Course Descriptions

Course Catalog for AMERICAN STUDIES
AMST 201
American Identities
The central focus of this course will be American identities—the various ways in which Americans have defined themselves, and have been defined. We will proceed chronologically, looking at contact between Amerindians, Puritans, and Cavaliers; the creation of a national identity; the contested meanings of race, class, gender, and ethnicity; and the role played by such forces as religion, region, technology, and empire. The course will also serve to introduce students to some of the central themes, theories, and sources of American studies, and interdisciplinary approach to the study of American culture. Readings will include poems, essays, autobiographies, novels, images, films, and the interpretive work of scholars in a number of disciplines.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 203
Conflicts and Cultures in American Society
Focusing on a key decade in American life—the 1890s, for example, or the 1850s—this course will examine the dynamics of race, class, gender, and ethnicity as forces that have shaped, and been shaped by, American culture. How did various groups define themselves at particular historical moments? How did they interact with each other and with American society? Why did some groups achieve hegemony and not others, and what were—and are—the implications of these dynamics for our understanding of American culture? By examining both interpretive and primary documents—novels, autobiographies, works of art, and popular culture—we will consider these and other questions concerning the production of American culture.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 208
Comic Art and Culture in the U.S.
This course provides an introduction to comic art and culture in the U.S., from the beginnings of the newspaper comic strip through the development of comic books, the growth of graphic novels, and current developments in electronic media. It focuses on the history and aesthetics of the medium, and the social, cultural and historical contexts in which comic art is created and consumed. Course requirements will include a midterm, final, and two short papers.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 210
Doing Culture: Methods in Cultural Analysis
Culture is not something we simply consume, inhabit or even create. Culture is serious business: pun both intended and upended. We have a dynamic relationship with the world around us and in this class we will use culture, both elite and popular, to help bridge the gap between what we do here in the “ivory tower” and how we live out there in the “real world,” hopefully changing both in the process. Here we will not take culture for granted but engage culture as a method, a tool by which to engage, analyze and critique both historical narratives and contemporary events. In this course, street life, advertisements, popular media, and clothing are interrogated as archives of dynamic meaning, arenas of social interaction, acts of personal pleasure, and sites of struggle. We will also explore what happens when a diversity of forces converge at the intersection of commerce and culture. Present day notions of popular culture, and topics such as authenticity and selling out, will be interrogated both socially and historically.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 212
Introduction to Disability Studies: Theory and History
This course offers a rigorous interdisciplinary introduction to Disability Studies. We will look at the history of disability studies as it emerged in relation to the Civil Rights movement. We will consider how the efforts of disability activists and scholars have shaped disability studies and how this field informs and is also informed by other disciplines, such as Performance and Trauma Studies. We will examine how disability has been defined over time and how particular definitions of disability intersect with other aspects of identity, such as socio-economic class, race and/or ethnicity, sexuality and gender. In addition to reading and critiquing history and theory, we will also look at a variety of “disability texts” that will include various genres, such as fiction, memoir, film, and drama.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 220
The Child in American Culture
We will examine representations of "the Child" in American culture from the Puritan period to the present. How have conceptions of childhood changed over time? How do economic status and labor influence depictions of children? What are some symbolic roles of the Child in our culture? Our course will focus on literary texts, archival materials, and visual culture, including art, photographs, and other media.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 227
Blacks and American National Politics
This course will introduce students to the experience of black Americans in the national political arena during the 20th century. We will analyze black involvement in clientage politics (Booker T. Washington), interest group politics (NAACP) and electoral politics (the Jackson campaigns). We will also examine black involvement in radical or reform-minded political movements (the gay rights movement, feminist politics, etc.). The intent of this course is to enable students to render reasonable assessments of historical and current black political strategies.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 228
Black Politics in Urban America
This class will introduce students to the history of black involvement in city politics during the 20th century. Because most of the early 20th century politicization of blacks took place in northern urban areas, we will analyze in depth the involvement of northern blacks in machine politics. We will also compare the political situation of blacks in cities with those of white ethnic groups.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 231
Presley, Dylan, Springsteen, and the Poetics of Rock and Roll
This course examines the musical and social meaning of three icons in the history of rock 'n' roll and American culture. It has been said that Presley freed a generation's body, Dylan unlocked a generation's mind, and Springsteen has been working on a generation's soul. We will delve deeply into the music and lyrics of each artist and study each figure as someone who shaped the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. In addition to an intensive exploration of the music, sources will include published interviews, documentaries, and interpretive works by scholars and critics such as Peter Guarlnick, Greil Marcus, Christopher Ricks, Dave Marsh, and June Sawyers.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 248
Female Bodies in 19th Century American Literature & Culture
Corsets, bloomers, hysteria, mammy, jezebel, gynecology, angel on the hearth, suffragette: these are just a few of the garments, labels, cures, and stereotypes applied to women's bodies during the last century. By reading women's fiction and autobiography, we will explore how race, class, ethnicity, and gender operated in 19th century America and examine moments of resistance to prevailing definitions of femininity. For English majors, this course satisfies a requirement of a course emphasizing cultural content.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 252
From Civil Rights to Black Power
The course will focus on the attempt of African Americans to secure full civil rights protections. In particular, it examines African-American struggles for freedom and social equality from 1954, when the watershed decision in Brown v. Board of Education was handed down, until the early 1970's, when the rhetoric of black militancy held sway. Throughout this twenty-year period, black Americans repeatedly discovered that de jure equality didn't always guarantee equal opportunity in their everyday lives. The stark reality of de facto discrimination led many African-American activists to re-define their goals and re-think their strategies. In this course, we will trace shifts in black protest tactics from lobbying and legislation, to direct non-violent action, to more radical and militant approaches, paying close attention to the changing definitions of African-American freedom and citizenship that were articulated. The course uses a variety of materials, including autobiographies, executive orders, judicial decisions, biographies, histories of specific aspects of the civil rights struggle, journalistic accounts (news footage, magazines, and newspapers), documentaries, and artistic expression of the time (e.g., music, poetry, literature).
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 254
Ellison’s Invisible Man and the Black Modern Experience
This class interrogates the text and contexts of Ralph Ellison’s iconic novel Invisible Man. Specifically, bringing historical and cultural analysis to bear on a single work of fiction, this course surveys key themes in the Black modern experience from 1899 to 1950 including migration, urbanization, the black modern aesthetic, black radicalism, and black nationalism. Ultimately, Ellison crafted a text of profound social commentary through experimentation with archival evidence and literary form. This class reconstructs the intellectual, aesthetic, and historical production of an American classic.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 255
American Icons
This course will look at modern American culture by examining some of its major icons – from Ellis Island to World War II, the atomic bomb to the suburbs, the Vietnam War to Muhammad Ali, 1980s pop music to the Super Bowl. We will do so with the assumption that these icons are windows into broader questions over American identity, values, ideologies, politics, and culture.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 255
Culture Clash
What is culture, and how do we go about studying it? When did the idea of culture come into being, and how has it changed over time? What kind of politics are cultural politics, and are they real politics or a distraction from real politics? Do we still have an American culture today? Is there a difference between culture and entertainment? What happens when cultures conflict or collide? These are just a few of the questions students will wrestle with in this introduction to cultural studies. Combining historical and theoretical accounts with readings of music, visual culture, and literature, this course will give students the tools they need to think critically about the increasingly complex world they inhabit.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 258
Law in United States Society
“The law is made for the times, and it will be made or modified by them,” declared a jurist in 1839. This course will examine the ways in which the law is constructed. What are the connections between legal rules and larger social transformations? Who makes the law and how do legal norms change over time? We will study such questions by focusing on three case studies—the criminal law of slavery, the law as it related to economic development in the 19th century, and the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). We will probe these issues through a close examination of case materials, memoirs, analytical essays, and historical accounts.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 263
The American Civil Rights Movement
African Americans and their allies have long struggled to win equal rights and equal opportunities in America. We will examine the course of that struggle in the twentieth century, focusing primarily on the period 1950-1968. We will consider questions of urbanization, employment, racism, politics, violence, non-violence, Black Power and the notion of “race blindness.” The end of the course will be spent considering the present day. What has been resolved, and what issues remain? Are there new challenges to achieving racial equality in the U.S? Have we become “post-racial” yet, and do we want to be?
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 270
Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States
This course introduces several major authors, movements, and genres which represent the American multi-ethnic experience. Taking a comparative approach to develop our understanding of ethnic American communities and their literary productions, we will examine a variety of topics, including historical contexts, the politics of language, multiculturalism, gender, coming of age, and performance. Select authors may include Sherman Alexie, Anzia Yezierska, Gloria Naylor, Francisco Jimenez, and Andrew Pham
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 275
The West in American Culture: Symbols, Myths, and Realities
This course investigates the cultural meanings and the lived experiences associated with the American West. Themes for the course include Frederick Jackson Turner’s notion of the frontier and American exceptionalism, the use of Western myths and symbols in American culture, race relations and the historical experiences of racial minorities, regional development and its relationship to federal power, and political movements such as women’s suffrage, environmentalism, and conservatism.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 279
American Autobiography
With its scandals, rags-to-riches tales, and liberal attitude toward the truth, autobiography has long enjoyed a reputation as America's favorite literary genre. In this class, we will examine the ways in which a diverse group of Americans has used autobiography to present stories of individual self-fashioning and group experience. Our readings will be eclectic in the extreme, ranging from canonical works by Ben Franklin, Frederick Douglass, and Gertrude Stein, to more recent work by Maxine Hong Kingston, Samuel Delany, and Vogue magazine's editor-at-large, Andre Leon Talley.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 280
Baseball and American Culture
Walt Whitman called baseball "America's game" and said it "belongs as much to our institutions...as our constitutions." And the critic Jacques Barzun claimed "whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball." Focusing on literature, history, and film, this course examines the origins and meanings of baseball in America. We will examine such topics as the game's 19th-century beginnings and its connections to urban and rural life, its role as an agent of social and legal change (desegregation and free agency), the globalization of the game, and the controversy over steroids. Throughout, we will think about baseball as an expression of the American dream.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 284
Food and American Culture
What we eat and how we eat reflect more than basic physical needs, and food has long played influential roles in defining and representing American culture, identities, and nationalism. Our course will begin by examining the history of the Thanksgiving feast and conclude with contemporary movements in organic and farm-to-table eating. As we explore foods' implications for Americanism, gender, class, and age, our topics of study will include defining edibles and non-edibles, immigrant influences, food and technology, American farming, diet fads, school lunches and gardens, hunger in America and food regulations. Our class will work with the nearby Billings Forge community to learn more about food's roles in family life and social reforms, including urban renewal.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 285
Born in Blood: Violence and the Making of America
This course explains how violence has made modern America and belongs alongside liberty, democracy, freedom, and equality in the pantheon of American political and cultural ideals. Using figures such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Dwight Eisenhower, and events from the American Revolution to the era of Civil Rights, "Born in Blood" situates state sanctioned violence against American citizens as a definitive force in American life.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 289
Culture of Sports: Politics, Economics, Sociology
Through critical examination of various sports, unique eras, and individual athletes, Culture of Sports: Politics, Economics, and Sociology will dissect the reciprocal role of sport within the societal and historical context in which it arose and evolved. Using individual eras, teams, players, and managerial positions, we will explore the dynamic of the greater socio-economic paradigms at work. Issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, politics, and economics will be thoroughly explored as students are provided the skill set necessary to analyze society throughout our rich and dynamic history. Particular attention will be paid to contemporary American sport; students are expected to draw meaningful comparisons to current events.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 291
Protest Movements in Modern America
This course will examine the culture of American protest movements. We will use a variety of primary source texts – speeches, images, literature, platforms, films – to explore the connections between protest movements and American culture and society. We will see how people, when organized and mobilized, have changed history and re-shaped the cultural and political meanings of ideas like freedom, justice, and democracy. Some of the movements we will examine include Populism, Progressivism, First- and Second-Wave Feminism, Labor and the New Deal, the Black Freedom Struggle, Gay Rights, the Vietnam antiwar movement, the Conservative ascendency, immigrant rights, and Occupy Wall Street.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 298
Contemporary Issues in Hip-Hop Culture
This course will examine the evolution of hip hop music and culture (Graffiti art, B-boying [break-dancing], DJ-ing, and MC-ing) from its birth in 1970s New York to its global and commercial explosion during the late 1990s. Students learn to think critically about both hip hop culture, and about the historical, commercial, and political contexts in which hip hop culture took, and continues to take, shape. Particular attention is paid to questions of race, masculinity, authenticity, consumption, commodification, globalization, and good, old-fashioned funkiness.
0.50 units, Lecture
AMST 301
Junior Seminar: American Texts
This course, required for the American studies major and ordinarily taken in the fall of the junior year, examines central texts in American history and culture. Through intensive discussion and writing, the class will explore the contexts of these works as well as the works themselves, paying particular attention to the interrelated issues of race, class, gender, and other similarly pivotal social constructs. Course is open only to American studies majors.
