Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Professionals working in the field of literary studies acknowledge that the American literary output has been a dominant cultural force since the early twentieth century, in both its textual forms and screen adaptations. A competency in fields founded in literary and cultural studies requires an understanding of this distinctive, diverse and vibrant tradition. This unit presents students with a broad range of literature from the United States, together with analysis of some of the enduring preoccupations of American writing, which are situated in their historical and cultural contexts. Key concerns in American culture such as the position of First Nations peoples, slavery, the role of women and inequalities in wealth and opportunity are seen to emerge in a variety of literary forms in different periods. Applying close reading skills to a selection of texts, students will learn how the American drive to experiment led to striking innovations in genre and form. The aim of this unit is to examine these new forms and their evolution to encompass vigorous cultural debates, in order to supply a crucial element of students' developing professional competency.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Demonstrate through close reading an ability to interpret a range of American literary texts (GA5, GA9) 

LO2 - Communicate clearly in written and/or oral form, in a style appropriate to a specified audience (GA6, GA9) 

LO3 - Locate, evaluate and appropriately reference a variety of texts relevant to in American Literature in order to develop an evidence-based argument (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA10) 

LO4 - Apply some of the methods used by literary critics to research and interpret American Literature (GA4, GA5, GA6, GA10) 

LO5 - Identify and reflect on key debates within literary studies over time (GA1, GA2, GA3, GA5, GA8). 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics may include: 

  • North Americans’ conception of themselves and their endeavours  
  • themes and issues drawn from works written in various historical periods 
  • the development of characteristic American traditions 
  • the intersection of literary, cultural and ethical issues raised by the variety and diversity of North American voices and their literary claims 
  • the diversity of genres in American literary production 
  • Native American writers, and Native American experiences of writing. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit employs an effective blend of face-to-face and digitally-enabled learning designed to develop and refine the skills, knowledge base and understanding appropriate to second-year students. Texts are drawn from a wide variety of genres to illustrate the diversity of American writing and demonstrate the development of traditions and characteristic themes over time. Through engaging with this vibrant and diverse body of writing, students will expand their understanding of the field of literary study overall. The lecture format offers students a detailed account of key texts, historical contexts and critical approaches. Students are encouraged to contribute actively at suitable junctures during the lecture and to collaborate in small-group and whole-class discussions and writing activities in weekly tutorials. 

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy is designed to build the knowledge and skills required to achieve the learning outcomes specified for this unit through a variety of interconnected assessment tasks. Hence, the reflection on weekly readings will inform students’ understanding of the field and development of the topic and texts for their Research Essay. Accumulated skills and understandings will be tested through the summative knowledge Take-Home Examination. These assessment tasks allow students to develop and expand their knowledge, understanding, and critical skills at a level appropriate to second-year study. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Reflection on readings 

This assessment encourages students to use advanced level close reading skills to describe and discuss American literature. The lecturer may set this as a written or oral task. 


LO1, LO2 

GA5, GA6, GA9  

Research essay 

The key purpose of this assessment is to foster skills in analysis, synthesis, writing skills and research in American literature. 


LO2, LO3, LO4 

GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10  

Summative Assessment/Examination 

The key purpose is to support students’ engagement with their reading tasks and to deepen their broad summative understanding of the literature and critical debates as a whole. This lecturer may set this as a written exam, take-home exam or reflective essay. 


LO1, LO2, LO4, LO5 

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Representative texts and references

Asya, Ferda. American Writers in Europe: 1850 to the Present. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 

Gerhardt, Christine. A Place for Humility: Whitman, Dickinson, and the Natural World. University of Iowa Press, 2014. 

Fender, Stephen. American Literature in Context, 1620-1830. Routledge, 2016. 

Hamilton, Geoff. The Life and Undeath of Autonomy in American Literature. University of Virginia Press, 2014. 

Madsen, Deborah L., ed. The Routledge Companion to Native American Literature. Routledge, 2015. 

MacGowan, Christopher J. Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Blackwell, 2004. 

Pratt, Lloyd. The Strangers Book: The Human of African American Literature. Haney Foundation Ser., 2016. 

Shackleton, Mark. International Adoption in North American Literature and Culture: Transnational, Transracial and Transcultural Narratives. Springer International Publishing, 2017. 

Spivak, Kathleen. With Robert Lowell and his Circle: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, and Others. Northeastern University Press, 2012. 

Tawil, Ezra F. The Cambridge Companion to Slavery in American Literature. Cambridge University Press, 2016. 

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