonialism and as a colonial/neo-colonial entity in its own right, will be compared and contrasted to the history of British imperialism, in its historical, cultural, and political expressions.
The module gives students an overview of the methodologies and intellectual frameworks of each of American Studies’ cognate disciplines. As a result, students will get to know the core members of the American Studies team, both personally and intellectually, and will become part of a programme-wide academic community. The module will include timetabled Personal Academic Tutoring sessions for American Studies students in order to offer to offer academic and pastoral support in the context of the learning environment. The module will equip students with graduate attributes in clarity of expression, organisation, and teamwork and there will be a focus on building and recognising employable skills.
Self-Evident Truths: American Histories from Colonisation to the Present
This module provides an introduction to the histories of North America from English colonisation to present. The module takes a thematic and chronological approach, and examines topics such as Colonisation, Enslavement, War, Expansionism, Exceptionalism and Global Power. The module will give students a broad survey of North American history, which will provide the foundation necessary for learning development and informed specialism at Level 5 and 6. The module introduces students to a variety of interdisciplinary methods used by historians and supports the development of analytical skills important to the discipline of history.
The Invention of America: Texts and Contexts from 1607 to the Present
The module provides students with an introduction to American literature, developing their responses to written and visual narratives of the “New World” and of the United States of America, from the initial, colonial rhetoric of discovery and the Puritan call for the foundation of a “City upon a Hill” to the establishment of national cultural traditions in the 19th century and beyond. Students will be guided to develop the skills of literary criticism and will be assessed on these skills alongside their development of graduate attributes such as clarity of expression and organisation. Students are encouraged to trace continuities and identify discontinuities in the treatment of foundational myths, the definition of quintessentially “American” concepts, and the acknowledgement of the violent underside of the national narrative of democracy and progress. The module introduces students to canonical texts in American literature, while also showing the limits of such ‘mainstream’ thinking. The module thus privileges the writing of native peoples, African Americans and other ‘minority’ cultures relate to their own environments and ‘American’ identities.
Malcolm and Martin: An American Dream or a Racial Nightmare?
This module has three core aims, firstly the module will examine the socio-political and historical mythology embedded within mainstream versions of the American Dream. Secondly, the module will explore and interrogate the ideological foundations of the American Dream via the philosophical lens of, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King. Thirdly, the module will outline the hegemonic and ethnic basis of the American Dream, and its origins within the elite Euro-American context. The module will indicate that American political culture and the narrow and ethnocentric interpretations of American history do not accord with the realities of American history, as experienced, defined and articulated by Malcolm X and Dr. King. Overall the module highlights the clash of ideas regarding the character of American political culture and US history, it will indicate that the status of African American’s has and continues to define our understanding of American power. The modules interdisciplinary approach draws on Politics, theories of race and US History. In short, students will receive a holistic analysis of US society, whilst viewing America from the perspective of a marginalised population.
American Cinema Since 1950
The module aims to develop the student’s understanding of genre, as a critical concept, as part of Hollywood industrial practice and as a critical tool for examining audience expectations and pleasure. The module also aims to examine the history of the decline in Hollywood studio production in the 1950s and the reconfiguration of the industry in the New Hollywood. Finally, the module aims to examine Hollywood’s relationship to notions of American national identity and introduce the students to the major, social, political, institutional and aesthetic features of American cinema in the 1950s and 1980s and to highlight the connections between these periods.
The Cold War and the Making of the Contemporary World
The aims of this module are to equip students with a knowledge and understanding of the origins, course and consequences of the Cold War, which dominated (and distorted) the international landscape from the end of the Second World War through to 1989-1991. The module also aims to address the Cold War’s legacy and how this continues to shape the world of today in important ways whether in regard to ongoing tensions between Russia and the West, turmoil and violence in the Middle East, international terrorism, and the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran.
Building and Dismantling the American Empire
The aims of the module are to build on students’ understanding of themselves as global citizens introduced in the Level 4 module ‘Divided by a Common Language.’ This module takes an interdisciplinary and broadly historical approach to understanding ideas of the United States as, first, the site of European imperialism and then as an empire in its own right. Students may explore issues pertaining to the ‘discovery’ of North America and the colonisation of Indigenous territories; the history of America’s changing role in global politics; America’s cultural imperialism – either in the form of ‘Coca-Colonisation’ or in the ubiquity of American cultural texts in the modern world; progressive global movements centred in the United States, including Pan-Africanism and the world-wide Movement for Black Lives; or other relevant topics that position the United States within a broader narrative of global conflict and cooperation. The module will be led by one or more members of the core American Studies team. It will also feature guest lectures by industry professionals and specialists from other programmes in the University who can speak to the specific employable and transferable skills that students are developing. Specifically, these sessions will focus on the capacity of American Studies graduates to excel in an increasingly global workforce.