Prerequisite: C- or better in American Studies 203 or AMST 210 or concurrent enrollment.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 302
Junior Seminar II: Studies in American Culture
This course, required for the American Studies major and ordinarily taken in the fall of the junior year concurrent with American Studies 301, examines a particular cultural institution in its changing social, political and economic contexts. It considers the way race, class, gender and other constructions shaped the institution, as well as the ways those constructions were themselves shaped by each other and by larger social forces. Examples of cultural institutions include minstrelsy, romance fiction, Hollywood, jazz, and the Black press. Students will examine the forces that created the cultural institution under discussion, and how they change it over time. Course open only to American Studies majors.
Prerequisite: C- or better in American Studies 203 or concurrent enrollment. This course is open only to American Studies majors and is required for the major. It is ordinarily taken in the fall of the junior year concurrently with American Studies 301.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 309
Music and Culture in the Postwar City
What do we make of musical proliferation in U.S. cities after 1945? Rhythm and blues, country music, rock and roll, experimental jazz, soul, funk, salsa, hip hop, and punk are just some of many musical styles that took shape in urban and suburban settings. The postwar city ushered in new musical styles and vocabularies that gave voice to, and provided expression from, for, and about urbanized sectors of the United States. How did migrant waves of people and their rural cultures change music in the city? How did the city change their music? What did the newly configured city do for cultural forms? Through various readings in primary and secondary sources, we will explore how cities helped fashion certain musical styles over others and investigate the local and cultural politics that shaped them.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 323
The Trouble With Normal: An Introduction to Queer Theory
This course provides an introduction to queer theory, a set of theoretical and critical practices that have recently transformed the study of gender and sexuality. Reading rebelliously within the canon, it stages an encounter between some of the most influential queer theorists (Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Eve Sedgwick, and Michael Warner) and a series of canonical texts drawn from nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature. The purpose of this encounter is to bring greater historicity to queer theory while deepening students' understanding of the place of sexuality in the American literary past. Novels include Billy Budd, The Awakening, The Ambassadors, The Professor's House, Passing, The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, and Nightwood.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 326
Representations of Miscegenations
The course examines the notion of miscegenation (interracial relations), including how the term was coined and defined. Using an interdisciplinary approach, we will consider the different and conflicting ways that interracial relations have been represented, historically and contemporaneously, as well as the implications of those varied representations. Examining both primary and secondary texts, including fiction, film, legal cases, historical criticism, and drama, we will explore how instances of interracial contact both threaten and expand formulations of race and “Americanness” in the U.S. and beyond. How is miscegenation emblematic of other issues invoked, such as gender, nation, and sexuality? How do enactments of interracial contact complicate the subjects that they “stage”?
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 329
Viewing The Wire Through a Critical Lens
Through analysis and dissection of David Simon's The Wire, this course seeks to equip students with the tools necessary to examine our postmodern society. The Wire seamlessly juxtaposes aesthetics with socio-economic issues, offering up a powerful lens for investigating our surroundings. Whether issues of unregulated free market capitalism, the bureaucracy of our school systems, politics of the media, false notions of equal opportunity, devaluation of human life, or a failed war on drugs, The Wire addresses the complexities of American urban life. Through a socio-political and cultural reading of the five individual seasons, students will be able to explore a multitude of contemporary problems.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 331
Politics and Society in 20th Century South
This class will introduce students to the broad centuries of political life in the American South during the 20th century. We will discuss the proliferation of demagogues within the electoral arena of the one-party South as well as movements which opposed them (e.g., populism). We will also study the centrality of race, religion, and regionalism in southern life. In addition we will explore the troubled history of organized labor in the region and its relationship to the macroeconomic changes that took place in the region as urbanization and industrialization made an agrarian economy less central. Finally, we will discuss the idea of the South as marketed in films and television. The course will consist of lectures, class discussions, and regularly scheduled films/documentaries that will be viewed during special evening sessions.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 332
Road Trip: Travel and Migration in the American Novel
Whether figured as a search for identity, a search for freedom, or a search for work, the road novel has been among the most popular genres in American literature. Although the means of conveyance have changed from the schooner and the horse to cars, airplanes, and the Internet, movement in American literature has served as a metaphor for American freedom, and proof of its denial. Divided evenly between the 19th and the 20th centuries, this course will feature authors including Parkman, Douglass, Melville, and Twain to Steinbeck, Kerouac, Morrison, Cormac McCarthy, and Junot Diaz.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 332
Credit and Crisis
This course explores the concepts of credit and crisis amid the global expansion of U.S. capitalism. From intimate struggles with indebtedness to grand projects of nation building, we will interrogate how discourses of debt have informed our commonplace social categories across scales. Readings will trace the historical and geographical transformation of the U.S., from its role as a debtor to its emergence as a creditor nation. It will consider how the vexed notion of American “inheritance” has related to the expansion of credit and deepening of economic crises. Through film, literature, and scholarly analysis it will trace how economic crisis and the concept of “failure” can be seen through the lens of personal identities; separating those who could assume risk from those deemed "at risk."
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 333
Women of Color in the United States
Focusing primarily on African American, Native American, Latin American, and Asian American women, this course will examine the cultural, economic, and political histories of women of color in the United States. Major themes will include immigration, labor, family, education, social movements, and civil rights.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 335
The Play's the Thing: Staging Race in African American Theater and Drama
This course examines both historical and contemporary African American performance/drama. What does it mean to perform “blackness”? How do these performances overlap with other aspects of identity, such as nation, gender, and class? The course will consider early enactments of race in minstrel shows to later theatrical representations that engage with important cultural moments, such as slavery, Emancipation, Harlem Renaissance, Civil rights, feminism, and AIDS. In addition to our focus dramatic texts, by authors such as Hansberry, Wilson, Parks, Baldwin, and Deavere-Smith, we will also consider how these works intersect with other performative sites, such as the visual representations of Kara Walker, the dance performances of Bill T. Jones and the filmic depictions of Julia Dash and Spike Lee.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 336
Globalization(s): "America" in the Modern World
Our current moment of global crisis forces us to reckon with the contradictions of globalization. What does globalization mean? How can we trace its history? This course examines the roots of globalization through the twentieth century: from liberal democracy and communist internationalism to Bandung humanism, fascism, and global capitalism. It explores U.S. social movements, their organization and interpretations, as a site to uncover how America was depicted and understood throughout the world. These movements developed and subsequently imagined visions of freedom, governance, justice, and progress that could themselves be globalized. Through literature, film, poetry, and more, this course examines the transnational interaction of social movements within a global sphere.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 337
Sexual Labors in the United States
This course will analyze and examine the intersection of sex and work in the United States. We will explore sexual labors—prostitution, sexual acting and performance, forced and voluntary sexual labor—in the contexts of U.S. history, culture, economy, politics, and society. We will examine efforts to criminalize and decriminalize sex work, subcultures of sex workers, and dynamics of power in sex work through the lenses of socioeconomic class, gender, and sexuality. To do so, we will trace historical and current constructions of sex (as) work through a blend of sources—diaries and letters, film, music, popular literature, and secondary analysis.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 340
The Body in 19th Century American Culture
We will explore representations of the body in relation to American identities, including controlling ethnic bodies through slavery and exotic exhibits, as well as defining gender ideals by conflating the female body with corsets and hysteria and the male with the "strong man" aesthetic. Although anxious about ill bodies in the tenements and disfigured ones in factories, Americans were also fascinated by the extremes of the human body as indicated by the popularity of sideshows, magicians, and miracle cures. Our materials will include literary texts, art studies, and popular media. We will discuss such writers and artists as Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Catherine Beecher, William Sydney Mount, John Gadsby Chapman, and Lily Martin Spencer.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 341
Spectacle of Disability in American Culture
This course examines how people with disabilities are represented in American literature and culture. Whether it is the exceptional savant who is heralded as a hero because of her "special" abilities or the critically injured person whose disability relegates him to the sidelines of society even though his ability to overcome everyday challenges is applauded from a distance, definitions of disabilities (both generally and explicitly) tell us a great deal about the concept of normalcy and the expectations that we attach to this term. In addition, the various narratives associated with different disabilities and their origins are shaped by other aspects of identity, such as socio-economic class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender. We will look at a variety of mediums including fiction, non-fiction, film, television, and memoirs in order to examine how these representations, along with the material realities of disabled people, frame our society's understanding of disability and the consequences of these formulations. We look at texts and cases such as Million Dollar Baby, the Terry Sciavo case, Born on a Blue Day, Forrest Gump, the American Disabilites Act, the Christopher Reeves story, and Radio.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 346
Sexuality, Nation, Race, and Gender
This course examines how cultural production generates and sustains “normalcy” and abnormality in a variety of representational arenas in the U.S., such as sites of cultural production (literature, drama, film, television, music, etc.), medical and educational institutions, and familial structures. It also considers how individual and intersecting diversities, such as sex, race, gender, and class, inform both representations and lived experience. To do this is to destabilize the line that separates normalcy from abnormalcy. In doing so we will denaturalize and critique the often invisible processes that determine who and what gets classified as “normal.” Where is the line drawn between inclusion and exclusion? Texts include: Helen Oyeyemi's Boy, Snow, Bird and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson's Staring: How We Look.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 347
Issues & Controversies in Contemporary Black Life
The course examines racial inequality in the post-civil rights era as it is manifested in American culture, society, and policy and analyzes the politics surrounding the major public debates that affect black Americans and the nation today. Topics include: the origins of the urban crisis; welfare reform and the black family; drug legislation, crime, incarceration, and capital punishment; immigration; education; affirmative action; class stratification; and rap and censorship. Divisions within the black community as well as between black and white Americans will be addressed.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 348
Thought and Culture in American Society
This course offers a survey of American intellectual and cultural history in the 19th century, from the decades following the Revolutionary War to the early years of the 20th century. Among the various “isms” we will unpack are republicanism, evangelicalism, transcendentalism, individualism, populism, pragmatism, and progressivism. Readings will include works by Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, William James, Ida Wells, Jane Addams, Jack London, and others.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 352
The Culture of Cold War America
This course encourages students to critically analyze the relationship between the Cold War and developments in American culture. Discussion topics include the roots of the Cold War, the anxieties concerning nuclear annihilation, the fear of global and domestic communism, representations of the Cold War in social memory, political dissent and cultural politics during the Cold War, and the impact of the Cold War on gender norms, civil rights, and labor relations. In addition to reading historical monographs, students will interpret the era’s popular culture.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 355
Urban Mosaic: Migration, Identity, and Politics
This course focuses on ethnic and racial communities in 20th-century urban areas. Readings allow students to assess and to compare the ways in which ethnicity and race impacted how people lived and worked in the city (e.g., ethnic neighborhoods, segmented labor, and racially exclusive unions). They also reveal how ethnic and racial communities defined their interests when they engaged in political activities. Discussion themes include identity politics, intergroup relations, cultural life within ethnic and racial communities, employment discrimination, and residential segregation.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 357
Race and Urban Space
Scholars and now even the larger public have conceded that race is a social construct. However, many are just beginning to fully explore how the specific dimensions and use of space is mediated by the politics of racial difference and racial identification. Therefore, this course seeks to explore how racism and race relations shape urban spatial relations, city politics, and the built environment and how the historical development of cities has shaped racial identity as lived experience. Covering the 20th century, the course examines three critical junctures: Ghettoization (1890s-1940s); Metropolitan Formation (1940s-1990s); and Neo-Liberal Gentrification (present).
