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ENGL3101 Narratives of Nineteenth-Century America

Module Overview

This module considers the narratives nineteenth-century American writers tell about self and nation. The battle between North and South in the Civil War, and reconstruction following the formal abolition of slavery in 1865, led to new ways of defining both individual experience and national identity. This module investigates the ways in which narrative responded to and helped to shape the unfolding of these events. You will investigate the ways in which national forces shaped, and were shaped by, the short stories, novels, and non-fiction prose of the period.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this module are to: • Introduce you to fiction and non-fiction narratives by nineteenth-century American writers • Place American narrative in the nineteenth century in the context of contemporary cultural and political concerns • Enable you to engage with current critical and theoretical approaches to nation-formation and national identity

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • American fiction and non-fiction narrative forms including in the nineteenth century. These may include novels and short stories, plays, poetry, essays and sage writing, biographical accounts, and journalism.
  • theories of American nationhood and national identity as they pertain to literary writing of the period, considering both the ways in which concepts of nationhood shaped, and were shaped by, literary writing.
  • the mutual influence of fictive and non-fictive writing as a means of articulating selfhood and effecting political change.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • present both written and oral arguments about literature that place it in a broad historical, cultural and theoretical context.
  • consider American narrative in the context of the major historical events of the nineteenth century.
  • weigh the ideological investments of competing canons of American narrative in the nineteenth century.
  • reflect upon the ways in which American narrative in the 1800s responds to issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and the environment.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • conduct independent research using tools and resources available via the library and the internet.


Addressing themes such as women’s rights; institutional and social violence; developing ideals of race, ethnicity, and indigenous tradition; individual and civic relations to nature and the urban environment; and America’s developing sense of its position within the world, this module considers many of the political and ideological forces that shaped America in the nineteenth century and continue to define it today. Representative authors may include: William Apess, Charles Brockden Brown, William Wells Brown, Jennie Carter, Charles Chesnutt, Lydia Maria Child, Hannah Crafts, Stephen Crane, Martin R. Delany, Theodore Dreiser, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Harriet Ann Jacobs, Sarah Orne Jewett, E. Pauline Johnson, Edgar Allan Poe, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Booker T. Washington, and Zitkala-Sa.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods will include: • Lectures and seminars • A student-led learning support hour in which you will present your own arguments and positions on weekly topics and readings Learning methods will include: • Group discussion between all students and their tutor(s) • Focused in-class activities that ask you to collaborate with your peers (group work) • Presentation of one position paper (see below) and oral responses to the presentations of your peers This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.

Independent Study120
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Heath Anthology of American Literature. 

Nineteenth-Century Literature (journal) from JSTOR UK ( Arts and Sciences I ). Check eJournal Title Search for details..

Norton Anthology of American Literature. 

Just Teach One.

American Literature (journal) Full Text available:09/1999-12/2004 from Project Muse ( Standard Collection ). Check eJournal Title Search for details..



Oral presentation and a written assignment


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2300 words) 65%
Written assessment  (1100 words) 35%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2300 words) 65%
Written assessment  (1100 words) 35%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2600 words) 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

Cost of essential reading for this module typically will not exceed £50.

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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