HENK00003U English - Free topic 3: The American Century: Multidisciplinary Perspectives

Volume 2018/2019

The term, “the American Century,” was coined by Henry Luce, the publisher of popular American magazines such as Time. He wrote, “American jazz, Hollywood movies, American slang, American machines and patented products, are in fact the only things that every community in the world, from Zanzibar to Hamburg, recognized in common. Blindly, unintentionally, accidentally and really in spite of ourselves, we are already a world power in all the trivial ways – in very human ways. But there is a great deal more than that. America is already the intellectual, scientific and artistic capital of the world.” (Henry Luce, 1941).


In this course, we will look at twentieth century America and the ways in which it developed in literary, historical and political terms. How and in what ways did the American Century come about? How did it manifest itself? How was it discussed by American intellectuals, and how was it represented by American artists and writers? Has the American Century now ended, and are other superpowers, especially China, about to take over as hegemonic power(s) in the twenty-first century? These are among the main questions to be asked and debated throughout the course.

The course will possibly include (subject to change):

Lecture: The US at the turn of the 19th century

Engerom seminar: Women’s Literature at the Turn of the Century

Readings: C. Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” 1892 and K. Chopin, “The Story of an Hour,” 1894; S.M. Gilbert, "Literary Paternity"


Lecture: The US in the 1920s and ‘30s

Engerom seminar: Disillusionment

Readings: F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925; L. Wilson, Modernism, 2007, pp. 69-96                   


Lecture: Civil rights

Engerom seminar: African American Literature

Readings: L. Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun, 1959 (drama)


Lecture and Engerom Seminar: Postmodern American Literature

Readings: P. Auster, The New York Trilogy, 1987


Lecture: Trump: Deregulating the administrative state and the loss of US ‘Soft Power’ abroad

Engerom seminar: Multicultural America

Readings: G. Anzuldúa, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” in Borderlands/La Frontera, 1987

Learning Targets
Students should develop general skills in:
• Applying theories, methods and tools of relevance to the study of American twentieth-century literature and culture
• Discussing opposing interpretations of events and debates concerning American twentieth-century history and culture;
• Identifying, analyzing and understanding the major issues of importance to the study of American twentieth-century literature and culture.
• Choosing a relevant topic within American twentieth-century on which to focus their written and oral contribution at the student conference following the course;
• Helping organize and plan this conference;
• Disseminating the knowledge they have acquired during the course to their peers, including students in another area of study than their own;

The course consists of two weekly double sessions (that is, 4 hrs per week):
1. a lecture series given partly by staff from Engerom and Saxo and partly by invited speakers attended by students from both departments
2. a seminar for Engerom students focusing principally on literary and cultural aspects of ‘The American Century’. A similar seminar series focusing on the historical, political and legal aspects will be offered at SAXO.
This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 353,5
  • Total
  • 409,5
Type of assessment
Portfolio, A joint portfolio for both courses uploaded in digital exam: Deadline January 9th 2019
Exam form: a portfolio consisting of
• A power point presentation at a joint SAXO and Engerom student conference based on a synopsis and bibliography (3- 5 pages) The synopsis must be handed in in week 46 and the conference will take place at the end of term; counts as ½ of the final grade.
• Final essay (11-15 pages) on set question(s) to be uploaded by week 22; counts as ½ of the final grade.
Exam registration requirements

This course only leads to exams Free Topic 1, Free Topic 2 and Free Topic 3.

Criteria for exam assesment