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 358
Voices of Freedom, Voices of Desperation: American Reformers, 1760-1960
This course examines the public and private works of select American reformers. From Tom Paine and Ida Wells to Rachel Carson and Bob Dylan, reformers have been selfless and selfish in their quest to better America. Noble activist? Attention-starved loon? In this class, you will judge individual musicians, politicians, and writers while exploring how changing views on religion, economy, gender, science, and race, time and again, reshaped the trajectory of American social reform.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 359
Violence in the American Imagination
"We have front row seats for the theater of mass destruction," said the narrator of the 1999 film, Fight Club. This course examines the ways in which violence has constructed America and America has constructed violence. How has the definition of violence changed over time? What are the connections between cultural understandings of pain and suffering and the larger social dynamics of the nation? We will study these important questions in a variety of settings from the 19th to the 20th century. Readings will include Andrew Jackson, Frederick Douglass, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Tillie Olsen, Ralph Ellison, James Welch, Chuck Palahniuk, and others.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 360
American Anthems: An Exploration in Music, Protest, and Culture
Music has seemingly played a role in American events from the 1760s to the 1960s. But what has music actually accomplished? Is it capable of changing the world? Or is it simply a sideshow of political activism? This seminar traces mainstream and radical musical response to social and cultural upheaval in the American past from the Revolution to the post-9/11 age. Using the likes of William Billings, Jesse Hutchinson, George Root, and Scott Joplin to Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan, Prince, and Tupac Shakur, we will look to understand the many messages embedded in American protest music and the American music as an icon of social reform.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 361
Interpreting the American Dream
A critical inquiry into the ways in which Americans of diverse characteristics have thought about the promise of America.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 370
American Slavery in Society and Culture
To a large extent, slaves built America. This course examines the history of the institution of slavery in North America while exploring its cultural impact, including during the 150 years since its destruction in the Civil War. Slavery has had a lasting impact on the American imagination, expressed in histories, literature, film, and music. Some scholars attempted to deny the inherent violence of slavery while others rediscovered the culture of African American slaves; some films presented slavery as a benign institution while others offered graphic recreations of its horror. Relying on source documents, students will encounter the experience of the enslaved people, allowing the men and women too often forgotten by history to speak for themselves. Race, gender, and cultural conflict figure prominently in this course.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 374
The 1960s and American Culture
The 1960s were watershed years in modern American history. Major areas of U.S. life – politics, foreign policy, culture, race, gender – experienced monumental shifts that irrevocably altered the nation. This course will examine the 1960s and the cultural transformations this period brought about. We will pay particular attention to different protest movements, the Vietnam War, the counterculture, and the conservative ascendency. We will also look at the ways that current narratives about “the sixties” are used in contemporary U.S. society, culture and politics.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 374
American Remix
This course pairs canonical works and themes drawn from American culture with contemporary works that reimagine the originals in especially exciting ways. For instance, we might examine how Jose Feliciano (in 1968), Jimmy Hendrix (in 1969), and Marvin Gaye (in 1983) all reinterpreted the national anthem, how Gordon Parks's photograph "American Gothic" revised Grant Wood's famous painting of the same name, or how author Ishmael Reed and choreographer Bill T. Jones responded to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. In doing so, students will develop a better understanding of the ways in which Americans have perpetually reinvented themselves by revisiting and revising the touchstones of their culture.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 375
Self and Society in American Culture
This course will examine the various ways in which Americans have conceptualized selfhood. Every bookstore today has an expansive “self-help” section, but the very conception of the self has a history that continues to change over time. We will examine that history while thinking about such issues as the public versus private self, the shift from character to personality, and the relationship of the individual to the community. Our goal is to understand the process by which conceptions of selfhood and identity are culturally constructed. Particular attention will be paid to issues of race, class, gender, and ethnicity. We will read widely in primary and secondary sources, including autobiography, fiction, sermons, poems and speeches by such writers as Benjamin Franklin, Herman Melville, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, W.E.B. DuBois, Toni Morrison, and Richard Rodriguez, and the analytical work of such scholars as Warren Susman, Charles Taylor, Clifford Geertz, and Carol Gilligan
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 376
Visual Culture in America
Images have always played a critical role in the construction of American culture. Drawing upon diverse media (prints, painting, cartoons, photography, movies, television, and graphic novels) and interdisciplinary readings on the interpretation of images, we will examine the changing role of visual culture in the shaping of American society. Specific topics include 18th-century family portraits, Civil War photography, images of empire, documentary expression in the 1930s, and visual narratives of 9/11.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 380
The Vietnam War and American Culture
The Domino Theory. Ho Chi Minh. Grunts. Hippies. Protesters. The Tet Offensive. Muhammad Ali. LBJ. Nixon. My Lai. POW/MIA. Apocalypse Now. Full Metal Jacket. Perhaps no modern war has impacted American culture and identity as broadly and deeply as the Vietnam War (or the American War, as the Vietnamese call it). We will use primary-source cultural texts – memoirs, images, songs, films, documents – to make sense of this history. We will examine the larger forces that played out through the war – global decolonization, the Cold War, the “sixties” protest movements, racial politics, the meaning of patriotism, and more – as well as how the struggle to define the war’s legacies ensued afterwards in films, cultural memory, and politics.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 387
Assessing Adoption: Modern Families in American Culture
This course examines the social and cultural meanings of adoption. How has modern adoption changed ideas of family? Which parents are able to adopt and which children are eligible to be adopted? Beginning with U.S. adoption's historical roots, this course focuses on different forms of adoption, including domestic, international, private, and public adoption, as well as transracial and gay adoption. From orphan trains to foster care and from infertility to teen pregnancies, this course reviews factors that encourage and prevent adoption. We will consider the ways laws and ethics have shaped adoption's move from secrecy and closed adoptions to forthrightness and open adoptions/records practices. Reading memoirs, screening films, and reviewing data, we will discuss the roles of members of the adoption triad: birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees, while learning about the impact of adoption on identity development.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 390
Born This Way: The Science of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, 1860s to the Present
What role have science and medicine played in the development of homosexuality and transgender? What have science and medicine had to say about sexual orientation and gender identity in the past, and how have those theories been articulated in relation to a larger cultural and political envelope? This course answers such questions through an introduction to scientific theories of sexual orientation and gender identity from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Through a wide array of texts from Freud to Foucalt, the course readings feature primary sources from across the disciplines of psychology and psychiatry, biology, endocrinology, history, and anthropology. In the end, students explore how science shaped American understandings of sex/sexual orientation and how American culture shaped the science behind such understandings.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 399
Open Semester
No Course Description Available.
4.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 399
Independent Study
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar's Office, and the approval of the instructor are required for enrollment.
1.00 units min / 2.00 units max, Independent Study
AMST 402
Senior Project
Students undertake projects on American studies topics of their own choosing. The projects will be supervised by a faculty member in an American studies-related field. Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the project adviser and director, are required for enrollment.
1.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Critiquing America
An examination of the varied experiences of poverty in American history and the intersection of poverty and democracy. The course considers both the limits on democracy faced by the poor and their efforts to challenge those limits.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Democracy and the Poor in America
An examination of the varied experiences of poverty in American history and the intersection of poverty and democracy. The course considers both the limits on democracy faced by the poor and their efforts to challenges those limits.
This course is open only to senior American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Violence in America
This seminar explores the political, social, and historical contexts for the ways in which Americans have understood violence. We will examine how society decides who commits violence, who judges it, and who needs protection from it.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Sex and Gender in American Culture
An examination of selected topics, including publishing and other media, marriage, and work. Readings in biography, history, and cultural criticism. The seminar will feature in-depth individual research and opportunities for collective analysis. Open only to American Studies, History, and Women's Studies majors.
This course is open to History, American Studies or Women Studies majors.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: James Baldwin: Notes on Race and Gender in American Culture
As an influential literary artist, intellectual, and cultural critic of the 20th Century, James Baldwin published three collections of essays, six novels, several pieces of short fiction, a play and numerous articles in the popular press over the span of his career. Baldwin’s insight into and critical commentaries on the politics of race, sex, and American identity, first as a native son and later—an expatriate, are among the most salient of his generation. This seminar will examine the range of Baldwin’s fiction and non-fiction work from the 1950s-1980s with particular attention to cultural context and to the relationship between art and politics.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Picturing the American Child 1950-2000
Students in this seminar will work together toward the final project: an exhibition of representations of American children over the past half-century accompanied by an explanatory catalogue (or as art historians put it, a catalogue raisonnee). The "representations" for the exhibition can be paintings, photographs, book or magazine illustrations, graphics from advertisements, cartoons, as well as clips from films, televisions shows, etc. Our weekly seminar meetings will be devoted to the reading of secondary sources (sociologists, educators, pediatricians, psychologists, and other kinds of "experts" on childhood) and to the analysis of primary texts (readings, TV clips, toys, dolls and various others kinds of material culture) that explore ideas about American childhood since 1950.
This course is open only to senior American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Hollywood and Cold War Culture
This seminar examines the role of Hollywood film in the consolidation of the Cold War consensus of the 1950s and 60s. Marked by a virtually unprecedented campaign to marginalize and suppress political and sexual non-conformity, this consensus threatened to transform the United States into a mirror image of its political and cultural other, the Soviet Union. Men and women who failed to conform to the emerging political and sexual consensus, such as communists, homosexuals, and career women, were constructed as the "enemy within" and relentlessly persecuted. We will ask how Hollywood film both contributed to and undermined this consensus. Mandatory Weekly Screenings.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: American Empire
Thomas Jefferson once boldly described the United States as an “empire of liberty.” But whether or not America has ever taken on the identity, ever functioned, as an empire has been one of the most hotly debated topics of our current global times. In this senior seminar we want to take both a historical and contemporary look at what happens when the foreign policy of the United States converges with the general practices of military engagement, occupation, nation-building, commercial market control, and/or annexation of “foreign lands.” Do such foreign relations constitute an empire? In this course we will examine a number of critical moments including the internal U.S. expansion into native American and Mexican lands, “Manifest Destiny” projects in the turn-of-the-twentieth century Caribbean and Asian Pacific, Marshall Plan policies in Cold War Europe, and “War on Terror” initiatives in the present day Middle East. What have been the aspirations of U.S. foreign policy, what have been the consequences, how do they affect the policies and practices “back home.” Have any of these experiences constituted an American Empire?
This course is open only to senior American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Harlem Renaissance Revisited
At some point in studies of U.S. history, students are at least briefly introduced to the cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. Yet few know that this "Renaissance" represents only one small piece of a much larger New Negro Movement. In this class, the more well-known literary and visual art expressions of Harlem are situated within a wider spectrum of social movements and popular cultures of film, music, sports, and public behavior that spanned the globe from Harlem to Chicago, from Paris to Port au Prince. This more comprehensive vision of the New Negro Movement serves as a lens through which to better understand U.S. national identity, urbanization processes, industrial capitalist developments, and imperial expansion in the early 20th century.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: The Spectacle of Disability
This course examines how people with disabilities are represented in American literature and culture. Whether it is the exceptional savant who is heralded as a hero because of her "special" abilities or the critically injured person whose disability relegates him to the sidelines of society even though his ability to overcome everyday challenges is applauded from a distance, definitions of disabilities (both generally and explicitly) tell us a great deal about the concept of normalcy and the expectations that we attach to this term. In addition, the various narratives associated with different disabilities and their origins are shaped by other aspects of identity, such as socio-economic class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender. We will look at a variety of mediums including fiction, non-fiction, film, television, and memoirs in order to examine how these representations, along with the material realities of disabled people, frame our society's understanding of disability and the consequences of these formulations. We look at texts and cases such as Million Dollar Baby, the Terry Schiavo case, Born on a Blue Day, Forrest Gump, the American Disabilities Act, the Christopher Reeves story, and Radio.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Lincoln and His Era
Drawing mainly on primary sources, this seminar will seek to understand Abraham Lincoln in his time. Among topics to be explored are: slavery's critics and defenders; the struggle over slavery expansion (including the Lincoln-Douglas debates); John Brown's raid; the secession crisis; Lincoln's views of slavery and race and his role in emancipation; dissent and civil liberties during wartime; and Lincoln as a writer. Students will write several short papers based on assigned readings and a research paper on an approved topic of their choosing.
This course is open only to senior American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Voices of Freedom, Voices of Desperation: American Reformers 1760-1960
This course examines the public and private works of select American reformers. From Tom Paine and Ida Wells to Margaret Sanger and Bob Dylan, reformers have been selfless and selfish in their quest to better America. This class explores a variety of activists, authors, and musicians to uncover how changing views on religion, economy, gender, science, and race have, time and time again, reshaped the trajectory of American social reform.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Ralph Ellison and American Modernism
This seminar examines the writings of Ralph Ellison, one of the most exciting novelists and thinkers of the 20th century. Attending closely to Ellison's fiction and non-fiction, students will attain the sort of familiarity with Ellison that can only come from detailed study of his work. Using Ellison as a point of entry, we will focus on American modernism as expressed in the New York City skyline, the music of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, the poetry of T.S. Eliot, and the collages of Romare Bearden. In so doing, we will examine the function of culture, the relationship between culture and identity, and just what it means to be modern in America.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Visual Culture in America
Images have always played a critical role in the construction of American culture. Drawing upon diverse media (prints, painting, cartoons, photography, movies, television, and graphic novels) and interdisciplinary readings on the interpretation of images, we will examine the changing role of visual culture in the shaping of American society. Specific topics include 18th-century family portraits, Civil War photography, images of empire, documentary expression in the 1930s, and visual narratives of 9/11.
