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HYM4430 - Perfecting America: Rhetoric, Reform and Reaction

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Mark Peel


Not offered in 2007


This unit examines the history of the United States through case studies of reform and reaction and in particular the ways in which these tended
to emphasise both the difficulty and the continuing mission of 'perfecting America'. Examples may include Progressivism, isolationism, responses to the Great Depression and the Second World War, anti-communism, movements for civil, women's and gay rights, cultural, social and religious conservatism, struggles over race, poverty and indigenous rights, abolitionism and moral reform, women's suffrage,
and agrarian populism. The unit will also examine the relationship between these movements and debates about America's role as a global power.


Students successfully completing HYM4430 will be expected to demonstrate a thorough grasp of the key differences and similarities in the assumptions, language and objectives of a range of social and cultural movements in the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and a comprehensive understanding of the links between movements of reform and reaction, the history of American perfectionism, and debates about America's place and role in the world. Further, they will be expected to show strong skills in: the critical reading of the rhetoric of reform and reaction in a variety of texts, including contemporary documents, polemical literature and visual representations and the historical scholarship based upon those texts; critical oral and written assessment of historians' methods, assumptions and uses of evidence in different interpretations of past movements of reform and reaction; and organising and defending a verbal and written argument. They will also be expected to show a capacity to devise, plan and successfully complete a detailed case study, based upon historical research, that critically examines and evaluates conclusions and contentions in the relevant historical scholarship; and to reflect upon and make critical use of a range of historical resources including, where relevant, on-line materials, film and visual images.


Tutorial presentation: 10%
Tutorial paper (2000 words): 20%
Research essay (5000 words): 50%
Reflective essay (2000 words): 20%

Contact hours

2 hour seminar per week