“Tell About the South”: Literary Identities and Dialogues in a U.S. Region

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
31 March 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA T72012 American Literatures

Module description

"We have listened too long to the courtly muses of Europe," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1837, as part of a call for US letters to develop distinctively to further the distinctiveness of the United States project itself: how can the nation reach its potential if it is not prepared to think of itself as new, independent, and important? As well as materially, America needs to think itself into fruition.

This module will study some major writers, as well as some less well-known authors and examples from folk traditions, from the nineteenth century onwards, with reference to (i) the development of US nationalism and the idea of a national tradition of literature; (ii) the development of regionalism and the construction of ideas of the local, with particular reference to the South; (iii) how such processes relate to wider transnational considerations, to ask how national and regional identities relate to others beyond the borders of the United States.

Module Supervisor's Research into Subject Area

Dr Owen Robinson has published and taught widely on the literature of the United States. His research is centred on writing from and about the US South, considering it in relation both to the wider United States and in terms of its relations with other places in the Americas. He is the author of Creating Yoknapatawpha: Readers and Writers in Faulkner's Fiction (Routledge, 2006) and several articles and book chapters on Faulkner and other writers. He is currently working on writing focussed on New Orleans, with his book Myriad City: Towards a Literary Geography of New Orleans due to be published by Liverpool University Press in 2016. With Maria Cristina Fumagalli, Peter Hulme, and Lesley Wylie, he is co-editor of Surveying the American Tropics: A Literary Geography from New York to Rio (Liverpool University Press, 2013).

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

1. To provide students with an overview and knowledge of some key themes and concepts in United States literature, and, more specifically, literature of the U.S. South
2. To provide students with a critical understanding of the legacies of slavery, colonialism, freedom, independence, class, gender, and social mobility in United States literature
3. To enable students to develop the critical tools to evaluate how United States authors have attempted to write about their nation and collectively produced national and regional literatures

Module learning outcomes

After successful completion of the module, students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of a range of key themes and concepts in United States literature
2. Critically evaluate and situate the legacies of slavery, colonialism, freedom, independence, class, gender, and social mobility in United States literature
3. Apply a critical insight into how United States authors attempted to write about their nation to their own literary analysis of a selection of United States literature.

Module information

Extracts from Ralph Waldo Emerson, J. Hector St. John de Crevecour, Frederick Douglass
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855 edition)
Herman Melville, 'Bartleby, the Scrivener' and Benito Cereno
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi
William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!
Carson McCullers, The Member of the Wedding
M. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn
Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
E. L. Doctorow, Homer and Langley
Toni Morrison, Beloved

Learning and teaching methods

One two-hour seminar per week for ten weeks


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay (5,000 words)    100% 

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

Dr Lorna Burns
University of St Andrews
Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Literatures
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 16 (80%) hours available to students:
4 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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