BA American and Canadian Modules Second Year

Listed on this page are the modules offered in American and Canadian Studies as part of its Second Year degree programme.

Please note: due to study leave etc not every module is available every year. Please check with the Department to see what is running in a given year.

Core modules

American History from 1890 

This module introduces intermediate students to some of the main themes in United States history from the 1890s to the present. By the end of the course, students will understand the significance of major events in the American past. They will also have a deeper understanding of the types and uses of evidence in US history and the way in which historians construct arguments from this evidence, and be able to respond to evidence themselves. Presentations, discussions and essay work will aid students in developing further skills in researching, evaluating interpretations and expressing original ideas.
Value: 40 credits

20th-Century American Literature and Culture 

This course introduces students to key elements of 20th and 21st century American literature and culture. We will study different aspects of the American cultural, social, and built environment. This course is designed to build upon critical approaches to the study of American literature and history encountered in first year study and to introduce students to critical and conceptual frameworks used in the discipline of American cultural studies.
Value: 40 credits

Optional modules

The Foundations of African-American Experience

The module will provide students with an introduction to the African-American experience from c.1850-1945.  The module covers topics such as the slave narrative, resistance to slavery, the experience of the freedmen and the rise of Jim Crow, African-American leaders and campaigners such as Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells, the Harlem Renaissance and the experience of war.
Value: 10 credits

The African-American Experience from 1945

This module offers students the opportunity to study the political, social and cultural experience of African-Americans since 1945. It includes the study of important events in the civil rights movement, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and the rise of Black Power. The course allows student to critically assess the role of leaders such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and the work of civil rights organizations such as the Student Nonviolence Co-ordinating committee. The course examines the impact of the civil rights movement, studying post-civil rights themes such as Black Poverty and access to justice.
Value: 10 credits

North American Cinemas

The module will provide students with an introduction to the study of North American cinema, with emphasis upon its faceted tones and styles of filmmaking. The module is divided into two special topic areas, designed to offer a rigorous and thorough engagement with the themes and issues surrounding Hollywood cinema in its various guises. This course is designed to introduce students to a range of filmic forms and genres and to develop critical and evaluative approaches to film.

By the end of the course, students will achieve an understanding of the diversity of filmic expression in North America. They will be able to analyse filmic material in relation to authorial, ideological and narrational processes and contexts. They will also be able to analyse filmic material in a theoretically and critically informed manner, using guiding principles suggested by the special topic frameworks, as well as overarching themes such as aesthetics, narrative, genre and authorship.
Value: 10 credits

Filmmaking Practices

This course is designed to develop students’ critical appreciation of the diverse ways in which filmmakers employ and expressively handle common aesthetic features such as colour, lighting, setting, props, sound, framing and editing. Through a programme of weekly research seminars, a range of tones and styles of cinema are studied, with a strong emphasis on the practical choices facing filmmakers. The course provides an ideal foundation for students choosing Filmmaking Practices (B), but it can also be taken as a stand-alone option for anyone wishing to examine filmmaking practices in greater depth and detail. 
Value: 10 credits

American Crime Fiction

This module provides an introduction to the theory and practice of the thriller genre (literature and film) in the USA. Following a brief study of the emergence of the thriller in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it examines the ways in which writers from marginalized groups in America have redirected and subverted the norms of the genre since the 1960s.

The course will enable students to recognise the key generic features of the thriller; understand and apply theories of popular culture to the thriller; discuss the ways in which the thriller genre has changed during the 20th century; read and critique individual works within a generic context.
Value: 10 credits

The Twenties: North American Literature and Society

The module questions some conventional attitudes towards Canadian and American fiction in the 1920s, and considers the relationship between social developments and formal experiments in the North American novel and short story.

The course includes assessment of Willa Cather’s ambivalent look at the past in A Lost Lady and Edith Wharton’s satirical methods in The Age of Innocence, with attention to critiques of consumerism. Hemingway’s In Our Time is examined both for its formal experiments in the short story and for its insights into post-War disillusion. Each American text is paired with a Canadian work of fiction that investigates similar themes. John Glassco satirizes the expatriate American community in Paris and offers a contrasting example (to Hemingway) of formal experimentation in Memoirs of Montparnasse. L.M. Montgomery’s Emily Climbs fictionalizes the author’s own experiences as a woman writer caught between Victorian family values and the allure of fame and economic independence.  LMM herself—the J.K. Rowling of the early 20th century—offers us a fascinating case study of a celebrity writer whose fan-base and iconic characters have endured for nearly a century.  Finally, we return to some of the pre-occupations of Cather’s novel via Martha Ostenso’s Wild Geese which employs various popular and literary genres in its exploration of a rapidly changing prairie society.
Value: 10 credits

Literature and Illustration

This module examines the relationship between words and images in a range of texts from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century. Focusing primarily on American examples, we explore collaborations between authors and visual artists; the publication of short stories and other literature in magazines and journals where they are accompanied by illustrations, cover art, advertisements and other forms of imagery; and the broader visual culture that surrounds literary works. Surveying this material, the module asks: What forms can the relationship between text and illustration take? How do illustrators collaborate with, reimagine, or challenge authors’ work? How do illustrations shape, enhance or detract from readers’ engagements with texts? How do we ‘read’ illustrations? 
Value: 10 credits

America and the Middle East

This course offers insight into the history and interpretations of US involvement in the Middle East from the 19th century to the present through a complementary approach to official documents with cultural texts such as novels, films, and photography. Texts include the Eisenhower Doctrine, Exodus (novel and film), Three Kings, and The Dark Knight. 
Value: 10 credits

Canada and the US Compared

Canada and the United States of America share a complex history and relationship that is worthy of comparative examination. This module explores current Canadian-U.S. issues and common themes by examining their historical roots. Topics include globalization, Aboriginal policy and status, defence policy before and after 11 September, regionalism, political values and institutions, immigration and multiculturalism, nationalism, and the welfare state. The module assesses the significance of these matters in a comparative fashion and offers a general appraisal of the nature of the relationship between Canada and the United States in the past, present, and future. 
Value: 10 credits