Module code: ELI2036

Module Overview

This module draws attention to and interrogates the changing relationship between the 'self' and 'society' in twentieth-century American culture. Approaching this topic from an interdisciplinary perspective, the module examining three interrelated areas that address the major social, political, and aesthetic developments of the 'American Century': 1) urbanisation, commerce and the American city, 2) transnationalism and American identity, and race, nation, and the body in contemporary America. In addition to the primary texts, students will examine relevant examples from film, art, music, and design that help to further illuminate these three thematic strands. In particular, this module focuses on students’ global awareness and understanding, both regarding American literary and culture, as well as the ways in which successive periods of migration and transnational exchange have led to widespread American influence in a range of cultural domains. Through analysis of a range of texts and cultural materials, students will gain deeper insight into the impact and influence of American culture in the twentieth century and beyond to develop global and cultural capabilities.

Module provider

School of Literature and Languages

Module Leader

KILNER-JOHNSON Allan (Lit & Langs)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 5

Module cap (Maximum number of students): 40

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 89

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Guided Learning: 28

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indictive topics covered include: periodisation (naturalism, modernism, postmodernism), urbanisation and urban design, popular culture, immigration and immigrant voices, transnationalism, Black identity in America, American identity outside the United States, cultural production and capital, the relationship between visual art, music, and literature, and the global reach of American culture.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework ESSAY 1 (1250 WORDS) 50
Coursework ESSAY 2 (1250 WORDS) 50

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate achievement of the module learning outcomes.


Seminar discussion with ongoing tutor feedback is designed mainly to assess transferable skills in working as part of a group and practical/professional skills in expressing ideas and critical analysis in oral communication. It also assesses subject knowledge in the different forms of critical theory used in English literature and cognitive/analytical skills in critical thinking and in using theory in the close reading of literary texts.


The close reading and essay assess subject knowledge in the different forms of critical theory used in American literature and cognitive/analytical skills in critical thinking and in using theory in the close reading of literary texts. They also assess practical/professional skills in expressing ideas and critical analysis in written communication and transferable skills in working independently. 


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • Essay 1 (1250 words)

  • Essay 2 (1250 words)


Formative assessment and feedback

  • Seminar discussion with ongoing tutor feedback in seminar

Students receive both written feedback and verbal feedback in tutorials that informs the final summative assessment, i.e. the essay.

Module aims

  • The module aims to: examine a range of twentieth-century American fiction, drama, and poetry
  • develop an understanding of key cultural, social, and political developments in twentieth-century American culture
  • develop deeper insight into the development of American identity politics and subjectivity
  • understand how American urbanisation and mass culture led to changes in literary styles and forms
  • explore key nodes of innovation in American writing such as the Harlem Renaissance and Lost Generation
  • develop further skills in independent research

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 By the end of the module students will be able to: describe and analyse significant historical developments in twentieth-century America, and connect these changes to relevant aesthetic and textual features KC
002 Analyse an array of literary texts with an awareness of and engagement with critical materials and cultural artefacts KC
003 Understand and evaluate the relationship of literature to contemporary American cultural identity KC
004 Use critical and contextual material in relation to close textual analysis and critical thinking CT
005 Communicate orally in class discussions and in written form in essays CT
006 Work both individually and as part of a group PT
007 Plan and implement timetables for essay deadlines and exam revision . PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to deliver subject knowledge, to develop cognitive/ analytical skills, and to develop in-depth transferable, practical, and professional skills. Specifically, the weekly lectures deliver subject knowledge through an overview of the twentieth-century American literature, and develop cognitive/analytical skills in analysing literature and its historical and intellectual contexts. The weekly seminars involve student-led discussions that develop skills in communication and in working individually and as part of a group. The seminars also provide students with instruction on planning and implementing timetables for work and on presenting ideas coherently under time constraints.

This relates to the programme learning and teaching strategy, which, at Level 5, is designed to continue the delivery of subject knowledge through lectures and SurreyLearn and to develop in-depth transferable, practical and professional skills, with a greater emphasis on student-led involvement, critical analysis, discussion and rhetorical ability.

The learning and teaching methods include:

* 1-hour lecture per week x 11 weeks

* 1-hour seminar per week x 11 weeks


Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ELI2036

Other information

Surrey's Curriculum Framework is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:

Employability: Employability skills are developed through critical analysis of the material studied, both texts and related materials, including critical research and analysis, writing and presentation to an audience. In particular, students on this module will further develop the ability to read and interpret across media beyond literature, a skill that is increasingly invaluable in the multimodal world of work. The module offers students the opportunity to develop an understanding of the diversity of peoples, cultures and communities living in a multicultural world. The module aims to develop an understanding of differences and similarities, relationships and identities, and an awareness of the importance of ethical and cultural competence in developing personal, social and professional skills.

Digital Capabilities: In this module, students further develop the ability to use a range of platforms, from print to audio-visual to digital resources, to explore and question a range of topics and materials. Students develop the ability to communicate skillfully and critically across a range of media and platforms, both orally and in writing, and to develop essays  thatincorporate multimodal examples. Students develop the ability to produce a range of written and oral texts, including formal, academic and informal texts in a range of forms and genres that reflect the increasing importance of digital literacy in the workplace.

Global and Cultural Capabilities: This module introduces students to the contexts of American culture and identity and the role of cultural materials in understanding the twentieth century and beyond. Many of the texts studied in this module have influenced and shaped not only American culture but also the rest of the world, and provide a valuable lens through which to explore and understand important global developments that continue to shape our society today, and allowing students to bring their own cultures and cultural experiences into the classroom.


Resourcefulness and Resilience: In this module, students deepen their critical thinking and develop their ability to retain and use information flexibly and creatively. By analysing a range of interrelated texts, students improve their ability to retain, synthesise and analyse a range of texts in different media and move fluently between them. The module encourages students to show resourcefulness in locating and retrieving information by requiring them to synthesise and analyse a wide range of materials, including those that are different from traditional texts that students may have encountered.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
English Literature and Spanish BA (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
English Literature and French BA (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module
English Literature BA (Hons) 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 40% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2025/6 academic year.