This course is open only to senior American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: American Travel Narratives
This senior seminar will focus on travel to and across America from the colonial period through the present, expanding how we think of travel and its place in American literature and consciousness. Readings will cover a broad sweep of topics and time periods, including: Native traditions of migration, colonial encounters in the “New” world, slave narratives of the middle passage, narratives of western exploration, and European immigrant narratives. We will explore a full range of media: written forms, oral traditions, and consider the extent to which film, television, and the internet have provided new forums for recounting travel. At the core of the course will be a consideration of how stories of travel confirm or challenge individual, local, and national identities.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Constructing and Contesting Race in American Culture
This seminar examines the social construction of race in American culture. Participants will be discussing scholarly interpretations and cultural texts - e.g., literature, scientific studies, political pamphlets, and media images - to explore the impermanence of racial categories, the influence of racial stereotypes on public policy and individual experience, and the role that cultural production plays in constructing and contesting mainstream notions of race. Students will be writing essays on assigned materials and a term paper on an approved topic of their choosing.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: The Teen in America
By analyzing representations of teens in literature, films, images, music, and fashion, this course investigates the significance of Americans’ fascination with teenagers, a group that has shaped and has been shaped by American society. “The Teen in America” explores “teens” as: 1) persons in a developmental stage between childhood and adulthood, 2) a social category characterized by angst, rebellion, leisure, and experimentation, and 3) agents of global change. Beginning with the Little Rock Nine, Elvis, and James Dean, this study of teens is anchored in key historical moments and icons from the 1950s to the present.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Race, Gender, and Global Security
Recent events have focused attention on questions of race, gender, social justice, and the militarization of police. This course will consider how notions of race and security that evolved in the late 20th and early 21st century U.S., have shaped political discourse, and how in turn, those ideas have circulated around the world. Through analyses of American Studies texts, documentaries, and popular culture, we will consider both emerging and prevailing definitions of security. By examining case studies in major global cities, including Los Angeles, we will explore how space has been organized around the logics of racialized threats and gendered notions of safety. For a cumulative paper, students will select a global city and offer history, context, and analysis of the production of insecure spaces.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Equality and its Discontents
From its initial formulation into the 21st Century, the self-evident truth that all men are created equal has been bitterly contested and routinely denied, including by the author of this foundational phrase (Thomas Jefferson). This course will explore America’s ambiguous relationship with the concept of human equality in cultural, intellectual, political, and legal terms. Beginning with the Declaration of Independence and moving through the numerous battles for civil rights as well as the contrary constructions by Social Darwinists and adherents of Ayn Rand, we will examine the ideas and actions of both those who insisted on the necessity and justice of equality, and those who rejected the validity and utility of this ideal.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Class and American Culture: The Gilded Age to the 99 Percent
Class inequality is nothing new in the United States. While some have referred to America as a “classless” society, class and its representations are omnipresent in U.S. history, culture, and identity. This course will use written and visual primary-source texts to uncover the ideologies, representations, and narratives of class in American culture over the past two centuries. It will also look at how class has intersected with ideologies of race, gender, nationality, and identity. In bringing class out into the open, students will gain a better understanding of U.S. history and culture as well as our current conjuncture.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 409
Senior Seminar: Technology and American Culture
Mark Twain was among the first to install a home phone in Hartford and he was amused by others' uncertain handling of new devices. He approached technology with great interest, skepticism, and of course, humor. Many Americans shared Twain’s responses, and in this course we will examine the social impacts, cultural representations, and political significance of select technological developments. We will begin with the nineteenth century as clocks and bells came to govern lives and we will conclude with our relationships with technology today. Each unit will focus on technology and an aspect of American life, such as domesticity, work, war, production, literature, health, and communication.
This course is open only to American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 416
Why We Fight
This seminar will examine how cultural factors such as consumerism, leisure, profit, and patriotism, among others, have worked to embed in public life the acceptance of frequent American military intervention over the course of the 20th Century and into the 21st Century. Rallying Americans to accept military intervention as well as declarations of war necessitated the manipulation of cultural symbols, attitudes, and prejudices. Our focus will be on the role the media--newspapers, magazines, books, films, radio and television--played in shaping the acceptance of military intervention and even war as American public policy.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 416
Culture and Politics in Mid-20th-Century America
What role does culture play in determining who wins and loses presidential campaigns? Did Harry Truman defeat Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 because Dewey wore a mustache? Did Adlai E. Stevenson lose in 1952 and 1956 because he was an egghead? Did Richard M. Nixon’s television image of a man who needed a shave contribute to his defeat to the well groomed and younger looking John F. Kennedy in 1960? We will examine the changing cultural narrative of post-World War II America delivered to Americans by the print and electronic media. We will examine how that narrative affected voter decision-making in the elections of 1948, 1952, 1956, and 1960. We will also attempt to understand what cultural messages persuaded American citizens to vote for or against their own economic and civic interests. References to the current cultural climate and the election of 2008 will constitute an important part of our ongoing discussion.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 420
The Prosperous Years 1900-1929
Topics in the culture and political economy of the years 1900-1929, including progressive movements, the rise and fall of organized labor and the Left, the women's suffrage campaign and its aftermath, immigration and Americanization, the World War home front, migrations and communities of African-Americans, and the gathering impacts of the new mass media of movies and radio.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 421
Nature and Health in American Culture
Since the industrial revolution, Americans have debated the proper balance of nature and health in an increasingly polluted country. This debate has been charged with competing discourses of nature and the environment, changing views of health and embodiment, and fraught notions of profit, interests, rights, and social justice in capitalist society. This course will explore that nexus, using such examples as nature cures, social Darwinist and nativist fear of contagion from immigrants and the poor, and contested standards of industrial and environmental health in twentieth- and twenty-first-century America.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 423
The History of American Sports
This course will examine American sports from their beginnings in Puritan-era games to the multi-billion-dollar industries of today. We will begin by looking at the relationship between work, play, and religion in the colonies. We will trace the beginnings of horseracing, baseball, and boxing, and their connections to saloons, gambling, and the bachelor subculture of the Victorian underworld. We will study the rise of respectable sports in the mid- and late 19th century; follow baseball as it became the national pastime; see how college football took over higher education; and account for the rise of basketball. We will look at sports and war, sports and moral uplift, and sports and the culture of consumption. Finally, we will examine the rise of mass leisure, the impact of radio and television, racial segregation and integration, the rise of women’s sports, battles between players and owners in the last 25 years, and the entrance of truly big money into professional sports. Readings in primary and secondary sources will emphasize the historical experience of sports in the United States so that students can develop a framework for understanding current events, including the NHL lockout, the Kobe Bryant affair, and the controversies over steroids.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 424
Comic Art in America 1895-Present
This course provides an introduction to Comic Art in North America, from the beginnings of the newspaper comic strip through the development of comic books, the growth of graphic novels, and current developments in electronic media. It focuses on the history and aesthetics of the medium, comparison between developments in the United States, Mexico, and French Canada, and the social and cultural contexts in which comic art is created and consumed. The first half of the semester concentrates on early and 20th-century comic strips and the development of the comic book form through the 1940s; the second on the social changes affecting comic art in the 1950s and 1960s, the development of a comic book subculture from the 1970s to the 21st century, the growth of independently published graphic novels and the independent comics, and contemporary electronic media developments.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 425
Museums, Visual Culture, and Critical Theory
This course aims to examine the issues brought up in key theoretical readings by applying their insights to case studies, particularly cases of museum exhibitions and programs. Issues to be addressed include: reproduction and spectacle; gender and display; ethnicity, 'primitivism,' and race; and sexuality, sexual practice, and censorship. Case studies will vary each year and will range from exhibitions focusing on consumption, to ethnicity and race (such as the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Pequot Museum), and sexuality (The Museum of Sex; the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibitions). Each class will combine theoretical readings with considerations of museum practice. By the end of the semester, students shall be able to analyze exhibitions using both the tools of postmodern theory and practical observation and history.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 426
Nuclear America
In this course we will explore large- and small-scale cultural landscapes as they have been shaped by nuclear power, weapons, transportation, and waste. Among these landscapes are towns created for making nuclear weapons; open-air testing sites; military complexes, such as ports, bases, airfields, and silos; the West’s uranium mines, and the land, water, and Native American territory polluted by radioactive tailings; nuclear reactor sites, from New England’s regional power plants to those in metropolitan areas; and land and offshore storage sites for nuclear waste. Besides the physical changes to the American landscape, nuclear sites involve extensive secrecy, exclusion, and policing, and they are invested with fraught meanings. We will explore nuclear America through history, geography, art, literature, and film.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 427
Body Art in Fiction, Film, and Practice
Body art is the most common of arts, and yet the least explored. People throughout history have times painted, marked, and pierced their bodies, but only recently have such practices been studied by serious scholars. This class will explore the ways in which various body art practices have developed and evolved, especially as they are portrayed in literary texts, historical documents, and films. We will examine such interpretations of body art in order to ponder how and why people mark themselves (and others), how that has changed in significant ways over time, and how literary and visual representations of body art affect the character of the practices themselves.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 428
New England and the Black Atlantic
This course will explore the trans-Atlantic cultural, economic, and political constellation that has linked Africa, Europe, and the Americas from the 15th century to the present. In particular, we will investigate some key aspects of New England’s part in the Black Atlantic, including slavery and the slave trade; literature, public speaking, and the arts; commerce and industry; and travel and migration. We will ground this study in past and present geographic sites of diaspora, racialization, and contestation, including ships and ports, the home, church, workplace, market, and performance spaces.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 431
Scribbling Women: American Women's Literary Culture, 1850-1920
This course will trace the rich and diverse tradition of women's writing in 19th-century America. We will consider the contexts that influenced women's writing and evaluate women authors' contributions to literary, political, and social movements during the 1800s through the turn of the century. We will pay particular attention to representations of race, class, ethnicity, region, and gender in women's writing. African American, Euro-American, Hispanic, Native American, middle- and working-class women authors will be studied. Authors studied will include: Louisa M. Alcott, Lillie Devereux Blake, Grace MacGowan Cook, Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Kate Chopin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Fanny Fern, Frances E. W. Harper, Nella Larsen, Elizabeth Keckley, Zitkala-Sa, and Maria Cummins.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 435
Museum Exhibition
One of the most engaging ways to promote collections and explore a subject or theme is to create an exhibition, which is a genre in and of itself—telling a story with artifacts. Through critical readings students will explore the cultural and educational goals of exhibits, visitor needs and accessibility, design elements (including technology), and audience evaluation methods utilized at libraries, historic houses and historical sites, and history and cultural museums. Drawing from the extensive and wide-ranging collections in the Watkinson Library, students will conceive, write, and install an exhibition, design and publish a catalogue, and plan and implement an opening event to take place at the end of the semester in the Watkinson.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 437
Women and the American Preservation Movement
In the 19th and 20th centuries, wilderness preservation was a principal aim of environmental thought and action. Women led many of the foundational organizations and campaigns. They also documented wildlife and wildflowers, taught nature studies, and wrote about the preservationist cause. As women of class and racial privilege, many also evidenced anti-urban, anti-immigrant biases, including in their discourses of nature. This course will combine secondary sources with such primary sources as natural histories, garden writing, novels, and children’s books; we also will visit Birdcraft Sanctuary in Fairfield (started by Mabel Osgood Wright, founder of the Connecticut Audubon Society). We will situate women’s preservationism in relation to broader social and cultural trends, and question the meanings and lasting associations of “nature” depicted as “wild” and “native.”
