American Fiction: The 20th Century

Subject ENGL40015 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 29-Feb-2016 to 29-May-2016
Assessment Period End 24-Jun-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 11-Mar-2016
Census Date 31-Mar-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 06-May-2016

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 2-hour seminar per week
Total Time Commitment:

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


Admission to the postgraduate diploma or fourth year honours in English & theatre studies.



Recommended Background Knowledge:


Non Allowed Subjects:

ENGL40015 The Black Presence in American Fiction

ENGL40015 American Fiction: Cooper to Cather

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:


Anne Maxwell

Subject Overview:

In this subject students will study a range of major works of American fiction from across the 20 th century. They will examine how the themes of love, marriage, gender, class and race are approached by the writers of these texts, buy also some of the formal ways that writers have gone bout communicating their ideas. They will also examine what American fiction writers have said about capitalism and consumerism and the way authoritarianism, imperialism and the destruction of the natural environment have impacted on n Americans ability to flourish and prosper and to achieve equality and freedom. Related to this they will learn how in the hands of writers the understanding of concepts like liberalism, democracy and freedom nave changed over time. Finally, they will examine some of the more influential critical essays form the last few decades.

Learning Outcomes:

Students who complete this subject will:

  • be ble to demonstrate a familiarity with some of the key texts of 20 th century American fiction;
  • have a broad understanding of the political, social and cultural changes affecting American fiction from the early to the late early-20 th century and how these have influenced the subject matter and styles of 20 th century American fiction;
  • have an overview of some of the more important and critical and theoretical works issuing from North America and how these can be usefully applied to the reading of American fiction;
  • have acquired a transportable set of interpretative skills;
  • have developed their capacity for independent research;
  • have developed their capacity for critical thinking and analysis; and
  • have developed their ability to communicate in writing.

An essay of 5000 words 100% (due in the examination period). All students will be required to give a class presentation in order to submit work for assessment. Students are required to attend a minimum of 80% (or 10 out of 12) classes in order to qualify to have their written work assessed. Any student who fails to meet this hurdle without valid reason will not be eligible to pass the subject. All required written work must be submitted in order to pass the subject. Essays submitted after the due date without an extension will be penalised 2% per day. Essays submitted after two weeks of the assessment due date without a formally approved application for special consideration or an extension will only be marked on a pass/fail basis if accepted.

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available.

  • N Larsen, Passing.
  • E Wharton, The Age of Innocence.
  • T Morrison, The Bluest Eye
  • E L Doktorow, The Waterworks.
  • K Vonnegut Jr, Mothernight.
  • T Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49.
  • U Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness.
  • C McCarthy, The Road

Recommended Texts:

  • The Cambridge History of American Literature Vol 5
  • The Cambridge History of American Literature Vol 6
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

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 a class paper and an extended scholarly essay;
  • have the ability to both develop and modify one's thinking by participating in class discussions and writing an essay that requires one to respond to literary critics ideas;
  • have the capacity for independent and targeted research as a result of preparing a class presentation and writing a scholarly essay;
  • 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 making ethical judgements and informed political choices as a result of engaging with and discussing texts by people from different social and cultural backgrounds to oneself;
  • have the capacity for critical self awareness through participation in discussions and the reading of critical texts that acknowledge where one's ideas and assumptions come from as well as what kinds of social privileges one enjoys;
  • have the capacity for lucid and logical argument as a result of careful essay planning and writing;
  • have competency 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; and
  • have the ability to organise oneself and manage one's time efficiently and effectively through the successful completion of a class paper and a written essay by the due date.
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: English and Theatre
Graduate Certificate in Arts (Advanced) - English and Theatre Studies
Graduate Diploma in Arts (Advanced) - English and Theatre Studies
PC-ARTS English and Theatre Studies
PD-ARTS English and Theatre Studies

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