AM4002 - Contemporary America

What will I learn on this module?

This module will introduce you to key aspects of contemporary US culture, history, and politics. Chronologically the course focuses on the period from 1992 to the present; in disciplinary terms it embraces economics, film, history, international relations, literature, music, performance, politics, sexuality, and visual culture; thematically, the module emphasizes the importance of racial, ethnic, gender, class and religious identities, consumerism and globalization, domestic and international configurations of US political, social, economic, and cultural power, and the politics of cultural representation in the media and popular culture. Adopting a variegated, multi- and interdisciplinary approach, the module enable you to combine an enhanced empirical knowledge of the contemporary US to useful interpretive frameworks such as postmodernism, queer theory, and globalization theory. The module is organized around a mixture of broad thematic surveys (e.g. Major Trends in Contemporary US Literature) and narrower case studies (e.g. The Challenges of Post-9/11 Literature).

How will I learn on this module?

The module will be team-taught, allowing you to take advantage of the specialist knowledge of a range of academic staff. It will be taught by a mixture of lectures and seminars.
In lectures you will be introduced to key ideas, events, and trends in contemporary US culture, history, and politics and to the relevant theoretical frameworks that will help you to interpret and understand them. Seminars will provide you with the opportunity to explore your own ideas and opinions through small-group exercises, presentations, and debate. Set reading and instructions for seminar preparation will direct your learning, helping you to examine and evaluate the ideas and approaches outlined in lectures.
In addition to learning during contact hours with the tutor and directed learning through seminar preparation, you will be expected to undertake independent learning. Independent learning generally will take the form of further reading and investigation, the consolidation of seminar notes, and revision/preparation for the assessment of the module. Assessments will allow you to develop both your knowledge of the discipline and skills that will help you succeed as you move into your second year. All assessments are designed to help you develop your critical, research, analytic and evaluative skills. Feedback on the formative (ungraded) essay plan is designed to help you hone your ideas in preparation for the essay component of the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Lectures will introduce you to the necessary concepts and contexts that will help you to develop your understanding of contemporary America and offer direction for further reading and research. The e-learning portal will provide helpful information about the module that you can draw on at any time. There you will find the module guide, which provides details of lectures, seminars, assessments and learning aims. You will also have access to the assessment criteria, a digital reading list, advice on how to present your written work, and all the presentation slides and handouts from lectures and seminars. The e-learning portal also contains information on the module tutor’s contact details and office hours. If you have any queries of concerns about the module or assessments you can speak to the tutor during lectures and seminars and also book an individual tutorial. Individual tutorials designed to help you prepare for your Independent Research Essay are built into the module programme in Semester 2.
Feedback from your earlier assessments will also provide you with advice on how to improve as you complete the assessments that follow. In addition, you have a designated Guidance Tutor throughout the entire duration of your programme. The academic side of the Guidance Tutor’s role includes:
• monitoring your ongoing academic progress
• helping you to develop self-reflection skills necessary for continuous academic development
• directing you to further available services which can help them with their academic skills (e.g. Library’s Skills Plus)

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Knowledge and understanding of key themes and issues in contemporary (post-1992) American culture and society
2. An understanding of the how particular texts fit into wider historical, social, political, and economic contexts.
Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. The development of critical and analytical skills through the close study of a variety of contemporary US texts, institutions, events, and practices
4. The ability to express ideas and arguments in a range of different formats and academic settings.
Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
5. The development of cultural awareness and sensitivity through learning about the diversity of contemporary identities, ideas, beliefs and practices, particularly those relating to religion, gender and sexuality.

How will I be assessed?

Formative (practice) assessment

You will be invited to submit a formative essay plan. You will receive written feedback on this to help you to coherently structure, appropriately source, and correctly format your essay. This will address MLOs 1, 2, 3, and 5.

Summative (graded) assessment

You will submit a portfolio of work that includes the following:

1. 3 x 400-word blogs on the e-learning portal.
The best two marks from the three blogs are worth 30% of the module grade.

Each blog will use a contemporary news story, drawn from one or more of the approved online media resources, as a hook for considering a major theme in the contemporary US. Students must complete at least one blog relating to the following broad themes: US politics; US culture and US identity politics (including race, class, religion, gender, sexuality).
This will address MLOs 1, 3, and 5.

2) 1 x 1,200-word essay from a list provided in the module guide (30%).

The essay allows the students to explore an aspect of Contemporary US in greater detail than is possible in the blogs and to demonstrate a capacity for independent research, effective writing, and appropriate use of scholarly apparatus.
This will address MLOs 1, 2, 3, and 5.

3) Students will sit a final exam (worth 40% of the module mark), comprising a multiple choice test and one essay questions (chosen from five options). The unseen exam is designed to test the students’ grasp of the overarching aims, factual substance, and intellectual challenges of the module.
This will address MLOs 1, 2, 3 and 5.

Collectively, this combination of different assessment formats will address MLO 4.





Module abstract

Please find details of this module in the other sections provided

Course info

UCAS Code T710

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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