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 438
America Collects Itself
Collecting American history is as alive and well in America today as it was soon after the republic was constituted. In the late 18th-century Americans became enamored of “writing” the new nation’s history, both in the literal sense of creating narratives, and the figurative sense of collecting the books and documents which would inform and underpin those narratives. The first institution created specifically to collect and preserve American history was the Massachusetts Historical Society, founded in 1791, during George Washington’s presidency. This course will trace the conscious collecting (by both individuals and institutions) of documents and artifacts from the 18th century to the present day relating to "America," as that term was variously defined over time.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 439
Nationalizing America, 1932-1960
This course examines the Depression and New Deal, World War II, and the Cold War. During this period, an activist welfare state/national security state, and a national mass culture took form, shaped by responses to economic crisis and economic opportunity, the gathering power of popular-culture media and advertising, and wars hot and cold. Both political topics (e.g., New Deal labor or civil rights policies, McCarthyism) and social and cultural topics (e.g., The World War II home front, changing gender roles, suburbanization) will be investigated. Course materials include fiction, movies, and other documents from the period, as well as outstanding works of historical analysis and synthesis.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 443
Spectacle, Social Control, and the Spaces of Display
This course will analyze a range of built spaces, elite ones like museums and vernacular ones like shopping malls and casinos, to see how they reflect and shape our changing ideas of spectacle and display. Beginning with an examination of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and the 1939 World’s Fair, we will examine how buildings exercise authority and shape our behavior. We will consider how displays of culture and commerce encode the agendas of capitalism, both literal and cultural, by looking at the packaging of commodities and of the materials within museums; retail entertainment architecture like those of Las Vegas and Disney and its fusion with the museum; and memorial museums and structures, particularly the Holocaust Museum.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 443
Spectacle, Social Control, and the Spaces of Display
This course will analyze a range of built spaces, elite ones like museums and vernacular ones like shopping malls and casinos, to see how they reflect and shape our changing ideas of spectacle and display. Beginning with an examination of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and the 1939 World’s Fair, we will analyze how buildings exercise authority and shape our behavior. We will consider how displays of culture and commerce encode the agendas of capitalism, both literal and cultural, by looking at the packaging of commodities and of the materials within museums; retail entertainment architecture like those of Las Vegas and Disney and their fusion with the museum; and memorial museums and structures, particularly the Holocaust Museum.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 444
The Gilded Age: 1865-1900
The transformation of the United States into an urban industrial nation, with special attention to the social and cultural effects of industrialization. The course will begin by examining Reconstruction, but will concentrate on the years after 1877. Extensive readings in original source materials, including several novels, as well as in analytic histories.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 449
The Culture of Americanism in the 20th Century
In 1894, Teddy Roosevelt published "True Americanism" in Forum Magazine, declaring the absolute necessity of applying a "fervid Americanism" to the solution of every problem and evil facing the country, including "Americanizing" newcomers to our shore. Nearly 50 years later, the rhetoric of Americanism proposed by Time publisher Henry Luce in his February 1941 editorial in Life Magazine, "The American Century," aimed to persuade Americans that the country's involvement in World War II and in the post-war world were not only necessary but inevitable. The Luce publications after the war publicized the culture of Americanism that was an essential part of the anti-communism that supported the Cold War for over half a century. Leaving aside the idea of American exceptionalism—"the notion that the United States has had a special mission and virtue that makes it unique among nations"—our focus will be on the culture of Americanism as it was promulgated in the Luce publications and other media outlets during and after World War II, and the extent to which it encouraged postwar homogeneity while discouraging the expression of dissent and non-conformist ideas.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 450
The Social Conscience and American Photography, 1839-1946
“The camera never lies,” but it certainly can persuade. From its inception, photography has been employed in the cause of social change in the United States. During the Civil War, the images from the Brady studio helped persuade the Union of the justice of its cause. Anthropological images made from the 1860s to the 1880s helped define the vanishing Native American communities of the West, and the romantic images of photographers like Edward Curtis created sympathy among white Easterners for their plight. In the later 19th century, photography became the handmaid of Progressive reform in the hands of Jacob Riis, whose book, How the Other Half Lives, convinced the public of the need for urban reform. Sociologist Lewis Hine found his photographs of child labor far more effective than text alone in stimulating change. And in what may be the most comprehensive photographic project yet undertaken, the Farm Services Administration under FDR’s New Deal program created a body of iconic images of the Great Depression that abide to today. In the hands of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, and Gordon Parks, among others, the FSA body of work remains the visual definition of the Depression. We will examine how it served the agendas created by the agency head, Roy Stryker, and the photographers themselves. Texts will include Liz Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction; Alan Trachtenburg, Reading American Photographs; Fleischhauer and Brannan, Documenting America: 1935-1943.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 451
The World of Rare Books
The “world” of rare books encompasses a basic knowledge of the history of the book as object, the history and practice of printing since Gutenberg, book collecting in the West since the Renaissance (including bibliophilic clubs and societies), the trade (dealers, book auctions and book fairs), rare book libraries and librarians, and bibliographic scholarship. We will spend a week or two on each of these themes, which will include lecture and discussion, sources for further reading, exercises and projects, and a few activities to give a flavor of the topic (e.g., field trips, hand-setting type, or a mock auction). All classes will take place in the Watkinson library, the rare book and special collections department of the Trinity College Library.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 453
Agency and Agenda: Advertising the American Dream
This course investigates how photography has described and constructed consumer culture and current events, from selling the American Dream to the events of September 11, 2001. We will examine how advertising photography uses news imagery for its own agenda and creates enduring icons that in turn become part of the imagery of news. We will consider ethics and the roles of the image-maker; tactics of display; the creating agencies and their agendas; the manipulation of images (physical and interpretive); and how race, gender, and ethnicity are constructed in commercial and news images.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 454
Remembering Peal Harbor
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The date December 7, 1941 remains embedded in the American historical imagination as the day that changed American forever. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, an attack that has been referred to as the Pearl Harbor of the 21st century. This seminar will examine the legacy of Peral Harbor, a day that continues to "live in infamy" in the American historical experience. The debate over its legacy will be our focus. Readings will include historical and cultural analyses, American foreign policy critiques and current thinking on national security.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 455
Agency and Agenda: Commercial American Photography Since 1914
This course investigates how photography has described and constructed consumer culture and current events, from selling the American Dream to the events of September 11, 2001. We will examine how advertising photography uses news imagery for its own agenda and creates enduring icons that in turn become part of the imagery of news. We will consider ethics and the roles of the image-maker; tactics of display; the creating agencies and their agendas; the manipulation of images (physical and interpretive); and how race, gender, and ethnicity are constructed in commercial and news images.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 456
American Landscape Photography: Aesthetics and Ideology
The course considers the iconic photography of the American West made for railroad and government surveys in the 19th century; the idealized and iconic 20th-century landscapes constructed by Ansel Adams; recent photography whose purpose is aesthetic, political, and environmental; and ways in which photography helped created the industry of tourism. Readings drawn from history of photography, anthropology, social history, environmental science, theory, and environmental activism.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 458
Creating the New Right: The Conservative Movement in Post-World War II America
This seminar will examine the political and cultural environment that supported and sustained the New Right political movement that emerged after World War II and became fully formed during the Reagan years and more recently in the Tea Party Movement supported by non-profit political action committees. The key to conservative success lay in their hopes to replace the narrative of American liberalism—now progressivism—with its emphasis on democratic-egalitarian concepts, with a narrative more in keeping with conservative thinking that stresses the self-governing individual, minimum government activity, and entrepreneurial and market freedom. We want to focus our discussion and research on cultural change in America and the responses to those changes by the American people as well as by the two major political parties.
This course is open only to senior American Studies majors, or by permission of instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 461
American Globetrotters: Travel Writing and Tourism
This graduate-level seminar will analyze the American fascination with travel and tourism and examine the literary strategies employed by travel writers. Our exploration will begin with the quintessentially masculine figure of the traveler and then turn to women travel writers who question traditional femininity and African American authors who challenge racism and social injustice in their travel writing. We will consider the perspective of the "natives" and their response to travel accounts written by tourists and colonists. Considering journeys undertaken to reclaim cultural "roots," students will read contemporary travel writing that questions the meaning of multi-cultural identity. We will also study the growing field of travel criticism and address issues of imperialism, globalization, and tourism. Authors studied include Washington Irving, Caroline Kirkland, Herman Melville, Matthew Henson, Nancy Prince, June Jordan, W.E.B. DuBois, Jamaica Kincaid, Paisley Rekdal, and others.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 464
Witnessing Slavery: Literature of Slavery and Abolition
This graduate-level seminar will trace nineteenth-century ideas about slavery, freedom, race, and identity through the writings of abolitionist reformers, slave narratives and cultural artifacts (newspapers, photographs, fine art images, and icons). For the second half of the course we will turn to the Twentieth Century and examine how these ideas continue to impact American culture and literature (including film). Authors studied will include: Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Gilmore Simms, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Henry Bibb, William and Ellen Craft, George Fitzhugh, Henry "Box" Brown, Nikki Giovanni and Toni Morrison.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 465
Post-War/Postmodern: American Design from Retro to Neo-Retro
This course explores the specifics of design in postwar America from a variety of perspectives, particularly social history. We will consider the growing phenomenon of postwar design templates as re-invented by contemporary designers in an attempt to understand why these icons of the Baby Boom have come to roost in contemporary culture. Topics include automobile design and history; housing and the creation of the American suburb; taming the exotic in tiki bars; kitchen debates and the feminine mystique; and domestic ideals and queering domesticity.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 466
Teaching Assistantship
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the instructor are required for enrollment.
0.50 units min / 1.00 units max, Independent Study
AMST 468
American Labor and Cultural Politics
This course will address the importance of the American labor movement in producing, contesting, and amplifying meaning within larger contexts of class, knowledge, and power. Although many such meanings arise within the expected domains of work, pay, and workers, and serve as crucial resources for communities and unions, they also are closely related to projects of achieving justice for larger imagined communities (e.g., “the people”). Readings will provide a broad overview of labor movements since the Civil War as well as close study of selected cultural work, such as challenging class subordination, shaping and contesting racialization, engendering and valorizing work, interrogating the wage relation, pursuing contradictory visions of authority and modernization, and seeking reform within today’s increasingly hostile political climates and structures.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 470
Native American Pictorial Narrative
This seminar examines Native American Indian narrative artistic, pictorial, and literary traditions from North and Central America.Such traditions are inseparable from culture and performance, community and nation, human life and the physical world. The visual and tactile media considered include pictorial manuscripts, ceramics, bead- and shellwork, textiles, photographs, and paintings. The seminar will be interdisciplinary, with each unit including analyses of texts and visual materials and readings on aesthetics, translation, memory, and appropriation.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 471
Science Fiction and American Society
American science fiction literature has never been about the future, but always about the social and cultural moments in which it is created, packaged, and sold. This course will examine the roots of modern American science fiction in Victorian adventure fiction, the rise of mass-market magazine fiction and the development of technophiliac hard SF in the Depression, Cold War SF, the disillusionment of sixties experimentation and the rise of cyberpunk, and the revival of scientific or hard SF in contemporary writing, particularly those authors who examine environmental collapse and renewal. Authors to be considered include Heinlein, LeGuin, Dick, Haldeman, and Brin. The course will include consideration of how SF is written, edited, and published.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 473
American Animation and Society
Animation has played a significant role in American culture. This course will consider the development of animation from the 1920s to today in its social, economic and cultural contexts. Special attention will be given to the perception of animation as a medium for children, to the growing acceptance of mature themes in shorts and feature films, and the power of imagery derived from animation in advertising, merchandising, and even political propaganda. We will look primarily at American feature films, which have dominated the international animation market since the groundbreaking Snow White (1939), the change from cel animation to CGI, and the innovations of studios that compete with still-dominant Disney, including Connecticut’s own Blue Sky. The course will include guest animators such as Bob Camp, co-creator of Ren and Stimpy.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 490
Research Assistantship
No Course Description Available.
1.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 497
Senior Thesis
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar's Office, and the approval of the thesis adviser and the director are required for enrollment.
1.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 498
Senior Thesis Part 1
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar’s Office, and the approval of the thesis adviser and the director are required for enrollment. The registration form is required for each semester of this year-long thesis. (The two course credits are considered pending in Part I of the thesis; they will be awarded with the completion of Part II.)
2.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 499
Senior Thesis Part 2
Submission of the special registration form, available in the Registrar's Office, and the approval of the thesis adviser and the director, are required for each semester of this year-long thesis. (The two course credits are considered pending in Part I of the thesis; they will be awarded with the completion of Part II.)
2.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 800
Archaeological Excavation
As part of a consortium with Pennsylvania State University and other schools, Trinity College runs a summer archaeological field school program at Akko in Israel. The main components of this course will be archaeological excavation, recording, field analysis, and preservation. Through site tours, field trips, workshops, and a lecture series, we will also study the major historical and archaeological periods represented in Akko and the larger context in which Akko functioned. See Professor Risser for dates and details. Permission of instructor required. This multidisciplinary course contributes to majors in Anthropology, Art History, Classics, Classical Civilization, History, International Studies, Jewish Studies, and Religion; minors in Architectural Studies, Classical Antiquity, and the Classical Tradition; and the Cities Program.
2.00 units, Seminar
AMST 801
Approaches to American Studies
This seminar, which is required of all American studies graduate students, examines a variety of approaches to the field. Readings may include several “classic” texts of 18th- and 19th-century American culture and several key works of American studies scholarship from the formative period of the field after World War II, as well as more recent contributions to the study of the United States. Topics will include changing ideas about the content, production, and consumption of American culture; patterns of ethnic identification and definition; the construction of categories like “race” and “gender”; and the bearing of class, race, gender, and sexuality on individuals’ participation in American society and culture. Undergraduates who wish to enroll in this course must obtain permission of their adviser and the instructor.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 802
Primary Research Materials
This seminar is designed to enable students to identify, evaluate, and use a range of primary sources, from personal letters, vital records, and the census to photographs, oral history, and newspapers. Students will critically read secondary literature to explore how other scholars have used primary sources, and will develop research projects on topics of their own choosing, based on primary sources available in local archives and repositories. Course not open to undergraduates.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 803
Historiography and Historical Research
New England has had a sense of its boundaries, identity, and larger purposes since the mid-17th century and it began producing historical literature about itself earlier than other regions of what would become the United States. This course has a dual agenda—to study the evolution of historical consciousness in and about New England and to use the region’s rich and varied historical literature to prepare students for their own historical research on the region.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 804
Women and Nature Preservation
This course will explore women’s role in the preservation movement of the Progressive era, focusing on New England. As writers, teachers, activists, and amateur naturalists, women led campaigns to preserve “wilderness,” and developed much of the critical and scientific thought aimed at saving plants, animals, and habitats from spoliation and extinction. Through primary sources, field trips, and use of historical, cultural, and geographic studies, we will explore women’s preservationism in the context of urbanization, industrialization, immigration, and other trends affecting society, nature, and culture in the Progressive era.
