American Studies Program

American Studies is an interdisciplinary field defined both by its objects of study - the processes, places, and people that comprise the United States - and by a mode of inquiry that moves beyond the scope of a single disciplinary approach or critical methodology. American Studies majors develop a rich understanding of the complex histories that have resulted from the conflict and confluence of European, Indigenous, African, and Asian cultures throughout the Western Hemisphere, and explore U.S. nation-formation in relation to global flows of American cultural, economic and military power. An individually designed course of study, which is the hallmark of the program, allows students to forge multidisciplinary approaches to the particular issues that interest them.

The American Studies program offers both core program courses and cross-listed electives via the following inter-related rubrics:

The United States in a global context: the role of the United States outside of its national borders, the flow of peoples, ideas, goods and capital both within and beyond the United States; explorations of historic and contemporary diasporas; contexts and cultures of U.S. militarism and anti-militarism.

Spaces, places, and borders: explorations of particular places and processes of place-making in the U.S.; focus on borders and borderlands as contested geographical and figurative spaces of cultural, political, and economic exchange.

U.S. cultural formations: investigations of literary, visual, audio, and performance cultures, and their interaction; U.S. popular culture, music and media.

Identity, difference & power: the contest to extend the promises of abstract citizenship to the particular experiences of embodied subjects; shifting politics of U.S. immigration; explorations of the production, representation and experience of race and ethnicity in the U.S., including structural dimensions of race and racism; investigations of the intersections of race with gender, class, sexuality, and other systems of difference.

U.S. Intellectual traditions and their discontents: explorations of American religious, cultural and political thought; traditions of social and political protests; discourses of sovereignty, liberty, federalism, individualism, rights.

The program also offers a correlate sequence in Native American Studies which enables students to examine Indigenous cultures, politics, histories, and literatures, in a primarily North American context. Students electing the correlate sequence are trained in the methodology of Native American Studies as a means to critically assess colonial discourses, examine the many ways Native peoples have contributed to and shaped North American culture, and analyze and honor the autonomy and sovereignty of Indigenous nations, peoples, and thought.

The American Studies program values close faculty-student interaction. Courses utilize a range of collaborative learning strategies; mentored independent senior work is an integral component of the major.

Programs

Major

Correlate Sequence in Native American Studies

Approved Courses

Courses

American Studies: I. Introductory

100a and b. Introduction to American Studies (1)

This course reveals and challenges the histories of the categories that contribute to the definition of "America." The course explores ideas such as nationhood and the nation-state, democracy and citizenship, ethnic and racial identity, myths of frontier and facts of empire, borders and expansion, normativity and representation, sovereignty and religion, regionalism and transnationalism as these inform our understanding of the United States and American national identity. One goal of the course is to introduce students to important concepts and works in American Studies. Either American Studies 100 or AMST 105 will satisfy the 100-level core requirement of the American Studies major. Topics vary with expertise of the faculty teaching the course.

Topic for 2014/15a: Empire/City. We investigate New York-both as "city of fact" and "city of feeling"-as a lens through which to explore the inter- and multi-disciplinary field of American Studies. New York, the Empire City, has also been called the capital of capitalism, the capital of the Twentieth Century, the pre-eminent American city in the American Century, and both the most and the least "American" of places. Along with other key global icons of modernity, New York also came to stand for "the city" itself. We attend to key transformations in the built environment from 1820 to the present, as we explore the particular role that New York City has played in the social, economic and political history of the United States. While our case studies are buildings and spaces, we are also interested in the modes of life and political visions that transformations in the built environment register and enable. And we discover the visible traces of this rich history in the city we encounter today. The course includes at least one field trip to New York. Ms. Brawley.

Topic for 2014/15b: The American Secular: Religion and the Nation-State. (Same as RELI 100) Is there a distinct realm in American politics and culture called the secular, a space or a mode of pubic discourse that is crucially free of and from the category of religion? This class considers the sorts of theoretical and historical moments in American life, letters, and practice that have, on the one hand, insisted the importance and necessity of such a realm, and on the other hand, resisted the very notion that religion should be kept out of the American public square. We will ask whether it is possible or even desirable---in our politics, in our public institutions, in ourselves---to conceive of the secular and the religious as radically opposed. We will ask if there are better ways to conceive of the secular and the religious in American life, ways that acknowledge their mutual interdependence rather than their exclusivity. Mr. Kahn.

