nl en

Literature 5A: American Literature, 1917 to the present


Admission requirements

Successful completion of Literature 1A, 1B, 2 and 3 or equivalent.


Although the U.S. did not enter the war until 1917, World War I was a watershed in American culture. Marking the end of the old order, the “Great War” gave rise to feelings of both alienation and liberation. Young authors like Pound, Eliot, Hemingway, and Faulkner attest to the widespread sense of anxiety and uncertainty. While their works reflect a longing for the values and traditions of a “lost” civilization, they also seize the opportunity to break with literary conventions and “make it new.” These American writers responded and gave shape to the international Modernist movement that had emerged in Europe in the early 1900s. Modernist symbols such as T.S. Eliot’s “Waste Land,” mythological motifs, and experimental literary techniques such as fragmentation, shifting perspectives, and “stream of consciousness” as well as the new medium of film had a profound impact on American (and European) literature throughout the twentieth century, as modernism gradually shaded into postmodernism after World War II. Reading works by male and female, white, black and Chicana authors, we will also study the ways in which changing perceptions of gender, race, and ethnicity inform the literature of multi-ethnic and multicultural America. We’ll end by discussing recent post-9/11 literature in the context of trauma theory and new genres such as the graphic novel.

Course objectives

Having completed this course: – Students have insight in (the relationship between) the most important literary movements in 20th-century American literature (until the present). – Students can place 20th century American literature in the context of American history and society, and global cultural debates. – Students can apply textual analysis skills, also to media such as film, tv series, and new genres such as the graphic novel.


The timetable will be available by June 1st on the website

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Essay of 2000 words (25%), group presentation (25%) and written exam (50%)


At least two weeks before the course starts, the Blackboard site will be open for self-enrolment. There you can find the course syllabus. See Blackboard

Reading list

Norton Anthology of American Literature (NAAL), 7th or 8th ed. volumes D and E (Norton)
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (Scribner)
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (Penguin)
Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (Norton)
Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Vintage).
Toni Morrison, Beloved (Penguin).
Sandra Cisneros, The House On Mango Street (Vintage).
Art Spiegelman, Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale (Pantheon)
Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Penguin).
Matthew Weiner et al., Mad Men season 1 (DVD 2007)


Students should register through uSis. Exchange students cannot register through uSis, but must see the director of studies and register with her. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte
Registration Contractonderwijs


Departmental Office English Language and Culture, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 102C. Tel. 071 5272144; mail:
Co-ordinator of Studies: Ms T.D. Obbens, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 103C.


This is the third of a series of three courses on American Literature, but it can also be followed separately.