0.50 units, Seminar
AMST 805
American Literature: The Remix
In this course, students will examine the ways in which a series of books are in direct and indirect conversation with another. We will do so by reading several classics of 19th and 20th-century American literature side-by-side with both contemporary and modern authors whose own work echoes or rewrites those classics in especially startling or suggestive ways. Given these concerns, we will be as interested in issues of continuity as we will be in matters of distinction. Another aim of this course will be to challenge insufficiently dynamic understandings of culture and the artificial barriers that have together served to separate American Literature from various Ethnic American and African American literatures. For English majors, this course satisfies the requirement of a course emphasizing literature written after 1800, or a course emphasizing cultural context.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 805
American Literature: The Remix
In this course, students will examine the ways in which a series of books are in direct and indirect conversation with another. We will do so by reading several "classics" of 19th- and 20th-century American literature side-by-side with both contemporary and modern authors whose own work echoes or rewrites those "classics" in especially startling or suggestive ways. Given these concerns, we will be as interested in issues of continuity as we will be in matters of distinction. Another aim of this course will be to challenge insufficiently dynamic understandings of culture and the artificial barriers that have together served to separate "American literature" from various ethnic American and African American literatures.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 806
Globalizing America
Long before the present age of "globalization," the United States was a nation with global political, economic, and cultural aspirations. It has variously claimed for itself, or had thrust upon it, the missions of embracing, decolonizing, colonizing, and transforming the world. This seminar will explore the universalist ideology of the revolutionary founders; of America as an immigrant "nation of nations;" multiculturalism; the international effects of American economic power, military power, pop culture, and mass media; and the dynamics and prospects of the capitalist/digital revolution that is today said to be Americanizing the planet. Texts will include titles by Paine, Tocqueville, Melville, Bourne, Kallen, Wildie, Lind, Hollinger, Greider, and others.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 807
Identifying and Applying for Grants for Individuals and Institutions
The course will introduce a variety of resources for identifying and applying for grants for individual research and study, and for support for research and education projects at nonprofit institutions. The course will focus on New England based or oriented foundations and institutions that offer support. We will examine open and subscription databases for grant support, explore the options for research on grants available in libraries, public service, and nonprofit organizations in our area, and the best strategies for preparing grant applications of individual and institutional projects. A particular focus will be individual research grants for work in New England libraries and research centers such as the American Antiquarian Society, John Carter Brown Library, etc. We will also look at state-based granting agencies in New York and New England.
0.50 units, Seminar
AMST 810
Reading for Advanced Research
This course will explore a number of reading strategies for students who are conducting advanced research in the humanities or interdisciplinary projects (e.g., a master’s essay, a publishable article, community or organizational planning, etc.). Such strategies are aimed at coming to terms with a literature and its concepts, meanings, and arguments, comparing disparate texts, and evaluating truth claims. They may include pre-reading and hermeneutic, syntopical, deconstructive, and symptomatic reading. Part of the course will be devoted to a practicum in exemplary reading strategies.
0.50 units, Seminar
AMST 811
Hartford Architecture 1790-1960
A seminar on the architecture of Connecticut’s capital city from the end of the American Revolution to the advent of mid-20th century urban renewal, as an expression of the artistic, economic, social and political forces that have shaped Hartford and New England. Changing architectural styles and building types will be examined in the broader context of Hartford’s transformation from a mercantile to an industrial economy. The contributions of important architects who are represented by works in Hartford will be integral to the study. The course includes two Saturday walking tours.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 816
Culture and Politics in Mid-20th-Century America
What role does culture play in determining who wins and loses presidential campaigns? Did Harry Truman defeat Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 because Dewey wore a mustache? Did Adlai E. Stevenson lose in 1952 and 1956 because he was an egghead? Did Richard M. Nixon’s television image of a man who needed a shave contribute to his defeat to the well groomed and younger looking John F. Kennedy in 1960? We will examine the changing cultural narrative of post-World War II America delivered to Americans by the print and electronic media. We will examine how that narrative affected voter decision-making in the elections of 1948, 1952, 1956, and 1960. We will also attempt to understand what cultural messages persuaded American citizens to vote for or against their own economic and civic interests. References to the current cultural climate and the election of 2008 will constitute an important part of our ongoing discussion.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 816
America: 1945-1950
The five-year period between the end of World War II in 1945 and the onset of the Korean War in 1950 has been described in hindsight by some cultural observers as the best years of the American experience. Others have seen the period as a time of conformity and consumerism counterbalanced by a pervasive fear of atomic holocaust. This seminar will examine contemporary sources in an attempt to establish how Americans living at the time responded to the cultural representations that affected their lives. We will also evaluate the argument that those early post-war cultural representations tended to shape the American mind-set and the American experience for the remainder of the 20th century.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 816
The Emergence of Life-Style Imaging in Modern America
The great social and cultural change in American since World War II has provoked many critics, on both the political right and left, to search, sometimes desperately, for the "normal and seemingly immutable," as the journalist Thomas Hine noted in 1986. Hine further argued that the postwar years shattered the texture of the American Way of Life "into a bewildering array of 'life styles,' which offer greater freedom but not the security that one is doing the normal thing." Accepting Hine's analysis, the question we want to address is whether the emergence of a "bewildering array of lifestyles" has had a positive or a negative effect on democracy in America. Our focus will be on the roles the media - radio, television, film, mass circulation magazines, niche magazines, local and national newspapers, and published books, both fiction and non-fiction - have played in mainstreaming life-style imaging into the popular culture.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 816
Before TV: America According to Life Magazine
LIFE’s Special 50th Anniversary issue, published in 1986, declared that over the years “LIFE looked searchingly at America, and in its pages Americans saw themselves. The magazine imparted a feeling that a vast nation could be brought together as a community.” This seminar will examine and research that credo in the pages of LIFE by focusing on how America, according to LIFE, was constructed and presented to its readers primarily through its groundbreaking photojournalism. We will also address the nature of LIFE’s ideology and attempt to evaluate the short and long-term consequences of the magazine’s rendering of American culture and society.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 816
Why We Fight
This seminar will examine how cultural factors such as consumerism, leisure, profit, and patriotism, among others, have worked to embed in public life the acceptance of frequent American military intervention over the course of the 20th Century and into the 21st Century. Rallying Americans to accept military intervention as well as declarations of war necessitated the manipulation of cultural symbols, attitudes, and prejudices. Our focus will be on the role the media--newspapers, magazines, books, films, radio and television--played in shaping the acceptance of military intervention and even war as American public policy.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 816
Patriotism and Popular Culture in Post World War II America
World War II elevated patriotism in America to perhaps its highest level in the nation’s history. National purpose merged seamlessly with international imperatives. The patriotism that united the nation during wartime continued to be a prominent cultural factor in the decades that followed, in part, because of the memory of World War II as a “just” and “necessary” war and in part, because of the importance of patriotism’s link to the American Way of Life and America in general. This seminar will examine post-World War II expressions of patriotism that were used and occasionally abused by cultural and political tastemakers to influence, persuade, and direct Americans as citizens and as consumers of goods, services, and cultural ideology. Our focus will be on patriotic images and messages as they appeared in the media especially during the Cold War and as Americans began taking sides in the emerging cultural warfare brought about by Vietnam, Watergate, the 70’s stagflation and contention over race, gender, affirmative action, and the environment.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 819
From Decorum to Sensation: Varieties of Museum & Archive Experience
Decorum—or what is deemed proper to a genre, a form, a character—is a term most often applied to literary texts. But notions of propriety maintain an important place in museums and in the field of museum studies, as reactions to the “Sensation” exhibition at New York’s Brooklyn Museum of Art, “Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art” at the Jewish Museum, and proposals for memorials in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 have demonstrated. In this course we will trace the evolving concept of and pressures exerted by “decorum” in 19th, 20th and 21st century museums and their constituencies, an inquiry which will generate questions about governing bodies, societal and cultural norms, censorship, free speech, memory and tolerance. We will look at cabinets of curiosity in America’s earliest museums, controversial exhibitions in our own time, innovative exhibition venues, including Exploratorium in San Francisco, Dia Center for the Arts in New York City, and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Connecticut, and the evolution of “virtual museums”/museums on the web. American Studies 825 is recommended but not required.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 820
The Prosperous Years 1900-1929
Topics in the culture and political economy of the years 1900-1929, including progressive movements, the rise and fall of organized labor and the Left, the women's suffrage campaign and its aftermath, immigration and Americanization, the World War home front, migrations and communities of African-Americans, and the gathering impacts of the new mass media of movies and radio.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 821
Nature and Health in American Culture
Since the industrial revolution, Americans have debated the proper balance of nature and health in an increasingly polluted country. This debate has been charged with competing discourses of nature and the environment, changing views of health and embodiment, and fraught notions of profit, interests, rights, and social justice in capitalist society. This course will explore that nexus, using such examples as nature cures, social Darwinist and nativist fear of contagion from immigrants and the poor, and contested standards of industrial and environmental health in twentieth- and twenty-first-century America.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 822
History of Hartford
The post-Civil War history of Hartford is a history of the initial triumph of entrepreneurial power and civic will and the subsequent loss of certain forms of urban wealth. Mark Twain called the city the "center of all Connecticut wealth." Despite considerable poverty, in 1876, Hartford still boasted the country's highest per capita income and is now ranked as among the nation's poorest cities. This seminar explores the processes of cultural and social transformation that resulted in these differences. We seek to understand Hartford's late 19th and 20th century political culture and political economy. Topics include: the distribution of capital in industry, housing, charity, and welfare; the racial, ethnic, religious and class composition of the city's men and women residents; urban politics, racial and ethnic antagonisms, and the history of attempts at social change in the city; the modes of artistic and literary expressions that arose over time. Sources for study include readings drawn from other urban histories; documents and primary sources drawn from Hartford's rich archival and museum collections; the portrayal of the city in photography and film. Students will construct projects based upon research and interaction throughout the city. A speakers program and off-campus work supplement the course. (Same as History 835-03.)
