The Cultures of American Modernism (EASM100)

StaffDr Beci Carver - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value
NQF Level
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module aims to provide students with a sophisticated ability to pursue the interdisciplinary study of this moment of cultural ferment, by looking at little magazines, film, and popular literature, and as well as some of the more ‘institutional’ literary texts of US Modernism. It will also introduce students to some of the key features that have animated the field of modernist studies in the past ten years, which will include the recent interest in the interrelation between the technologies of visual culture and literature; the cultural economy of the modernist magazine and book; the discourse of race in American modernism; modernism on the left; and how transatlantic approaches have altered traditional understandings of modernist exile and expatriation. Students will be encouraged a) to reflect on the legacies of modernism; so in what ways do the print, pedagogical, and archival practices associated with modernism still organize, or better, partition, our sense of literary history? And 2) to explore and incorporate into their research the substantial digitization projects of the last 5 or so years.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate an advanced critical understanding of several major cultural products of American modernism, and of the social, theoretical, and historical contexts that inform them.
  • 2. demonstrate an advanced critical understanding of current theoretical debates in modernist studies, and of the methodologies of interdisciplinary study.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. demonstrate a sophisticated and intellectually mature ability to analyse the literature of an earlier era and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical and intellectual context.
  • 4. demonstrate an advanced and autonomous ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history.
  • 5. demonstrate an advanced and autonomous ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary texts.
  • 6. demonstrate an advanced ability to digest, select, and organise interdisciplinary material and to trace the development of debate across disciplinary boundaries.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. through seminar work and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to articulate their views convincingly both individually and in groups.
  • 8. through essay-writing and other assignments, demonstrate advanced research and bibliographic skills, an advanced and intellectually mature capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and to write clear and correct prose.
  • 9. through research for seminars, essays, and presentations demonstrate an advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.
  • 10. through research, seminar discussion, and essay writing demonstrate an advanced and intellectually mature capacity to question assumptions, to distinguish between fact and opinion, and to critically reflect on their own learning process.

Syllabus plan


Week 1: Introduction. What is Modernism, and What is American Modernism?

Week 2: Material Modernism and the (digital) Little Magazines

Week 3: Modernism and the South

Week 4: The Harlem Renaissance

Week 5: American Naturalism

Week 6: On the Left: The Masses (1911-1917), The New Masses (1926-1948)

Week 7: Modernist Poetry/Architecture

Week 8: Modernism and Film.

Week 9: Popular Transatlanticism

Week 10: Borderlands: The Caribbean and Mexico

Week 11: The Politics of Revival and ‘Classic American Literature’

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 activities22Seminars
Guided Independent Study33Study Group Meetings and Preparation
Guided Independent Study70Seminar Presentation
Guided Independent Study175Reading, research and essay presentation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar presentation in pairs20 minutes1, 2 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 8, 10Cohort feedback via 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
“Little Magazine research essay and talk252,500 words1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Essay755000 words1, 2 3, 4, 5, 6 8, 9, 10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
“Little Magazine research essay and talkResearch Report1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay1, 2 3, 4, 5, 6 8, 9, 10Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Research report on the ‘Little Magazine’ in place of class talk.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Primary texts

Crane, Stephen, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and Other Tales of New York. Penguin, 2001.

Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury, ed. David Minter. Norton, 1994.

Zora Neale Hurston, Hurston: Novels and Stories. Library of America, 1999.

Loos, Anita. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.London: Penguin, 1998.

Stein, Gertrude. Tender Buttons. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1997..

Selected secondary texts

Altieri, Charles. The Art of Twentieth-Century Poetry: Modernism and After. Blackwells, 2003.


Corn, Wanda M. The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity. 1915-1935. University of California P, 1999.


Dumenil, Lyn. The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s. Hill and Wang: 1995.


Hutchinson, George. The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White. Harvard-Belknap P, 1995.

Kalaidjian, Walter, ed. The Cambridge Companion to American Modernism (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005).

Michaels, Walter Benn. Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism. Duke UP, 1995.


Marcus, Laura. The Tenth Muse: Writing About Cinema in the Modernist Period. Oxford UP, 2007.


North, Michael. Camera Works: Photography and the Twentieth-Century Word. Oxford UP, 2005.


Pease, Donald E., ed. National Identities and Post-Americanist Narratives. Durham: Duke UP, 1994.


Turner, Catherine. Marketing Modernism Between the Two World Wars. U of Massachusetts P, 2003.


Walkowitz, Rebecca. Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism Beyond the Nation. Columbia UP, 2006.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Various Online Resources and Digital databases.

Available as distance learning?