Open to freshmen and sophomores only.

Two 75-minute periods.

101a. The Art of Reading and Writing (1)

Development of critical reading in various forms of literary expression, and regular practice in different kinds of writing. The content of each section varies; see the Freshman Handbook for descriptions. The department.

Although the content of each section varies, this course may not be repeated for credit; see the Freshman Handbook for descriptions.

Open only to freshmen; satisfies the college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

105b. Introduction to Native American Studies (1)

This course is a multi-and interdisciplinary introduction to the basic philosophies, ideologies, and methodologies of the discipline of Native American Studies. It acquaints students with the history, art, literature, sociology, linguistics, politics, and epistemology according to an indigenous perspective while utilizing principles stemming from vast and various Native North American belief systems and cultural frameworks. Through reading assignments, films, and discussions, we learn to objectively examine topics such as orality, sovereignty, stereotypes, humor, language, resistance, spirituality, activism, identity, tribal politics, and environment among others. Overall, we work to problematize historical, ethnographical, and literary representations of Native people as a means to assess and evaluate western discourses of domination; at the same time, we focus on the various ways Native people and nations, both in their traditional homelands and urban areas, have been and are triumphing over 500+ years of colonization through acts of survival and continuance. Either AMST 100 or 105 will satisfy the 100-level core requirement of the American Studies major. Ms. McGlennen.

Open to freshmen and sophomores only.

Two 75-minute periods.

112b. Family, Law, and Social Policy (1)

(Same as POLI 112 and WMST 112) This course explores the ways laws and social policies intertwine with the rapid changes affecting U.S. families in the 21st century. We focus on ways in which public policies both respond to and try to influence changes in family composition and structure. The topics we explore may include marriage (including same-sex and polygamous marriage); the nuclear family and alternative family forms; domestic violence and the law; incarcerated parents and their children; juvenile justice and families; transnational families; and family formation using reproductive technologies. Although focusing on contemporary law and social policy, we place these issues in historical and comparative perspective. Course meets at the Taconic Correctional Facility. Ms. Shanley.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructors. 

Not offered in 2014/15.

One 3-hour period.

160a. Art and Social Change in the United States (1)

(Same as ART 160) In this first-year seminar, we explore relationships between art, visual culture, and social change in the United States. Focusing on twentieth and twenty-first century social movements, we study artists and communities who have sought to inspire social change--to cultivate awareness, nurture new ideas, offer new visions, promote dialogue, encourage understanding, build and strengthen community, and inspire civic engagement and direct action--through creative visual expression. Ms. Collins.

Open only to freshmen; satisfies the college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

Two 75-minute periods.

177b. Special Topics: Imagining the City (1/2)

(Same as ENGL 177 and URBS 177) Topic for 2014/15b: Imagining the City. This six-week course will survey various approaches to thinking and writing about the city. How do our surroundings change us? What power does an individual have to reshape or reimagine the vast urban landscape? We will consider a diverse array of depictions: the ethnic underground of Chang-rae Lee's Queens; the forlorn Baltimore depicted in the television show The Wire; the midnight wanderings of Teju Cole and Junot Diaz; the global bustle of Jessica Hagedorn's Manila; present-day graffiti artists and urban farmers reclaiming their "right to the city." Mr. Hsu.

American Studies: II. Intermediate

203b. Introductory Creative Writing: Journalisms (1)

(Same as ENGL 203) This course examines the various forms of journalism that report on the diverse complexity of contemporary American lives. In a plain sense, this course is an investigation into American society. But the main emphasis of the course is on acquiring a sense of the different models of writing, especially in longform writing, that have defined and changed the norms of reportage in our culture. Students are encouraged to practice the basics of journalistic craft and to interrogate the role of journalists as intellectuals (or vice versa). Mr. Kumar.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. 

Not open to first-year students. Applicants to the course must submit samples of original nonfiction writing (two to five pages long) and a statement about why they want to take the course. Deadline for submission of writing samples one week after October break.

205b. Arab American Literature (1)

(Same as AFRS 205) This course examines issues of identity formation, including race and ethnicity, gender, religion, and multiculturalism in the literary production of at least four generations of American writers, intellectuals and journalists of Arab and hybrid descent. We will read autobiographies, novels, short stories and poetry spanning the twentieth century, as well as articles and book chapters framing this literature and the identity discourse it vehicles within the broader cultural history of the American mosaic. Authors and works studied may change occasionally and include: Khalil Gibran, Elia Abu Madi, Gregory Orfalea, Joseph Geha, Diana Abu Jaber, Naomi Shihab Nye, Suheir Hammad, Betty Shamieh, Moustafa Bayoumi, and others. All texts are originally written in English. Mr. Mhiri.

