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21st Century American Fiction - ENG00048H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Alexandra Kingston-Reese
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

How are 21st-century American novelists imagining and interrogating the changing social and cultural landscape in which they write? What relationships exist between new fiction and recent transformations in US economics, politics, and media? What formal and thematic trends make 21st-century fiction unique? If we are no longer living in the era of postmodern fiction, how shall we define the new literary moment?

This module will address these questions and others by exploring a range of American fiction published since 2000. We will examine the authors studied over paired weeks under four headings: 1) History, Politics, Aesthetics; 2) Work, Media, Economy; 3) Nation, Race, Class; 4) Genre, Dystopia, Utopia. We will also read a range of non-fiction texts that are being used to conceptualize 21st-century American literature and culture.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aim of this module is to explore some major writers and trends in 21st-century American fiction, particularly in relationship to transformations in American culture since 2000.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with a range of fiction published by US writers since 2000
  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with some of the main formal trends and innovations in 21st-century American writing
  • Examine key debates and critical contexts, including the ways in which transformations in contemporary American culture relate to recent American fiction.
  • Develop oral and written arguments that demonstrate a proficiency in critical thinking and research skills


Task Length % of module mark
Essay - 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

You will be given the opportunity to hand in a 1000 word formative essay in the term in which the module is taught (usually in the week 7 seminar). Material from this essay may be re-visited in your summative essay and it is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. This essay will be submitted in hard copy and your tutor will annotate it and return it two weeks later (usually in your week 9 seminar). Summary feedback will be uploaded to your eVision account


Task Length % of module mark
Essay - 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours
  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Texts studied on this module may include:

  • EGGERS, Dave. The Circle. London: Picador, 2014. ISBN: 978-0241146507
  • LERNER, Ben. 10.04. London: Granta, 2015. ISBN: 978-1847088932
  • POWERS, Richard. Generosity. New York: Atlantic, 2011. ISBN: 978-1848871274
  • SPIOTTA, Dana. Eat the Document. London: Picador, 2008. ISBN: 978-0330448291
  • WALDMAN, Amy. The Submission. London: Windmill, 2012. ISBN: 978-0099528241
  • WARD, Jesmyn. Salvage the Bones. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. ISBN: 978-1408897720
  • WHITEHEAD, Colson. Zone One. New York: Vintage, 2012. ISBN: 978-0099570141

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.