Post-War(s) United States Fiction

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 02 July 2021
05 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This course explores disparate and changing treatments of American identity and purpose from the emergence from World War Two up to recent re-evaluations of history, applying a variety of critical approaches and considering crucial social, political and cultural contexts.

The course begins and ends with novels by Cormac McCarthy that extend the study into a violent past and a post-apocalyptic future. Between these texts, broadly speaking, we follow a chronology of setting, rather than publication date, allowing a fluid, intertextual picture of the United States to emerge, kicking off with work with the Second World War as the recurrent central image, sometimes portraying combat, but with its aftermath always in mind.

The difficulties of return and re-assimilation into (or rejection from) the United States are explored from different perspectives: white middle-class, Native American, and African American. Post-war conditions of different kinds are then explored in work haunted not so much by the presence of great historical events but rather by absence and sense of loss.

Fictional treatments of effects of the Vietnam War increasingly become concerned with America's perpetually 'post-war' state, with striking studies of this conflict and the continuing resonance of the Civil War appearing in the 1970s and 80s. The course ends with late-twentieth and early-twentieth century studies of America's attitudes towards itself, its history, and its ongoing role in the world.

Module aims

No information available.

Module learning outcomes

No information available.

Module information

General Reading:

Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead
Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress
Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays
Jayne Anne Phillips, Machine Dreams
Bobbie Ann Mason, In Country
Toni Morrison, Paradise
Toni Morrison, Paradise
Don DeLillo, White Noise
Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
Philip Roth, American Pastoral
John Updike, Terrorist
Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learning and teaching methods

Anticipated teaching delivery for 2020-21: weekly 1-hour lecture and 1 hour seminar. We will offer a mixture of tailored online, digital, and campus-based teaching where it may be possible and as appropriate, along with personalised one-to-one consultation with academic staff.


  • Mailer, Norman. (2006) The naked and the dead, London: Harper Perennial. vol. Harper Perennial modern classics
  • Mosley, Walter. (2010) Devil in a blue dress, London: Serpent's Tail. vol. Easy Rawlins
  • Morrison, Toni. (1998) Paradise, London: Chatto & Windus.
  • McCarthy, Cormac; Meyer, Philipp. (2015) Blood Meridian, London: Pan Macmillan.
  • Roth, Philip. (1998, c1997) American pastoral, London: Vintage.
  • Phillips, Jayne Anne. (1985) Machine dreams, London: Faber.
  • Roth, Philip. (1998) American Pastoral, London: Vintage.
  • Mailer, Norman. (1993) The naked and the dead, London: Flamingo.
  • Phillips, Jayne Anne. (1985) Machine Dreams, London: Faber.
  • Ellis, Bret Easton. (2011) American psycho, London: Picador.
  • Didion, Joan. (1973, reprinted 1985) Play it as it lays, Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books. vol. A Penguin book
  • Mukherjee, Bharati. (1999) Jasmine, Chicago: Avalon Travel Publishing.
  • McCarthy, Cormac. (2009) The road, London: Picador.
  • Mason, Bobbie Ann. (1987, c1985) In country, London: Flamingo.
  • Vonnegut, Kurt. (1991) Slaughterhouse-five, or, The children's crusade: a duty-dance with death, London: Vintage.
  • Kobek, Jarett. (©2011) Atta: & the Whitman of Tikrit, Cambridge, Mass: Distributed by MIT Press. vol. 9
  • Silko, Leslie Marmon. (1986, c1977) Ceremony, New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books.
  • Gurganus, Allan. (1999) Plays Well with Others, London: Faber & Faber.
  • Morrison, Toni. (1999) Paradise, New York: Plume.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay 1 (3,000 words)  16/12/2020  40% 
Coursework   Essay 2 (4,500-5,000 words)  14/04/2021  55% 
Practical   Participation     5% 

Additional coursework information

Both essays must have between 3000-3500 words

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Owen Robinson, email:
Dr Owen Robinson
LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Prof Duncan James Salkeld
University of Chichester
Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature
Available via Moodle
Of 905 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
905 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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