Open to all students.

Not offered in 2014/15.

Two 75-minute periods.

207b. Commercialized Childhoods (1)

(Same as SOCI 207) This course examines features of childhoods in the U.S. at different times and across different social contexts. The primary aims of the course are 1) to examine how we've come to the contemporary understanding of American childhood as a distinctive life phase and cultural construct, by reference to historical and cross-cultural examples, and 2) to recognize the diversity of childhoods that exist and the economic, geographical, political, and cultural factors that shape those experiences. Specific themes in the course examine the challenges of studying children; the social construction of childhood (how childhoods are constructed by a number of social forces, economic interests, technological determinants, cultural phenomena, discourses, etc.); processes of contemporary globalization and commodification of childhoods (children's roles as consumers, as producers, and debates about children's rights); as well as the intersecting dynamics of age, social class, race/ethnicity, gender, and sexuality in particular experiences of childhood. Ms. Rueda.

Two 75-minute periods.

213b. American Music (1)

(Same as MUSI 213) The study of folk, popular, and art musics in American life from 1600 to the present and their relationship to other facets of America's historical development and cultural growth. Mr. Pisani.

Prerequisite: one unit in one of the following: music; studies in American history, art, or literature; or permission of the instructor. 

Alternate years. Not offered in 2014/15.

214b. History of American Jazz (1)

(Same as MUSI 214) An investigation of the whole range of jazz history, from its beginning around the turn of the century to the present day. Among the figures to be examined are: Scott Joplin, "Jelly Roll" Morton, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, Thomas "Fats" Waller, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and Miles Davis. Mr. Mann.

Prerequisite: one unit in one of the following: music, studies in American history, art, or literature; or permission of the instructor. 

Alternate years.

217b. Studies in Popular Music (1)

(Same as MEDS 217 and MUSI 217) Topic for 2014/15b: History of Rock. This class examines the social history of rock from Elvis Presley to the present through examination of musical trends, socio-economic and demographic changes, social and political movements and issues in fandom, production and reception. Seminal artists and events are examined along with the development of genres, subcultures and accompanying trends like fashion, slang, literature, identity politics, as well as the influence of TV, film, radio, video, art, the internet and the music industry. Issues of race, class, gender, age, politics, censorship and hybridity will form the backbone of the course, as well as rock beyond the Anglophone world as a global art form. Mr. Patch.

Recommended: one unit in either Music, Sociology, or Anthropology.

Two 75-minute periods.

235b. The Civil Rights Movement in the United States (1)

(Same as AFRS 235) In this interdisciplinary course, we examine the origins, dynamics, and consequences of the modern Civil Rights movement. We explore how the southern based struggles for racial equality and full citizenship in the U.S. worked both to dismantle entrenched systems of discrimination---segregation, disfranchisement, and economic exploitation---and to challenge American society to live up to its professed democratic ideals. Ms. Collins.

Not offered in 2014/15.

249b. Encounter and Exchange: American Art from 1565 to 1865 (1)

(Same as ART 249) This course examines American art from European contact in the 16th century through the Civil War. It emphasizes the formative role of the international encounter and cross-cultural exchange to this art. The focus is on painting, photography, and prints, though a range of objects types including sculpture, architecture, moving panoramas, and wampum belts will also be explored.

Prerequisites: ART 105-ART 106, or permission of the instructor. 

Not offered in 2014/15.

Two 75-minute periods.

250b. America in the World (1)

This course focuses on current debates in American Studies about resituating the question of "America" in global terms. We explore the theoretical and political problems involved in such a reorientation of the field as we examine topics such as American militarization and empire, American involvement in global monetary organizations such as the World Trade Organization and the World Bank, the question of a distinctive national and international American culture, foreign perspectives on American and "Americanization," and the global significance of American popular culture including film and music such as hip-hop.

Required of students concentrating in the program. Generally not open to senior majors. Open to other students by permission of the director and as space permits.

Not offered in 2014/15.

Two 75-minute periods.

