Crossing the Water: Transatlantic Literary Relations (EAS2104)

StaffDr Peter Riley - Convenor
Dr Ellen McWilliams - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module invites you to reappraise familiar perceptions of Anglo and American literary culture, and enables you to reach an informed understanding of the origins and consequences of each nation’s representation of the other. It aims to introduce you to a wide range of primary materials in a number of different genres spanning some 150 years of literary history, and to provide you with the theoretical and methodological skills that will enable you to make sense of this rich field. Where appropriate, the module will encourage you to identify connections between key transatlantic writers and other cognate movements and genres (e.g. the emergence of a modernist aesthetic). Your studies throughout will be stimulated by the module tutors’ own research in this area.


“Crossing the Water: Transatlantic Literary Relations” aims to engage you in transatlantic dialogue, to equip you with the ability to understand cultural differences and similarities, and – by reading transatlantic literary relations in their contemporary contexts – to alert you to the global consequences of such encounters. In all of these respects, it provides an invaluable grounding for future employment.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate an informed appreciation of transatlantic literary relations from the late nineteenth-century to the present day;
  • 2. demonstrate an informed critical understanding of similarities and differences across and between texts, authors and genres of transatlantic writing;
  • 3. Demonstrate a developed ability to apply skills of close reading and of comparative analysis, specifically in relation to transatlantic literature.
  • 4. demonstrate an informed critical understanding of relevant scholarly work in the field of transatlantic studies;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Demonstrate an ability to analyse a range of literatures and to relate to relate their concerns and their modes of expression to their historical contexts.
  • 6. demonstrate an ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history;
  • 7. demonstrate an ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary texts;

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. through seminar work and group presentations, demonstrate communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups;
  • 9. through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and a capacity to write clear and correct prose;
  • 10. through research for seminars and essays, demonstrate proficiency in information retrieval and analysis;
  • 11. through research and writing, demonstrate a capacity to make critical use of secondary material, to question assumptions, and to reflect on their own learning process;
  • 12. through sitting their final examination, demonstrate proficiency in the use of memory and in the development, organization, and expression of ideas under pressure of time.

Syllabus plan

The syllabus focuses on transatlantic travel writing before going on to explore transatlantic literary encounters in early twentieth-century literature. The module progresses to an examination of the poetry of the Black Atlantic and the literature of the Irish Atlantic, as well as exploring writing about conflict through a transatlantic lens, before continuing to explore Anglo-American literary transmission and exchange. 


Key writers featured on the module include Charles Dickens, Dion Boucicault, Edith Wharton, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Plath, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph O’Connor, Zadie Smith, and selected African-American and Caribbean poets. Of central interest to the module will be: the representation of national Identity; the transatlantic woman writer; migration and Diaspora; the Black Atlantic; questions of hybridity (racial and linguistic); and the representation of conflict.


Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 11lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 27.5Seminars: 11 x 2.5 hour seminars
Guided independent study 27.5study group preparation and meetings
Guided independent study 70seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent study 164reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Informal study group presentations in seminars20 mins (groups of 4)8Peer and tutor feedback in seminars.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay452000 words1-7, 9-11feedback sheet with opportunity for tutor follow up
Exam452 hours1-7, 9-11feedback sheet with opportunity for tutor follow up
Seminar Participation10Continuous 1-10Oral Feedback with opportunity for tutorial feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-7, 9-11As per ref / def timetable
ExamExam1-7, 9-11As per ref / def timetable
Seminar ParticipationRepeat Study or mitigation 1-10As per ref / def timetable

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading


Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island (1995)

Edith Wharton, The Custom of the Country (1913)

Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933)

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

Sylvia Plath, Crossing the Water  (1971)

Joseph O’Connor, Star of the Sea (2002)

Zadie Smith, On Beauty (2005)

All other required reading will be provided via the ELE.


Doyle, Laura, Freedom’s Empire: Race and the Rise of the Novel in Atlantic Modernity, 1640-1940. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008

Giles, Paul. Transatlantic insurrections : British culture and the formation of American literature, 1730-1860. Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.

Giles, Paul. Virtual Americas: Transnational Fictions and the Transatlantic Imaginary. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002

Halliwell, Martin. Transatlantic modernism : moral dilemmas in modernist fiction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.

Manning, Susan and Andrew Taylor, eds. Transatlantic Literary Studies: A Reader. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007.

Miller, Brook. America and the British Imaginary in Turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century Literature. London: Macmillan, 2010. Available as an e-book via the University Catalogue via Literature Collection 2011

Mulvey, Christopher. Transatlantic manners : social patterns in nineteenth-century Anglo-American travel literature. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Journal of Transatlantic Studies and Journal of American Studies

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Transatlantic, America, England, Ireland, Twentieth Century, Dickens, Emerson, Frost, Stein, Auden, Plath, Vonnegut, Bryson, Boucicault