American Masculinities

Module code: AM3044

This module will explore the construction (and deconstruction) of the myths of manly heroism and masculinity that have come to characterise the American national identity. It generally traces, through the selected texts, various aspects of an evolving myth from the subjugation of a virgin frontier by an American Adam through to the entrepreneurial individualism of corporate imperialism.

This module considers the notion that versions of manhood constructed by American writers have come to exist in competition with one another. It examines tendencies in American literature toward the male quest and the masculine narrator and considers the gender-specific implications of this.

The course also looks to the masculine ‘other’, questioning the cost and nature of assimilation (and disenfranchisement) for African-American and Jewish-American masculine identities. Most of the content of this advanced module is prose fiction from across the span of the entire 20th century. These readings are contextualised in the historical and cultural debates surrounding the inception of an American national literature.

Each text is seen from a specific vantage - that of the masculine types introduced by the authors. These versions of American masculine identity are seen in tension, forming a dynamic discourse that has continuing relevance to contemporary fiction. Such considerations will be treated in the contexts of the set texts’ settings and in terms of modern and contemporary theories of gender and race.


  • 20 hours of seminars
  • 2 hours of practical classes and workshops
  • 128 hours of guided independent study


  • Essay, preceded by 500 word formative preparatory piece (100%)