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 823
The History of American Sports
This course will examine American sports from their beginnings in Puritan-era games to the multi-billion-dollar industries of today. We will begin by looking at the relationship between work, play, and religion in the colonies. We will trace the beginnings of horseracing, baseball, and boxing, and their connections to saloons, gambling, and the bachelor subculture of the Victorian underworld. We will study the rise of respectable sports in the mid- and late 19th century; follow baseball as it became the national pastime; see how college football took over higher education; and account for the rise of basketball. We will look at sports and war, sports and moral uplift, and sports and the culture of consumption. Finally, we will examine the rise of mass leisure, the impact of radio and television, racial segregation and integration, the rise of women’s sports, battles between players and owners in the last 25 years, and the entrance of truly big money into professional sports. Readings in primary and secondary sources will emphasize the historical experience of sports in the United States so that students can develop a framework for understanding current events, including the NHL lockout, the Kobe Bryant affair, and the controversies over steroids.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 824
Comic Art in America 1895-Present
This course provides an introduction to Comic Art in North America, from the beginnings of the newspaper comic strip through the development of comic books, the growth of graphic novels, and current developments in electronic media. It focuses on the history and aesthetics of the medium, comparison between developments in the United States, Mexico, and French Canada, and the social and cultural contexts in which comic art is created and consumed. The first half of the semester concentrates on early and 20th-century comic strips and the development of the comic book form through the 1940s; the second on the social changes affecting comic art in the 1950s and 1960s, the development of a comic book subculture from the 1970s to the 21st century, the growth of independently published graphic novels and the independent comics, and contemporary electronic media developments.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 825
Museums, Visual Culture, and Critical Theory
This course aims to examine the issues brought up in key theoretical readings by applying their insights to case studies, particularly cases of museum exhibitions and programs. Issues to be addressed include: reproduction and spectacle; gender and display; ethnicity, 'primitivism,' and race; and sexuality, sexual practice, and censorship. Case studies will vary each year and will range from exhibitions focusing on consumption, to ethnicity and race (such as the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Pequot Museum), and sexuality (The Museum of Sex; the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibitions). Each class will combine theoretical readings with considerations of museum practice. By the end of the semester, students shall be able to analyze exhibitions using both the tools of postmodern theory and practical observation and history.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 826
Nuclear America
In this course we will explore large- and small-scale cultural landscapes as they have been shaped by nuclear power, weapons, transportation, and waste. Among these landscapes are towns created for making nuclear weapons; open-air testing sites; military complexes, such as ports, bases, airfields, and silos; the West’s uranium mines, and the land, water, and Native American territory polluted by radioactive tailings; nuclear reactor sites, from New England’s regional power plants to those in metropolitan areas; and land and offshore storage sites for nuclear waste. Besides the physical changes to the American landscape, nuclear sites involve extensive secrecy, exclusion, and policing, and they are invested with fraught meanings. We will explore nuclear America through history, geography, art, literature, and film.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 827
Body Art in Fiction, Film, and Practice
Body art is the most common of arts, and yet the least explored. People throughout history have times painted, marked, and pierced their bodies, but only recently have such practices been studied by serious scholars. This class will explore the ways in which various body art practices have developed and evolved, especially as they are portrayed in literary texts, historical documents, and films. We will examine such interpretations of body art in order to ponder how and why people mark themselves (and others), how that has changed in significant ways over time, and how literary and visual representations of body art affect the character of the practices themselves.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 828
New England and the Black Atlantic
This course will explore the trans-Atlantic cultural, economic, and political constellation that has linked Africa, Europe, and the Americas from the 15th century to the present. In particular, we will investigate some key aspects of New England’s part in the Black Atlantic, including slavery and the slave trade; literature, public speaking, and the arts; commerce and industry; and travel and migration. We will ground this study in past and present geographic sites of diaspora, racialization, and contestation, including ships and ports, the home, church, workplace, market, and performance spaces.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 829
Museum Studies: Minorities & Museums
In this course we will explore the obstacles and opportunities affecting the impulse to collect, document, and preserve history and culture within communities defined by color, ethnicity, or gender. How do mainstream institutions engage other audiences and themes, and how should communities outside those institutions balance the need for community-based efforts with a relationship to the mainstream? This history has helped define broader popular culture, identity, and political issues. These relationships continue to inform representations and histories. Examples from a range of cultural communities will provide a context, with African American museological history as the primary text. Informing these discussions will be the examples of several regional institutions and histories, such as the public legacy of the Amistad rebellion and recent local African American and Latino community projects. Permission of the instructor is required for undergraduates only.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 830
Practicum in Museum Studies
This course will combine elements of a classroom-based seminar and a site-based internship in museum work. Arrangements will be made to coordinate these internships with the research, exhibition planning, and installation schedules at participating institutions in the Hartford area. Students will have an opportunity to work with museum professionals and to share their experiences with each other in the seminar. The seminar will meet as a group on a schedule to be arranged, both to report on field work and to discuss the assigned readings. Each student’s internship schedule will be arranged to accommodate the needs of the student and the institution. American Studies 825 and/or American Studies 833 are recommended but not required. Permission of the instructor is required for undergraduates only.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 831
Scribbling Women: American Women's Literary Culture, 1850-1920
This course will trace the rich and diverse tradition of women's writing in 19th-century America. We will consider the contexts that influenced women's writing and evaluate women authors' contributions to literary, political, and social movements during the 1800s through the turn of the century. We will pay particular attention to representations of race, class, ethnicity, region and gender in women's writing. African American, Euro-American, Hispanic, Native American, middle- and working-class women authors will be studied. Authors studied will include: Louisa M. Alcott, Lillie Devereux Blake, Grace MacGowan Cook, Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Kate Chopin, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Fanny Fern, Frances E. W. Harper, Nella Larsen, Elizabeth Keckley, Zitkala-Sa, and Maria Cummins.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 833
The Work of Museums
These days the business of museums is as closely analyzed as magazines, movies, and similar products, but the work of museums remains a mystery. To understand the choices involved in creating exhibitions, it is helpful to know how the museum functions from mechanics to ethics. This course will take students beyond the stanchions to explore issues and challenges involved in managing the museum. Along with methodological and theoretical readings, students will visit a range of Hartford-based museums and cultural centers to establish background in the structure that supports a museum. Presentations by professional staff from local institutions will provide a unique perspective on the joys, frustrations, responsibilities, and the necessary qualifications for work in museums. Course not open to undergraduates. American Studies 825 is recommended and interested students should contact the Graduate Studies Office for more information.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 834
Museum Representations of Native American Cultures
This course will consider factors that have influenced varied approaches to the exhibition and representation of Native American objects and cultural history in North American museums. Students will examine the ways in which Native American objects have been collected, interpreted, and presented for museum display, using a comparative approach, through field trips to the American Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. Current trends will be studies in the context of changing theoretical approaches to cultural history studies as well as recent social and political changes in Native American communities. Field trips, some guest speakers, exercises/project. Course not open to undergraduates.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 835
Museum Exhibition
One of the most engaging ways to promote collections and explore a subject or theme is to create an exhibition, which is a genre in and of itself—telling a story with artifacts. Through critical readings students will explore the cultural and educational goals of exhibits, visitor needs and accessibility, design elements (including technology), and audience evaluation methods utilized at libraries, historic houses and historical sites, and history and cultural museums. Drawing from the extensive and wide-ranging collections in the Watkinson Library, students will conceive, write, and install an exhibition, design and publish a catalogue, and plan and implement an opening event to take place at the end of the semester in the Watkinson.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 836
Foundational Texts in American Studies
Intensive examination of selected history-making texts in their cultural contexts, from the Revolution through the early 20th century. Among the works to be examined: Tom Paine, "Common Sense;" Ben Franklin, Autobiography; Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America; Henry David Thoreau, Walden; Frederick Douglass, Narrative; Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin; Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 837
Women and the American Preservation Movement
In the 19th and 20th centuries, wilderness preservation was a principal aim of environmental thought and action. Women led many of the foundational organizations and campaigns. They also documented wildlife and wildflowers, taught nature studies, and wrote about the preservationist cause. As women of class and racial privilege, many also evidenced anti-urban, anti-immigrant biases, including in their discourses of nature. This course will combine secondary sources with such primary sources as natural histories, garden writing, novels, and children’s books; we also will visit Birdcraft Sanctuary in Fairfield (started by Mabel Osgood Wright, founder of the Connecticut Audubon Society). We will situate women’s preservationism in relation to broader social and cultural trends, and question the meanings and lasting associations of “nature” depicted as “wild” and “native.”
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 838
America Collects Itself
Collecting American history is as alive and well in America today as it was soon after the republic was constituted. In the late 18th-century Americans became enamored of “writing” the new nation’s history, both in the literal sense of creating narratives, and the figurative sense of collecting the books and documents which would inform and underpin those narratives. The first institution created specifically to collect and preserve American history was the Massachusetts Historical Society, founded in 1791, during George Washington’s presidency. This course will trace the conscious collecting (by both individuals and institutions) of documents and artifacts from the 18th century to the present day relating to "America," as that term was variously defined over time.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 838
Body Art: Museums, Magazines and Media
For millennia, people throughout the world have marked their bodies with signs of civilization, individuality and social identity. People in every culture modify and decorate their bodies by painting, scarring, tattooing, reshaping or simply wrapping and adorning their bodies. Within the past 25 years or so there has been a proliferation of interest throughout the United States in the practices of tattooing and piercing. The spread of these phenomena from the margins to the mainstream of American culture is the subject of this course. We will focus on the ways in which these practices are “embodied” -- displayed, represented and defined -- in museum exhibitions and the burgeoning number of magazines devoted to these subjects. Through an analysis of specific museum and media depictions of tattoo and piercing we will consider the multiple meanings of these still controversial but ubiquitous visual and (generally) visible cultural statements. We will examine the ways in which body art has been simultaneously used to signal both cultural difference and belonging and the complex reasons why it currently is so widespread and why it is so acutely interesting a practice and subject for representation.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 839
Nationalizing America, 1932-1960
This course examines the Depression and New Deal, World War II, and the Cold War. During this period, an activist welfare state/national security state, and a national mass culture took form, shaped by responses to economic crisis and economic opportunity, the gathering power of popular-culture media and advertising, and wars hot and cold. Both political topics (e.g., New Deal labor or civil rights policies, McCarthyism) and social and cultural topics (e.g., The World War II home front, changing gender roles, suburbanization) will be investigated. Course materials include fiction, movies, and other documents from the period, as well as outstanding works of historical analysis and synthesis.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 840
Cold War Culture in the US
This course examines the relation between politics and culture in the Cold War era. In the United States the Cold War was marked by a virtually unprecedented campaign to marginalize and contain political and sexual nonconformity, a campaign that threatened to transform the nation into a mirror image of its political and cultural other, the Soviet Union. Americans who failed to conform to the emerging political and sexual consensus, such as communists, homosexuals, and career women, were construed as the "enemy within" and relentlessly persecuted. How did postwar American culture both contribute to and undermine this campaign? To answer this question, the course emphasizes the complexity of Cold War culture, focusing in particular on the construction of racial and gendered identity in the postwar period. Texts will include the films Mildred Pierce, I Was a Communist for the FBI, Imitation of Life, Vertigo, and The Misfits; the plays Death of a Salesman, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and A Raisin in the Sun; the novels Maud Martha, Invisible Man, On the Road, Another Country, and The Bell Jar. Supplemental readings include essays by James Baldwin, Irving Howe, Ralph Ellison, and Betty Friedan. Undergraduates who wish to enroll in this course must obtain permission of their adviser and the instructor.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 841
Museology Meets the Museum
This course will combine our analysis of key theoretical texts in museum studies with visits, as a group, to museums themselves. We will consider in historical perspective (from the late eighteenth to the twenty-first century) the arguments of museum founders, practitioners and theorists as they address: nation-building and national and cultural identities; the representation of histories -- including histories of human suffering; the status of the visitor; ongoing negotiations between the museum and its intended, excluded, alienated, and combative publics. We will pay particular attention to the evolving notion of museum innovation – the topic of this year’s annual conference of the American Association of Museums.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 843
Spectacle, Social Control, and the Spaces of Display
This course will analyze a range of built spaces, elite ones like museums and vernacular ones like shopping malls and casinos, to see how they reflect and shape our changing ideas of spectacle and display. Beginning with an examination of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and the 1939 World’s Fair, we will examine how buildings exercise authority and shape our behavior. We will consider how displays of culture and commerce encode the agendas of capitalism, both literal and cultural, by looking at the packaging of commodities and of the materials within museums; retail entertainment architecture like those of Las Vegas and Disney and its fusion with the museum; and memorial museums and structures, particularly the Holocaust Museum.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 844
The Gilded Age: 1865-1900
The transformation of the United States into an urban industrial nation, with special attention to the social and cultural effects of industrialization. The course will begin by examining Reconstruction, but will concentrate on the years after 1877. Extensive readings in original source materials, including several novels, as well as in analytic histories.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 849
The Culture of Americanism in the 20th Century
In 1894, Teddy Roosevelt published "True Americanism" in Forum Magazine, declaring the absolute necessity of applying a "fervid Americanism" to the solution of every problem and evil facing the country, including "Americanizing" newcomers to our shore. Nearly 50 years later, the rhetoric of Americanism proposed by Time publisher Henry Luce in his February 1941 editorial in Life Magazine, "The American Century," aimed to persuade Americans that the country's involvement in World War II and in the post-war world were not only necessary but inevitable. The Luce publications after the war publicized the culture of Americanism that was an essential part of the anti-communism that supported the Cold War for over half a century. Leaving aside the idea of American exceptionalism—"the notion that the United States has had a special mission and virtue that makes it unique among nations"—our focus will be on the culture of Americanism as it was promulgated in the Luce publications and other media outlets during and after World War II, and the extent to which it encouraged postwar homogeneity while discouraging the expression of dissent and non-conformist ideas.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 850
The Social Conscience and American Photography, 1839-1946
