English - Elective Subject, topic 2: American Studies, American Politics, and American Society

Course content

This course combines two essential elements of interest to the student of the U.S. Martyn Bone’s component, “Introduction to American Studies,” trains its focus at the interdisciplinary mix of culture and literature in the US. Goddard’s component, “American Politics and Society,” analyses the interplay between governing structures, policy formation, and social outcomes. The two elements complement each other but run separately.


Component 1: Issues in Contemporary American History, Politics, and Society (Goddard)

“Issues in Contemporary American History, Politics, and Society” focuses on American politics and society as we approach the 2024 presidential elections. What fundamental political concepts unite and divide Americans? How adept has the U.S. political system been recently, in terms of accommodating the unconventional or reverting to the norm? Has Joe Biden’s administration re-established politics as normal? Answering the questions above requires knowledge of the US political system, how it works and how that system interacts with wider American culture outside of Washington, D.C. The course also explores the issues, preoccupations, and dreams that the nation addresses. Which issues excite American passions, political and social? How salient are race, ethnicity, gender, and class in contemporary America? How accessible is the American dream of mobility in an age of blinding and increasing diversity. Does the dream of personal equality and opportunity still hold credence? The component will foreground the present while using the period from 1970 onwards as context.


Component 2: Introduction to American Studies (Martyn Bone)

In this component of the valgfag course, we will take an interdisciplinary approach to aspects of U.S. literature and culture, with considerable reference to its historical context. We will consider not only J. Hector St. John de Crevecouer’s famous question “What is an American?” (from 1782’s Letters from an American Farmer) but also “What is American studies”? We will study the United States through the inter- and multi-disciplinary lens of American studies, while also considering the history and methodology of American studies itself—a scholarly field that has changed considerably over the last few decades. For example, we will consider (in the last few weeks of the course) the “transnational turn” in American studies, and how it might help us think about the U.S. and its culture at more global (Anglophone) scales.


We will analyze and discuss a wide range of primary texts in various cultural forms: sermons, essays, speeches, political documents, autobiographies, popular music, short stories, poetry, novels, films, and photography. These primary texts will be supplemented by secondary reading in relevant scholarship from American studies, literary studies, and other fields.


This course does not take a strictly chronological approach; nor does it try to adhere to or reaffirm traditional or canonical understandings of U.S. literature, culture, and history. Instead, the course will be divided into four sub-sections or sub-themes in which we will consider specific aspects of American literature and culture through both the primary texts and the secondary reading. Each of the four sub-themes will last for either three or four weeks; there will also be links between and across the four sub-themes. To facilitate connections with Dr. Goddard’s component, “Introduction to American Studies” will devote particular attention to the contemporary period.

Students are encouraged to see “Introduction to American Studies” as a course that will help to prepare them to take further courses in American literature, history, and culture at both the valgfag and MA level.



Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assessment

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 84
  • Preparation
  • 325,5
  • English
  • 409,5


Course number
Programme level

1 semester

See link to schedule
Study board of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting department
  • Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinators
  • Joseph Goddard   (7-6a726767647567436b7870316e7831676e)
  • Martyn Richard Bone   (4-6a77766d48707d7536737d366c73)
Saved on the 29-03-2023

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