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The University of Southampton

ENGL2096 Making New York Modern

Module Overview

New York in the twentieth century was a nexus of creative energies. Where once America had looked to Europe, now the old European cities watched with envy and excitement as New York—enriched by waves of immigration—became the cultural capital of modernity. This module explores the city’s significance as the site of major literary movements which developed around such scenes as Greenwich Village, the Arensberg Salon, New York Dada, the Harlem Renaissance, Warhol’s Factory, the Black Arts Movement and the New York School of Poetry. The writing and art produced by these groups affected the daily lives of American citizens and shaped the future of New York society. What they left behind is an extraordinary legacy of formal experimentation and social aspiration. Through the analysis of key texts, periodicals and cross-media contextual materials, we will look at how these groups advanced literature while influencing American opinions on issues relating to gender, racial, and sexual equality, war, economic hardship and exile. Over the course of this module, you will consider questions such as: Why did New York become a magnet for writers and artists in this period? Where did they come from, and why? How do scenes develop (and what causes them to break up or fade out)? What historical, social and political factors make writers and artists band together? How can writers and other artists work together to achieve common aims? How did these movements respond to and shape a changing New York? What roles did magazines and ephemeral publication play in their activities? How do the forms adopted by these groups reflect the social and political missions that drove them?

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • critically analyse how movements develop and function within a city
  • interrogate the aesthetic and political aspirations of the New York groups under study
  • learn strategies for analyzing writing in relation to material culture
  • develop an informed understanding of the social and historical factors driving cultural production in this era
  • improve your essay writing skills


When you analyse texts, it will be within a consideration of them in relation to associated production and developments in the fields of music, visual art and popular culture. Accordingly, our study of each movement will focus on a key text and its context across a block of two lectures and two seminars. Your understanding of the texts will be enriched by an exciting range of supporting material. Because each of these movements combined writing with other kinds of creative production, this module will situate these literary texts within the context of a broader cultural programme. This is designed to encourage discussion of exchange and cross-fertilization of ideas, styles and literary techniques. The texts we will analyse are drawn from a broad range of literary genres and modes of material production, including prose, poetry, journalism and memoir. In order to critically investigate these movements, you will devote time to exploring the magazines they produced, looking at publications such as The Crisis, Angel Hair, Camera Work, The Blind Man, The Little Review, Others, White Dove Review, 0 to 9 and Fire!!.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module is structured in two-week blocks. The first lecture in each block will provide an outline of the scene and its cultural setting and the first student-led seminar will propose a comparative analysis of a short text with an intertext and/or set of visual works. The second lecture will focus on the longer case-study set text, with the second seminar designed to encourage discussion of how the case-study relates to and reflects the ideas, concerns and aesthetic of the group in question. Teaching methods include: 1 lecture per week 1 x seminar discussion per week individual guidance and feedback sessions on assignments Learning activities include: • private study and research • discussion with colleagues and tutor • accessing and evaluating relevant online resources • essay-writing

Preparation for scheduled sessions50
Completion of assessment task52
Follow-up work12
Wider reading or practice12
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Blue Mountain Project.

Leroi Jones [Amiri Baraka] and Larry Neal, eds (2007). Black Fire: An Anthology of African-American Writing. 

Modernist Journals Project.

Modernist Journals Project.

Vito Acconci and Bernadette Mayer, eds (2006). 0 to 9: The Complete Magazine. 

David Lehman (2004). The Last Avant-Garde: the Making of the New York School of Poets. 

Serge Guilbaut (1985). How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom and the Cold War. 

Blue Mountain Project.

Rem Koolhaas (1994). Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for New York. 

Dickran Tashjian (1975). Skyscraper Primitives: Dada and the American Avant-Garde, 1910-1925. 

Indicative authors. Indicative authors you might study on this module include Djuna Barnes, Amiri Baraka, Nella Larsen, Frank O'Hara, William Carlos Williams, and Andy Warhol. The module convenor will provide a full reading list on Blackboard.

Daniel Kane (2003). All Poets Welcome: The Lower East-Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s. 

Anne Waldman and Lewis Warsh, eds (2001). Angel Hair Sleeps with a Boy in my Head: The Angel Hair Anthology. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 35%
Essay  (2500 words) 65%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Total additional costs associated with this module will not exceed £60.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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