ENG32270 Pursuits of Happiness: Fictions of America Since 1945

Academic Year 2023/2024

This course will introduce students to a selection of US fiction from the post-WWII period to contemporary fiction on conflict, and will analyse these works as representations of and responses to "conflicts" both beyond the borders of the United States and within US society and culture itself. The course will examine "war" as a historical event and cultural trope in this period, and will encourage students to consider the possibilities and limitations of such a model for discussions of US culture in this period.
Topics and themes to be addressed will include:
the aftermath of World War 2, its legacy in later conflict narratives
mythologies and US "national culture";
postmodern(ist) writing;
trauma, narrative and cultural memory;
representations of race, ethnicity and gender;
media, mediation and popular culture;
ecocriticism and the anthropocene.
We will also pay close attention to broader questions of cultural production, including
questions of form and genre;
post-war", "(post)postmodern" and "contemporary" as literary categories;
canon formation and disruption;
the role of the author in contemporary culture.

Please note that students are expected to read and engage with ALL texts on this course, including a number of long novels, and are required to attend ALL seminars. Students will be assessed throughout this course by means of group and writing tasks, as well as attendance and participation in class.This course is delivered in seminar format, and not as lectures. As such, there are no tutorials associated with this course.

*** This is a third-year course, and will be examined as such***

PLEASE NOTE that the School of English, Drama and Film reserves the right to withdraw modules in the period up to and including the first week of the teaching trimester.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to
Demonstrate a critical understanding of the issues raised on this course;
Identify and engage in key critical and theoretical contexs;
Apply such contexts to analysis of the texts under discussion;
Develop responses to this fiction with reference to other courses and other disciplines;
Engage in class discussion and debates;
Complete an extended essay on a topic related to the course.

Indicative Module Content:

This module covers a wide range of texts from a period of intense cultural change. We will mainly work with novels and short fiction, and authors may include Kurt Vonnegut, Shirley Jackson, Toni Morrison, Lydia Davis, Louise Erdrich, Anne Tyler, David Foster Wallace, George Saunders and Porochista Khakpour, among others.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning


Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
In-class discussions
Short lectures
Group and peer work
Written responses
Close reading
Pairing of text and theory
Independent reading 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Students are required to engage with feedback provided on essay plan assessment - this is intended to promote reflection for formative assessment and to discourage plagiarism and AI reliance. Week 10 n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale No


Assignment: Essay plan and preliminary bibliography Week 8 n/a Graded No


Journal: Students are required to engage with feedback provided on creative response assessment - this is intended to promote reflection for formative assessment and to discourage plagiarism and AI reliance. Week 7 n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale No


Essay: End-of-semester essay that allows students to display their understanding of the course themes and texts, building on feedback from mid-semester work on sources and essay plan. Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Assignment: Creative response assignment Week 4 n/a Graded No


Journal: Associated with the creative assessment project, this is a reflective report on the student’s experience. Week 4 n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Continuous Assessment: Contribution to discussions and in-class written responses Throughout the Trimester n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale No


Carry forward of passed components
Remediation Type Remediation Timing
Repeat Within Two Trimesters
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Students will receive general feedback in class, covering common themes and issues, as well as individual feedback after each assignment (one of which works as an outline for the final essay). Students will also undertake both self-assessment and peer review activities in class.

Name Role
Dr Tim Groenland Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Thurs 12:00 - 13:50
Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 Thurs 12:00 - 13:50