Modern American Writing

Module code: AM1005
Module co-ordinator: Dr Sarah Graham 

This module will introduce you to modern American writing in fiction, poetry, and drama. We will begin with some key texts of the late nineteenth century, consider the emergence of modernism and the contribution of African American writers, and close with American drama of the 1940s.

By studying important literary works within their historical and cultural contexts, we learn how American literature has represented the experience of living in a rapidly changing society. The set texts explore issues central to twentieth-century America, including gender, sexuality, and racial politics, and consider themes such as national identity and the impact of immigration, the relationship between past and present, the family, innocence and experience, aspiration and disillusion, and consciousness and perception.

Topics covered 

  • Henry James: Daisy Miller: A Study (1878) and ‘The Art of Fiction’ (1884)
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman: ‘The Yellow Wall-paper’ (1892) 
  • Willa Cather, My Ántonia (1918) 
  • F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925) 
  • Nella Larsen, Quicksand (1928) 
  • Poetry by Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes
  • Poetry by William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens
  • Eugene O’Neill: A Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1940) 
  • Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire (1947)


  • 10 hours of lectures
  • 10 hours of seminars
  • 180 hours of guided independent study


  • Collaborative critical review (40%)
  • Essay (60%)