American Classics

Subject ENGL20023 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 25-Jul-2016 to 23-Oct-2016
Assessment Period End 18-Nov-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 05-Aug-2016
Census Date 31-Aug-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 23-Sep-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 1.5-hour lecture and a 1-hour tutorial per week.
Total Time Commitment:

Total expected time commitment is 170-hours across the semester, including class time.





Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:

106-228 American Classics

Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry. The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Assoc Prof Elizabeth Maxwell


Assoc Prof (Elizabeth) Anne Maxwell

Subject Overview:

What causes some literary works to be consistently read by large numbers of people? In this subject, students study a selection of works commonly regarded as classics of 19th century American literature, looking at how the works have challenged or contributed, as the case may be, to some of the prevailing myths of American society. The aesthetic and historical contexts in which the texts were written will be a major focus, as will themes such as Puritan culture, the Gothic undercurrents of American writing, slavery, the American frontier and westward expansion, the American South, the concept of individualism, the retreating wilderness, the growth of American cities and mercantilism, the new woman and male and female sexuality. We will also study the texts' relation to Romanticism, Realism and Naturalism. Students who complete the subject will have a better appreciation of why these and other so-called 'classic' texts consistently attract readers and why they continue to form the substance of teaching programs and literary criticism.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who complete this subject will:

  • be able to demonstrate a familiarity with some of the classic texts of 19th Century American literature;
  • have a broad understanding of the concepts associated with the American frontier and how these have been portrayed in 19th century American literature;
  • have a working knowledge of American religions traditions, including Puritan culture and how this has been portrayed in 19th century American literature;
  • have a knowledge of the literary conventions used in captivity narratives and slave writings and the impact these have had on readers;
  • have an understanding of the different ways in which 19 th century American writers’ have treated the themes of slavery and racism;
  • have an understanding of what 19th century American writers have had to say about the changing ideas of masculinity and femininity in 19th century American Culture;
  • have an appreciation and understanding of the changing nature of artistic and literary traditions, class relations, gender roles, and the workplace in American society.

Written work of 4000 words, comprising one essay of 1500 words (due mid semester) 40%, one essay of 2000 words a take-home examination (due in the examination period) 50% and one 10 minute class presentation of 500 words 10%. This subject has a minimum hurdle requirement of 80% attendance and regular participation in tutorials. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available.

  • The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne)
  • Benito Cereno and Billy Budd (Melville)
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin (Beecher Stowe)
  • Huck Finn (Twain)
  • Collected Poems (Dickinson)
  • Daisy Miller (James)
  • The Awakening and other Stories (Chopin)
  • Walden and Civil Disobedience (Thoreau)
  • The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (Poe)
Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • have the ability to critically analyse and discuss a wide range of reading materials through participation in class discussions, the reading of critical essays and the writing of scholarly essays;

  • have the capacity for independent and targeted research as a result of preparing for class discussions and writing scholarly essays;

  • have the capacity for creative thinking through participation in discussions and the writing of essays that apply critical and theoretical ideas to the reading and interpretation of texts;

  • have the capacity for critical self-awareness through participation in discussions and the reading of critical texts;

  • have the capacity for lucid and logical argument as a result of careful essay planning and writing;

  • be competent in the use of library and other information sources such as on line websites and search engines through the researching and writing of essays that require the use of these resources.


Students who have undertaken 673-343 American Classics are not eligible to enrol in this subject.

Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: English and Theatre Studies
Graduate Certificate in Arts - English and Theatre Studies
Graduate Diploma in Arts - English and Theatre Studies
Related Breadth Track(s): English

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