ENGL211-18S2 (C) Semester Two 2018

Exceptional Americans: An Introduction to American Literature

15 points
16 Jul 2018 - 18 Nov 2018


This course offers students the chance to engage with some of the most exceptional writers and texts in the American tradition and, at the same time, to think critically about the idea of exceptionalism itself.

As we make our way from the optimistic romanticism of Emerson through to the apocalyptic vision of Cormac McCarthy we will have a chance to consider the ways in which American writers have helped express, develop, and challenge some of the memes and myths central to the tradition. Put simply, this is a course that looks to think critically about the ways in which America has been imagined through literature.

American literature is too diverse for any one course to introduce it comprehensively. Instead the reading focuses primarily on prose and poetry of the twentieth-century, with an emphasis on three key movements:  romanticism, modernism, and postmodernism.  Students will learn how these periodising terms have been used, and how they can help to make sense of American literary history. Students will also be introduced to a host of relevant critical concepts drawn from theories associated with feminism, post-colonialism, Marxism, and post-structuralism.

This course can be used towards an English major or minor. BA students who major in English would normally take at least two 100-level 15 point ENGL courses (which must include at least one of the following: ENGL117, ENGL102 or ENGL103), at least three 200-level 15 point ENGL courses, and at least two 300-level 30 point ENGL courses. Please see the BA regulations  or a student advisor for more information.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes:

  • To introduce students to the diversity of modern American literature;
  • To develop advanced critical reading skills;
  • To familiarize students with the use of the terms ‘romanticism, ‘modernism’, ‘postmodernism’;
  • To initiate students in the use of critical theory in writing about literary texts
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.


Either 15 points of ENGL at 100 level with a B pass, or 30 points of ENGL at 100 level, or any 45 points from the Arts Schedule


ENGL109 and AMST110

Timetable 2018

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Monday 11:00 - 12:00 Jack Erskine 111 16 Jul - 26 Aug
10 Sep - 21 Oct
Lecture B
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Wednesday 10:00 - 11:00 E16 Lecture Theatre 16 Jul - 26 Aug
10 Sep - 21 Oct
Lecture C
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Friday 11:00 - 12:00 Jack Erskine 340 16 Jul - 26 Aug
10 Sep - 21 Oct

Course Coordinator

Nicholas Wright


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Attendance and Participation (including Learn postings) 20%
Essay One 25% 2000-2500 words
Essay Two 25% 2000-2500 words
Take-home Test 30%


Set Texts (in order of study)
• Chopin, The Awakening and Other Stories
• Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
• Morrison, Jazz
• DeLillo, White Noise
• Kushner, Homebody/Kabul
• McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

A selection of poems, short stories and criticism prepared for this course will also be available on Learn.

(Image: "Jasper Johns - Three Flags (1958)" by Gandalf's Gallery, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.)

Course links

Library portal

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $746.00

International fee $3,038.00

* Fees include New Zealand GST and do not include any programme level discount or additional course related expenses.

Minimum enrolments

This course will not be offered if fewer than 25 people apply to enrol.

For further information see Humanities and Creative Arts.

All ENGL211 Occurrences

  • ENGL211-18S2 (C) Semester Two 2018