EN3CF-Contemporary American Fiction

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: English Part 1
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Prof David Brauner

Email: d.brauner@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:
The module is concerned with American fiction published in the last two decades of the twentieth century and first decade of the twenty-first, focusing on some of the ways in which contemporary American novelists deconstruct and reconstruct traditional ideas of what the novel can and should be and do. Exploring key terms such as realism, postmodernism, metafiction and irony, the module will examine both the diversity of contemporary American voices and the emergence of common preoccupations among these writers, alongside the different socio-historical contexts in which they work.

The module has three broad aims: to provide students with knowledge and understanding of a range of fiction produced by American novelists in the contemporary period; to introduce students to the key critical debates concerning the production and reception of the (post)modern novel; and to develop an informed awareness of some of the major developments in the theory and practice of American fiction in the contemporary period.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module students will be expected to:

• employ skills of textual analysis to demonstrate understanding of the materials they have studied
• identify and discuss key issues in the discourses of contemporary American fiction
• explore and interrogate some of the ways in which the selected fictions express and respond to social, cultural and historical developments in contemporary America
• research, organize and articulate a scholarly critical argument in written form.

Additional outcomes:
Oral and written communication skills will be developed, together with critical, interpretative and analytical abilities. Students will enhance their IT competence through the use of relevant web resources in a critically informed manner. Students will also be encouraged to develop a critical sense of the role that literary texts play in the formation and renegotiation of national, ethnic and gender identities.

Outline content:
The module examines some of the prevailing trends in the theory and practice of contemporary American fiction. Texts for study may vary from year to year, but are likely to include some of the following: Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, Don DeLillo’s White Noise, Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy, Philip Roth’s The Counterlife, Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Carol Shields’ The Stone Diaries and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
Three seminar hours weekly, for which students are required to do preparatory reading. Students are also entitled to a half-hour tutorial on their formative written work. With the consent of the module convenor, students may also undertake a placement, through which they will learn how to apply the knowledge and skills gained in studying for this module in a professional context outside the University.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 30 1
Tutorials 0.5
Guided independent study 129.5 39
Total hours by term 160.00 40.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 50
Written assignment including essay 50

Other information on summative assessment:
Summative Assessment Methods (%) - work which always contributes towards the overall module mark:

Formative assessment methods:
Formative Assessment Methods - work which provides opportunities to improve performance (e.g. through feedback provided) but which does not necessarily always contribute towards the overall module mark:

Students write one formative essay, of between 1500 and 2000 words. Feedback will also be provided on the assessed essay of 2250-2500 words, or the equivalent placement report.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:
    A mark of at least 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:
    Re-examination in August. Coursework will be carried forward if it bears a confirmed mark of 40% or more. Otherwise it must be resubmitted by 22 August.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 21 December 2016

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