LIT205 : Early Modern American Fiction

Convenor(s): Dr Rachel van Duyvenbode


Please note: This module may or may not run in any given semester. Please check with the tutor.

General Information

Modern American Fiction explores American fiction of the modern era (from about 1880 to 1940). During this period, American writers engage with the artistic innovations of Realism, Naturalism and Modernism and produce some of the most famous works of American literature by authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Henry James, Willa Cather, Nella Larsen and Ernest Hemingway. We will explore how the fictional works produced in this watershed period of literary experimentation engage with social and historical movements such as Reconstruction, Urbanisation and the growth of Capitalism. These issues will also be explored in relation to local diversity (the American South, New York City, and the Wild West); the social upheavals caused by crises such as the Great War and the Depression; and cultural movements such as the Jazz Age, Gilded Age, American Gothic and the Harlem Renaissance. We will read canonical chroniclers of the age alongside African American and Native American writers and discuss how questions of race and national identity are embedded deeply in the literary imaginations of American writers. The module as a whole is designed to develop skills in reading texts in relation to their wider historical context and also aims to consolidate your understanding of narrative terms and theory.


The teaching for this module will be organised around one workshop and one seminar per week. The workshop session will facilitate various forms of learning including lectures, collaborative group work, research tasks and exploration of interdisciplinary cultural forms including film, music and visual art. In the seminar, discussions will be structured around students’ responses to the reading and a film club and Ideas Lab (student-led discussion forum) may accompany the timetabled sessions for this module.


The assessments for this module allow you explore your interests in writing comparative essays, engaging in online discussion with your peers, completing a research-focused task and practicing drafting an argument. The assessment for this module comprises one mid-term piece of coursework (35% of the grade), active participation in the MOLE bulletin board for this module and the completion of one site search (15% of the grade) and one research essay (50% of the grade). Full details of the criteria for the assessment of written work and protocol for bulletin board postings will be distributed at the start of the semester.

Contact Details

Dr Rachel van Duyvenbode, 0114 222 8482

Information last changed: Monday 20th of March 2017 :: 12:27:34 PM (GMT)


The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK