Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module ENGL40230: Twentieth-Century Jewish American Literature

Department: English Studies

ENGL40230: Twentieth-Century Jewish American Literature

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • Building upon analytic and persuasive skills acquired at undegraduate level, the module will introduce students to the cultural, religious, social, and historical forces that have shaped the writings (whether novel, novella, short story, or poetry) written by Jewish-Americans since the early part of the twentieth century to the present , from among Henry Roth, Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, E.L. Doctorow, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Philip Roth, Grace Paley, Adrienne Tich, Delamore Scharwz, and Allen Ginsberg.


  • This module will explore a range of representative fictional texts (poetry and prose) written by Jewish-American Writers since the 1930s. The aim of the module is to study the literary forms and preoccupations of Jewish-American Fiction immediately before and after the Second World War up until the close of the twentieth century. The approach will combine advanced formal literary analysis with a specialisd understanding of the various cultural, religous, political, and intellectual contexts reflected in and shaping the fiction of this period. Attention will be given both to continuities in the novel and poetic tradition and experimental uses of literary genre as well as new historical pressures arising from changes within Jewish and American culture before and after World War II (typically immigration, economic depression, and the Holocaust). Such historical forces have meant that the reality depicted in Jewish-American Fiction of twentieth century had increasingly become as much American as it is Jewish.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • From this course students will acquire and demonstrate an in-depth literary critical knowledge of the contradictory tensions (usually between assimilation and marginality, old work and new world values, communal and individual identity, religious orthodoxy and secularism) that persist in Jewish-American writing about either an anxiety over the loss of cultural identity o a divided sense of identity. Within this context, students will also appreciate the complexities of how Jewish-American writers have contributed to the wider development of literary forms and traditions both in American and Modern writing. By the end of the module, the students will evidence a sophisticarted knowledge of a number of literary texts, together with an advanced knowledge of issues of interpretation and reception as they affect the works of Jewish-American authors.
Subject-specific Skills:
    Key Skills:

      Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

      • Students are encouraged to develop advanced conceptual abilities and analytical skills as well as the ability to communicate an advanced knowledge and conceptual understanding within seminars; the capacity for advanced independent study is demonstrated through the completion of two assessed pieces of work.
      • Typically, directed learning may include assigning student(s) an issue, theme or topic that can be independently or collectively explored within a framework and/or with additional materials provided by the tutor. This may function as preparatory work for presenting their ideas or findings (sometimes electronically) to their peers and tutor in the context of a seminar.

      Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

      Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
      Seminars 9 Fortnightly 2 hours 18
      Independent student research supervised by the Module Convenor 10
      Preparation and Reading 272
      Total 300

      Summative Assessment

      Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
      Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
      Essay 3000 words 50%
      Essay 3000 words 50%

      Formative Assessment:

      One essay 2000 words.

      Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University