ENGL211-24S2 (C) Semester Two 2024

Exceptional Americans: An Introduction to American Literature

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 15 July 2024
End Date: Sunday, 10 November 2024
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 28 July 2024
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 29 September 2024


This course offers students the chance to engage with some of the most exceptional writers and texts in the American tradition and, at the same time, to think critically about the idea of exceptionalism itself.

This course offers students the chance to engage with some of the most exceptional writers and texts in the American tradition and, at the same time, to think critically about the idea of exceptionalism itself. As we make our way from the optimistic romanticism of Emerson through to the dark gothic vision of Cormac McCarthy we will have a chance to consider the ways in which American writers have helped express, develop, and challenge some of the great motifs of the American imagination, especially as these relate to ideas about individualism, freedom, community, and nation. Put simply, this is a course that looks to think critically about the ways in which America has been imagined by writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Flannery O’Conner, Shirley Jackson, Toni Morrison, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Sherman Alexie (among others).

American literature is too diverse for any one course to cover comprehensively. Instead, ENGL211 focuses primarily on the prose and poetry of two strands of the American tradition: the romantic and the gothic. As students will come to see, to follow the ways in which these two strands thread their way from the nineteenth century to the present is to read something of the broad fabric of the culture – its defining ideas, antagonisms, and historical encounters, as well as some of its exceptional texts.

This course can be used towards an English major or minor. BA students who major in English would normally take at least two 100-level 15 point ENGL courses (which must include at least one of the following: ENGL117, ENGL102 or ENGL103), at least three 200-level 15 point ENGL courses, and at least two 300-level 30 point ENGL courses. Please see the BA regulations  or a student advisor for more information.

Learning Outcomes

  • To introduce students to the diversity of modern American literature;
  • To develop advanced critical reading and writing skills;
  • To familiarize students with the use of the terms ‘romanticism, ‘gothic’, and ‘exceptionalism’;
  • To increase knowledge of specific texts and their historical and cultural contexts
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.

      Employable, innovative and enterprising

      Students will develop key skills and attributes sought by employers that can be used in a range of applications.

      Globally aware

      Students will comprehend the influence of global conditions on their discipline and will be competent in engaging with global and multi-cultural contexts.


Any 15 points at 100 level from ENGL, or
any 60 points at 100 level from the Schedule V of the BA.


ENGL109 and AMST110

Timetable 2024

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Tuesday 14:00 - 15:00 E12
15 Jul - 25 Aug
9 Sep - 20 Oct
Lecture B
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Thursday 14:00 - 15:00 Psychology - Sociology 252 Lecture Theatre
15 Jul - 25 Aug
9 Sep - 20 Oct
Lecture C
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Friday 11:00 - 12:00 Rehua 101 Lectorial
15 Jul - 25 Aug
9 Sep - 20 Oct

Course Coordinator

Nicholas Wright


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Attendance and Participation 20%
Essay One 20% 1500 words
Essay Two 20% 1500 words
Take-Home Test 40% 2500 words

Textbooks / Resources

Set Texts | Pukapau Matua (in order of study):

• Toni Morrison, Jazz
• Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men
• Many of the poems and short stories covered in the course will be available on the Course’s Learn page.

(Image: "Jasper Johns - Three Flags (1958)" by Gandalf's Gallery, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.)

Course links

Library portal

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $844.00

International fee $3,950.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

Minimum enrolments

This course will not be offered if fewer than 25 people apply to enrol.

For further information see Humanities .

All ENGL211 Occurrences

  • ENGL211-24S2 (C) Semester Two 2024