“The camera never lies,” but it certainly can persuade. From its inception, photography has been employed in the cause of social change in the United States. During the Civil War, the images from the Brady studio helped persuade the Union of the justice of its cause. Anthropological images made from the 1860s to the 1880s helped define the vanishing Native American communities of the West, and the romantic images of photographers like Edward Curtis created sympathy among white Easterners for their plight. In the later 19th century, photography became the handmaid of Progressive reform in the hands of Jacob Riis, whose book, How the Other Half Lives, convinced the public of the need for urban reform. Sociologist Lewis Hine found his photographs of child labor far more effective than text alone in stimulating change. And in what may be the most comprehensive photographic project yet undertaken, the Farm Services Administration under FDR’s New Deal program created a body of iconic images of the Great Depression that abide to today. In the hands of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, and Gordon Parks, among others, the FSA body of work remains the visual definition of the Depression. We will examine how it served the agendas created by the agency head, Roy Stryker, and the photographers themselves. Texts will include Liz Wells, Photography: A Critical Introduction; Alan Trachtenburg, Reading American Photographs; Fleischhauer and Brannan, Documenting America: 1935-1943.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 851
The World of Rare Books
The “world” of rare books encompasses a basic knowledge of the history of the book as object, the history and practice of printing since Gutenberg, book collecting in the West since the Renaissance (including bibliophilic clubs and societies), the trade (dealers, book auctions and book fairs), rare book libraries and librarians, and bibliographic scholarship. We will spend a week or two on each of these themes, which will include lecture and discussion, sources for further reading, exercises and projects, and a few activities to give a flavor of the topic (e.g., field trips, hand-setting type, or a mock auction). All classes will take place in the Watkinson library, the rare book and special collections department of the Trinity College Library.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 852
Cultural Studies: Race, Nation, Culture-Remapping Modern American Fiction
This course examines the relationship between modernism and nativism in the United States. In the 1920s nativist fervor provoked a redefinition of American national identity, one grounded in an essentialist understanding of race. At the same time, the myth of the American melting pot was vigorously attacked by cultural progressives who celebrated the racial and ethnic diversity of American society. How did modern American writers contribute to these debates over national identity? What understandings of race and national identity did they help to promote or undermine? Primary readings will include novels by Toomer, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Lewis, Faulkner, Cather, Glasgow, McKay, Larsen, and Hurston. Secondary readings will include essays on race and national identity by Frank, Kallen, Locke, Boas, and Dewey. This course satisfies the requirement of a literary history course.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 853
Agency and Agenda: Advertising the American Dream
This course investigates how photography has described and constructed consumer culture and current events, from selling the American Dream to the events of September 11, 2001. We will examine how advertising photography uses news imagery for its own agenda and creates enduring icons that in turn become part of the imagery of news. We will consider ethics and the roles of the image-maker; tactics of display; the creating agencies and their agendas; the manipulation of images (physical and interpretive); and how race, gender, and ethnicity are constructed in commercial and news images.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 854
Remembering Pearl Harbor
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The date December 7, 1941 remains embedded in American historical imagination as the day that changed American forever. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, an attack that has been referred to as the Pearl Harbor of the 21st century. This seminar will examine the legacy of Pearl Harbor, a day that continues to "live in infamy" in the American historical experience. The debate over its legacy will be our focus. Readings will include historical and cultural analyses, American foreign policy critiques and curren thinking on national secruity.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 855
Viewing The Wire Through a Critical Lens
Through analysis and dissection of David Simon's The Wire, this course seeks to equip students with the tools necessary to examine our postmodern society. The Wire seamlessly juxtaposes aesthetics with socio-economic issues, offering up a powerful lens for investigating our surroundings. Whether issues of unregulated free market capitalism, the bureaucracy of our school systems, politics of the media, false notions of equal opportunity, devaluation of human life, or a failed war on drugs, The Wire addresses the complexities of American urban life. Through a socio-political and cultural reading of the five individual seasons, students will be able to explore a multitude of contemporary problems.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 856
American Landscape Photography: Aesthetics and Ideology
The course considers the iconic photography of the American West made for railroad and government surveys in the 19th century; the idealized and iconic 20th-century landscapes constructed by Ansel Adams; recent photography whose purpose is aesthetic, political, and environmental; and ways in which photography helped created the industry of tourism. Readings drawn from history of photography, anthropology, social history, environmental science, theory, and environmental activism.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 857
Museums and Electronic Technologies
This class takes an expansive view of the current state of technology in museums, both from the inside (the use of technology to manage and administer daily operations) and from the outside (the use of technology to educate, market to, and develop one’s audiences). By carefully considering both the latest scholarship and a wealth of real-world examples, students will begin to confront the issue of how technology mediates and changes the way in which the public interacts with a museum and its physical objects. Drawing on established concepts of technology in education, the course will offer a critical perspective on specific computer-based technologies in museums, and will also supply students with an attractive set of computing skills – still rare in many museums – that will help them in their professional endeavors.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 858
Creating the New Right: The Conservative Movement in Post-World War II America
This seminar will examine the political and cultural environment that supported and sustained the New Right political movement that emerged after World War II and became fully formed during the Reagan years and more recently in the Tea Party Movement supported by non-profit political action committees. The key to conservative success lay in their hopes to replace the narrative of American liberalism—now progressivism—with its emphasis on democratic-egalitarian concepts, with a narrative more in keeping with conservative thinking that stresses the self-governing individual, minimum government activity, and entrepreneurial and market freedom. We want to focus our discussion and research on cultural change in America and the responses to those changes by the American people as well as by the two major political parties.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 859
African Americans and Slavery, Freedom and Race in Connecticut and the North, 1650-1865
This seminar will explore the experience of African Americans within slavery, freedom, and race over roughly Connecticut's first 250 years. We will traverse this terrain principally through an exploration of documents illustrating a variety of key events and developments in this history. We will be very attentive to the methodology of historical investigation and authentication and to learning about the numerous sources and archives available for the study of African American history in Connecticut. Assigned students will prepare brief evaluations of the documents for each meeting and will conclude the seminar with a short research paper of no more than fifteen pages, selected, researched, and drafted with instructor guidance. Presentations of their ongoing work will occur in the latter third of the seminar. Students will be introduced to key local repositories such as the State Library and the Connecticut Historical Society and to the basics of researching these rich archives.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 861
American Globetrotters: Travel Writing and Tourism
This graduate-level seminar will analyze the American fascination with travel and tourism and examine the literary strategies employed by travel writers. Our exploration will begin with the quintessentially masculine figure of the traveler and then turn to women travel writers who question traditional femininity and African American authors who challenge racism and social injustice in their travel writing. We will consider the perspective of the "natives" and their response to travel accounts written by tourists and colonists. Considering journeys undertaken to reclaim cultural "roots," students will read contemporary travel writing that questions the meaning of multi-cultural identity. We will also study the growing field of travel criticism and address issues of imperialism, globalization, and tourism. Authors studied include Washington Irving, Caroline Kirkland, Herman Melville, Matthew Henson, Nancy Prince, June Jordan, W.E.B. DuBois, Jamaica Kincaid, Paisley Rekdal, and others.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 863
America's Musical Landscape
This course examines music composed and performed in the United States from the end of the seventeenth century through the beginning of the twenty-first century. As such, we will consider, among other topics, the flowering of sacred music in New England's churches in the 1700's; the fusion of slave and planter musical traditions in Virginai, South Carolina, and Lousiana; black and blackface minstrelsy in the middle and late nineteenth century; songs of the Civil War; the rise of Tin Pan Alley in New York City int he early twentieth centruy; blusgrass music of Kentucky and tennessee; the music of Charles Ives, a modernist composer born in Danbury, Connecticut; and the music of America's urban ghettoes from the bronx to Detroit.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 864
Witnessing Slavery: Literature of Slavery and Abolition
This graduate-level seminar will trace nineteenth-century ideas about slavery, freedom, race, and identity through the writings of abolitionist reformers, slave narratives and cultural artifacts (newspapers, photographs, fine art images, and icons). For the second half of the course we will turn to the Twentieth Century and examine how these ideas continue to impact American culture and literature (including film). Authors studied will include: Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Gilmore Simms, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Henry Bibb, William and Ellen Craft, George Fitzhugh, Henry "Box" Brown, Nikki Giovanni and Toni Morrison.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 865
Post-War/Postmodern: American Design from Retro to Neo-Retro
This course explores the specifics of design in postwar America from a variety of perspectives, particularly social history. We will consider the growing phenomenon of postwar design templates as re-invented by contemporary designers in an attempt to understand why these icons of the Baby Boom have come to roost in contemporary culture. Topics include automobile design and history; housing and the creation of the American suburb; taming the exotic in tiki bars; kitchen debates and the feminine mystique; and domestic ideals and queering domesticity.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 865
American Popular Music: Milestones of the 1920s-1950s.
This course explores the music of the blues singers of 1920s through the jazz singers of the 1950s. Along the way we will consider the blues of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith; the protest music of Woody Guthrie; the jazz of Billie Holiday; and the new paths forged by Elvis Presley. By concentrating on these performers and stylistic periods, we will be able to focus on the important social and political events that shaped the music. Students will write a final paper that examines the music of one of the musical decades discussed during the course.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 867
American Popular Music: Milestones of the 1950's-1990's
This course begins with the groundbreaking and courageous new paths forged by Elvis Presley in the 1950s and concludes with the gangsta rappers of the 1990s. Along the way we will consider rhythm and blues and soul, including the music of Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and James Brown; Berry Gordy's Hitsville, USA and Motown; folk and protest traditions of the 1960s; and the music of the urban underclass in the 1980s and 1990s. By concentrating on these performers and stylistic periods, we will be able to focus on the important social and political events that shaped the music. Students will write a final paper that examines the music of one of the periods or genres discussed during the course.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 868
American Labor and Cultural Politics
This course will address the importance of the American labor movement in producing, contesting, and amplifying meaning within larger contexts of class, knowledge, and power. Although many such meanings arise within the expected domains of work, pay, and workers, and serve as crucial resources for communities and unions, they also are closely related to projects of achieving justice for larger imagined communities (e.g., “the people”). Readings will provide a broad overview of labor movements since the Civil War as well as close study of selected cultural work, such as challenging class subordination, shaping and contesting racialization, engendering and valorizing work, interrogating the wage relation, pursuing contradictory visions of authority and modernization, and seeking reform within today’s increasingly hostile political climates and structures.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 869
America and The Memory of Europe
American identity and culture were inextricably linked to the history and culture of Europe for much of the past three centuries. This course will explore that connection by studying how Americans understood, studied and refashioned the European past. Specifically, we will look at the impact of the classical, medieval, and Renaissance traditions on American sensibilities.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 870
Native American Pictorial Narrative
This seminar examines Native American Indian narrative artistic, pictorial, and literary traditions from North and Central America.Such traditions are inseparable from culture and performance, community and nation, human life and the physical world. The visual and tactile media considered include pictorial manuscripts, ceramics, bead- and shellwork, textiles, photographs, and paintings. The seminar will be interdisciplinary, with each unit including analyses of texts and visual materials and readings on aesthetics, translation, memory, and appropriation.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 871
Science Fiction and American Society
American science fiction literature has never been about the future, but always about the social and cultural moments in which it is created, packaged, and sold. This course will examine the roots of modern American science fiction in Victorian adventure fiction, the rise of mass-market magazine fiction and the development of technophiliac hard SF in the Depression, Cold War SF, the disillusionment of sixties experimentation and the rise of cyberpunk, and the revival of scientific or hard SF in contemporary writing, particularly those authors who examine environmental collapse and renewal. Authors to be considered include Heinlein, LeGuin, Dick, Haldeman, and Brin. The course will include consideration of how SF is written, edited, and published.
1.00 units, Lecture
AMST 872
Museum Education
This course will explore the philosophical and practical issues of educational program development at American history museums, and in particular, at the Mark Twain House & Museum. Course readings and class discussions will focus on various aspects of the often contradictory demands made by teachers or the general public for a history museum experience that both "educates" and "entertains", with special attention given to the professional realities of fulfilling the mission goals of a non-profit institution that seeks to serve the "community". Students in this course will be required to make a scholarly inquiry into the mission and operation of a history museum and create two new education programs for that museum - one that addresses the needs of K-12 students and their teachers according to the new mandate of the "Common Core Standards," and one that addresses the interests of the general public who choose to visit the museum.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 873
American Animation and Society
Animation has played a significant role in American culture. This course will consider the development of animation from the 1920s to today in its social, economic and cultural contexts. Special attention will be given to the perception of animation as a medium for children, to the growing acceptance of mature themes in shorts and feature films, and the power of imagery derived from animation in advertising, merchandising, and even political propaganda. We will look primarily at American feature films, which have dominated the international animation market since the groundbreaking Snow White (1939), the change from cel animation to CGI, and the innovations of studios that compete with still-dominant Disney, including Connecticut’s own Blue Sky. The course will include guest animators such as Bob Camp, co-creator of Ren and Stimpy.
1.00 units, Seminar
AMST 890
American Radio Relay League
No Course Description Available.
1.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 894
Connecticut Historical Society Internship
The Connecticut Historical Society offers graduate internships to matriculate American Studies students in five key areas: Museum Collections, Library, Public Programs, Exhibitions, and Technology. Interested students should contact the Office of Graduate Studies for more information.
1.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 894
Museums and Communities Internship
Matriculated American studies students have the opportunity to engage in an academic internship at an area museum or archive for credit toward the American studies degree. Interested students should contact the Office of Graduate Studies for more information.
1.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 940
Independent Study
Selected topics in special areas are available by arrangement with the instructor and written approval of the graduate adviser and program director. Contact the Office of Graduate Studies for the special approval form.
1.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 953
Research Project
Under the guidance of a faculty member, graduate students may do an independent research project on a topic in American studies. Written approval of the graduate adviser and the program director are required. Contact the Office of Graduate Studies for the special approval form.
1.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 954
Thesis Part I
(The two course credits are considered pending in Part I of the thesis; they will be awarded with the completion of Part II.)
1.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 955
Thesis Part II
(Continuation of American Studies 954.)
1.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 956
Thesis
(Completion of two course credits in one semester).
2.00 units, Independent Study
AMST 999
American Radio Relay League Internship
The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) founded in 1915 and located at 225 Main Street in Newington, Connecticut offers a unique internship opportunity for graduate credit in the summer, with the possibility of continued research in the fall and/or spring terms. The ARRL is a nonprofit organization that promotes interest in amateur radio communication, communication in the event of disasters for the furtherance of public welfare, the advancement of the art of radio, the fostering of non-commercial intercommunication by electronic means throughout the world, and the dissemination of technical, educational, and scientific information relating to electronic communication. The internship involves the organization, labeling and cataloguing of a large collection of historically significant radio-related objects, books, photographs, and documents that have been stores in the attic of the ARRL headquarters for many years. Ongoing advice and necessary materials and equipment, such as the use of a laptop or computer, would be provided by the ARRL.
1.00 units, Independent Study