This module will enable you to develop skills for independent learning and individual research so that you can undertake a substantial piece of written work on a subject related to one of your other year two modules. You will be able to select your own topic in consultation with tutors, and to work closely with a supervisor expert in that area. This module therefore provides an essential foundation for the dissertation in year three. This module is core for single honours students, but optional for combined honours students.
African American Studies in the 21st Century
This module will allow all American Studies students to meet together to apply their knowledge of American Studies both to contemporary debates about race in America and to address the employability agenda as they reach the culmination of their studies. Students are given the opportunity to contribute to cutting edge research in African American studies from one or more members of the core American Studies team with a specialism in African American studies. This module is the culmination of the American Studies core strand and asks students to reflect on their own agency in constructing a decolonised curriculum. Students are encouraged to think intersectionally, about the experiences of contemporary African Americans in the context of, among other issues, the movement for black lives, the #MeToo movement, and the political resistance to the Trump administration.
Dissertation (40 credit module for SH, Optional 20 Module for CH)
As the culmination of your degree, the dissertation will enable you to build upon skills gained in the extended essay and will equip you with the practical skills and research methodology to undertake research on a topic of your choice in American Studies. Although the dissertation by nature is centred on independent learning, you will work with a supervisor with the expertise to guide you through your project.
Likely Optional Modules
We continually review and where appropriate, revise the range of modules on offer to reflect changes in the subject and ensure the best student experience. We will inform applicants of any changes to the course structure before enrolment.
We are proud to offer an exciting range of optional modules each year, all of which are related to, and informed by, the research that we are doing. The nature and content of these modules will vary, as we seek to provide you with modules that are in line with our current research interests, and fresh with the most up-to-date thinking on a particular topic. As we value the student perspective, we also update our modules based on the feedback students give us, as we try to ensure that you will have a great learning experience no matter which of our modules you choose.
Race and Racism: Conquest, Colonisation and Categorisation in America
This history-focussed module explores the long history of race and categorisation in the US.
American Independent Cinema (Via Film, Radio, and Television)
Students will explore the work of major independent filmmakers of the last few decades .
Mad, Sad, and Bad: Women in American Literature (Via English)
Explore the various ways in which American women have been imagined – and have defined themselves – in American literature from the 19th to the 21st centuries.
Race and Politics in Modern America
Explore the myriad ways in which American racial identity intersects with American political culture
Atlantic Americas: Commerce, Domination, and Resistance in the Atlantic World, 1500-1800
Students get to grips with colonial North America, and its relationship to the ‘Old World’ across the Atlantic.
Applied Humanities: Employability in Practice (Via School of Humanities)
Take a practical, hands-on module that locates you in the workforce and gives you the skills you’ll need to thrive after University.
Humanities in the Digital World
Investigate the shifting treatment of the Humanities in the digital age, and see how online tools can supplement traditional research methods.
American Girlhood: Life and Representation
This modules uncovers the social, political and cultural relations that shape girls’ lives and experiences in historical perspective.
Style and Substance: Movements in American Literature
Delve deep into the stylistic conventions in American Literature from slave narratives, through the Beat Generation, to contemporary fiction.
Isolation to Domination: The United States of America, 1914-1945 (Via History)
This module lets students discover the development of the US into a modern global superpower.
War and Revolution in Vietnam, 1930-1975 (Via History)
Investigate the long history of conflict in Vietnam in a global and political context
Writing the Colour Line: American Literature from Plessy to Ferguson
This module puts protest and struggle against segregation at the centre of the development of the African American literary tradition
Politics, Identity, and US Foreign Policy
The module will provide cutting edge insight into the complex but fundamental interplay between American politics and the politics of identity pertaining to US foreign policy.
Truth, Justice, and the American Way: A Superhero History (Via History)
Discover the development of the superhero from the 1930s to contemporary cinema and read comics narratives alongside the narrative of American history.
The Modern Black Freedom Movement
The module examines the enduring social construction of race and racism in the United States, and its impacts on modern African American experience and freedom struggles.
Civil Rights Fiction
Discover how black and white novelists honed their craft in service of the black freedom struggle of the 1950s and 1960s.
The Cinematic City (Via Film, Radio, and Television)
Take an in-depth look at filmic representations of major cities from across American cinema.
Contemporary Ethnic American Literature (Via English)
Conduct intensive readings of literature by a diverse range of contemporary writers.
The Bomb: War, Peace, and Society in the Nuclear Age (Via History)
Explore modern world history through the lens of the threat of nuclear warfare.
The Global Sixties (Via History)
Explore the turbulent decade of the 1960s from a variety of perspectives, paying particular attention to transnational crosscurrents.
Please note that module titles and availability may be subject to change.