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Advanced topics in American Literature II

General data

Course ID: 4219-AW104-A Erasmus code / ISCED: 09.2 / (0231) Language acquisition
Course title: Advanced topics in American Literature II Name in Polish: Advanced topics in American Literature II (Literatura amerykańska II - zagadnienia zaawansowane)
Organizational unit: American Studies Center
Course groups: All classes - weekday programme - 2nd cycle
All classes - weekday programme - 2nd cycle - Advanced Track
ECTS credit allocation (and other scores): (not available)
view allocation of credits
Language: English
Type of course:

obligatory courses

Short description:

This course explores several contested categories of modern literary and cultural theory: authorial intention; narrative and narrativity; canonicity and artistic value; ideology and selfhood; postmodernism; gender and sexuality; race. Each theme is relevant not only to the study of literature but broadly conceived culture. Present in scholarly debates of the last century, the categories explored in this class have been handled differently by various schools of literary and cultural theory. Readings include key theoretical texts as well as works of American literature that deal with a given issue. In final weeks of class students will form groups that select readings and topics for discussion.

Full description:

What is meaning? Is interpretation an effort to decipher the author’s intention? Which texts have value - who decides and how? Why do people tell stories and is there a deep structure of all narratives? Does American culture favor men and masculinity over women and femininity; does it privilege whiteness? What is (was?) postmodernism and why does it matter? There is no simple answer to any of these question – each of them gave rise to innumerable studies and polemics. These debates are of historical significance but they have continuing resonance today. Consideration of each of these issues requires us to question ‘common sense’ approaches that seem obvious and transparent. This course – partly lecture and partly discussion – invites students to think seriously about the basic categories involved in study of culture.


1. Theoretical texts selected from the following anthologies and textbooks:

• Culler, Jonathan. Literary Theory. A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011.

• Hunter, Gordon. American Literature. American Culture. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011

• Malpas, Simon and Paul Wake, eds. The Routledge Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory. Second Edition. London: Routledge, 2013.

• Rice, Phillip & Patricia Waugh, eds. Modern Literary Theory. A Reader. 4th edition. London: Hodder Arnold, 2004.

• Rivkin, Julie & Michael Ryan, eds. Literary Theory. An Anthology. Second Edition. Malden: Blackwell, 2004.

2. Literary texts by US writers such as:

• Henry James, David Foster Wallace, Ursula LeGuin; Jonathan Franzen, ZZ Packer, Ta-Nehisi Coates (fiction and non fiction).

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing this course a student:


- has an advanced knowledge of various schools of critical theory, their main assumptions conceptual frames;

- understands the key controversies of 20th century American literary and cultural studies concerning intention, aesthetic value and individual as well as social identity;

- is able to employ theoretical terminololgy used in American cultural and literary studies;


- is able to follow complex theoretical arguments;

- has deepened skills for speaking and writing about culture in theoretically informed ways;

- has an advanced ability to select research paradigms, critical methods and terminologies;


- is able to cooperate in a group;

- is open to conflicting visions of culture;

- is able to formulate his/her opinion on key contemporary issues;

Assessment methods and assessment criteria:

1. Class attendance and participation – 20 %

Students come to class prepared and take part in discussion regularly. Brief tests checking familiarity with readings assigned will be a regular practice. Missing more than 2 class meetings means failing the course.

2. Written response & presentation in class – 30%

Brief essay – a written response to one set of readings (3-5 pages). First drafts will be due the day a given set is discussed, your main ideas will be discussed in class. Next, individual papers will be discussed during office hours. A final version is due in week 12.

3. Final group presentation - 20%

Teams of 4-5 persons will prepare 20 minute presentations for the final weeks of class. You will select and distribute texts to the whole class (teacher will first approve your choice). Selections may include works of fiction, but should be focused on a theoretical category. During the semester each team will be asked to report on their work in progress. Teams are evaluated for quality of texts selected, originality and clarity of argument; teamwork; quality of presentation, and ability to engage class in discussion. In your final presentation you may use Powerpoint and distribute handouts with your key points.

4. Final Exam = 30%

The test (1 hour) will be administered during exam session. Format: defining terms; multiple choice; quote recognition; short essay question.

This course is not currently offered.
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