Crossing the Water: Transatlantic Literary Relations (EAS2104)

StaffDr Ellen McWilliams -
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;
  • 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 the transatlantic literature of the late nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its 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



1. Introduction: Reading the Atlantic

2. Transatlantic Travel: Nineteenth Century to the present

3. Transatlantic Manners at the turn-of the -century

4. Modernist Engagement

5. Nineteenth – Century Exchanges

6. The Irish Atlantic

7. The black Atlantic

8. Crossing the water

9. Over Here: World War II writing

10. Transatlantic Aesthetics

11. Transatlantic studies in the contemporary Moment: -  A Round Table

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
Essay1000 words1-7, 9-11Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Informal study group presentations in seminars10 to 15 mins (groups of 5)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 Oral Feedback with opportunity for office hours follow-up

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-7, 9-11Referral/deferral period
ExamExam1-7, 9-11Referral/deferral period
Seminar ParticipationRepeat Study or mitigation Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading


Core Reading:

Auden, W. H., Selected poems available via ELE

Boucicault, Dion, Selected Plays available via ELE

Bryson, Bill, Notes From a Small Island (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999)

Dickens, Charles, American Notes, 1842 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2000). Excerpts available via ELE.

Hughes, Langston, Selected poems available via ELE

Johnson, Linton Kwesi, Selected poems available via ELE

Plath, Sylvia, Crossing the Water (London: Faber and Faber, 1976)

O’Connor, Joseph, Star of the Sea (London: Vintage, 2004)

Smith, Zadie, On Beauty (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2006)

Stein, Gertrude, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2001)

Vonnegut, Kurt, Slaughterhouse Five (London: Vintage, 1991)

Walcott, Derek, Selected poems available via ELE

Edith Wharton. The Custom of the Country

Secondary Reading:

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)

---. 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