STARTING OUT: AN INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN LITERATURE

Starting Out: An Introduction to American Literature is a compulsory core module for English and American Literature students in their first year of study. I co-convened and lectured on this module, along with several other colleagues, in the second semester of 2017–18. I was responsible for designing and facilitating all of the seminars, with a total of 64 students.

WHAT ARE THE MODULE AIMS? 

The module functioned as a chronological survey designed to introduce students to prominent texts in American literature and some of its recurring themes and preoccupations, with a focus on the development of narrative forms. Students were encouraged to develop their reading practices in the light of a variety of critical approaches, including gender and critical race studies. The module also developed students' literary critical skills in order to lay the foundations for work in subsequent semesters.

INTENDED LEARNING OUTCOMES 

  • Identify a range of major authors and works

  • Understand and analyse key themes, issues, and problems in American literature 

  • Demonstrate a broad historical understanding of American literary production 

  • Demonstrate research and critical writing skills in relation to literary and theoretical texts 

  • Collaborate with other students to produce coherent oral responses to weekly discussion questions

TRANSFERABLE SKILLS

The module also equipped students with skills that are transferable to other areas in their university curriculum and beyond into the workplace. These skills include:

  • Independent research, preparation, organisation, and time management skills

  • An ability to negotiate and present ideas and information when working in a team 

  • Approaching all information critically and analytically 

  • Articulating knowledge and understanding of ideas in a range of formats, e.g. written and oral

MY ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES 

I designed and delivered teaching materials to help students achieve these Intended Learning Outcomes on a weekly basis during some lectures and all seminars, as well as in formal assessments throughout the module.

 

Each lecture and seminar focused on a new literary text and theory (including feminist and critical race theory), before setting focused group work that allowed students to develop ideas in conversation with one another.

 

The weekly activities were geared toward helping students learn to read and write for academic purpose, in the process enhancing their pleasure, knowledge, and confidence as readers of and writers on literature. As always, these sessions embedded creativity into the activities as a means to engage students in critical thinking about the texts.

I provided one-to-one consultation and 'feed-forward' feedback on student work in order to aid students in their personal learning development outside of formal class time.

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© 2023 by Aimee Merrydew