251a. Modern America: Visual Culture from the Civil War to WWII (1)

(Same as ART 251) This course examines American visual culture as it developed in the years between the Civil War and World War II. Attention is paid to the intersections among diverse media and to such issues as consumerism, abstraction, primitivism, femininity, and mechanized reproduction. Artists studied include Thomas Eakins, Timothy O'Sullivan, James McNeill Whistler, Georgia O'Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, Edward Weston, and Aaron Douglas. Ms. Elder.

Prerequisite: ART 105-ART 106 or a 100-level American Studies course or by permission of instructor. 

Two 75-minute periods.

252a. The American Military at Home and Abroad (1)

After 1945 the U.S. created the world's largest and most far-reaching network of military bases. Today, more than 700 military bases in over 150 countries are hosts to American troops, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and private military contractors. Readings explore the development of this unprecedented global network of military bases, the differing Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs) that govern the relationship between the U.S. military and the local populations, as well as the impact of the U.S. troops on these communities. By taking a transnational perspective, we explore the possibilities and limits for democratic change due to the U.S. presence, but also the way in which America's military deployments abroad brought about change at home. Assigned readings draw on the writing of scholars of the U.S. military, texts produced by opponents of the U.S. military, as well as artistic responses (films, plays, novels, poems) to the U.S. global base structure. Ms. Hoehn.

Not offered in 2014/15.

Two 75-minute periods.

257a. Reorienting America: Asians in American History and Society (1)

(Same as ASIA 257 and SOCI 257) Based on sociological theory of class, gender, race/ethnicity, this course examines complexities of historical, economic, political, and cultural positions of Asian Americans beyond the popular image of "model minorities." Topics include the global economy and Asian immigration, politics of ethnicity and pan-ethnicity, educational achievement and social mobility, affirmative action, and representation in mass media. Ms. Moon.

Not offered in 2014/15.

258b. Studies in Sound (1)

(Same as MEDS 258) This course familiarizes students with the emerging field of sound studies. We spend the first eight weeks exploring the different facets of sound culture: histories and ethnographies of listening; theories of sound capture and reproduction; the political economy of recording media (particularly the MP3); the experience of the modern American soundscape. We conclude with case studies of contemporary sonic experiences: "glitch"-based digital music and the aesthetics of failure; new developments in sonic weaponry; art and activism that "listens" to drones and the US-Mexico border. Mr. Hsu.

Prerequisite: 100-level course work within the multidisciplinary programs, or permission of the instructor. 

Two 75-minute periods.

262a. Native American Women (1)

(Same as WMST 262) In an effort to subjugate indigenous nations, colonizing and Christianizing enterprises in the Americas included the implicit understanding that subduing Native American women through rape and murder maintained imperial hierarchies of gender and power; this was necessary to eradicate Native people's traditional egalitarian societies and uphold the colonial agenda. Needless to say, Native women's stories and histories have been inaccurately portrayed, often tainted with nostalgia and delivered through a lens of western patriarchy and discourses of domination. Through class readings and writing assignments, discussions and films, this course examines Native women's lives by considering the intersections of gender and race through indigenous frameworks. We expose Native women's various cultural worldviews in order to reveal and assess the importance of indigenous women's voices to national and global issues such as sexual violence, environmentalism, and health. The class also takes into consideration the shortcomings of western feminisms in relation to the realities of Native women and Native people's sovereignty in general. Areas of particular importance to this course are indigenous women's urban experience, Haudenosaunee influence on early U.S. suffragists, indigenous women in the creative arts, third-gender/two-spiritedness, and Native women's traditional and contemporary roles as cultural carriers. Ms. McGlennen.

Two 75-minute periods.

266a. Art and Everyday Life in the United States (1)

(Same as AFRS 266 and ART 266) An exploration of material and expressive creations closely associated with everyday life from the era of the transatlantic slave trade to the present day. Focusing on objects, images, spaces, and lore intimately tied to African American lives, we examine these ordinary and extraordinary creations and expressions in relation to the histories, movements, beliefs, practices, and ideas that underlie them. Ms. Collins.

Prerequisite: ART 105-ART 106 or coursework in Africana Studies, American Studies, Women's Studies, or permission of the instructor. 

Not offered in 2014/15.

Two 75-minute periods.

275a. Race and Ethnicity in America (1)

This course examines "white" American identity as a cultural location and a discourse with a history---in Mark Twain's terms, "a fiction of law and custom." What are the origins of "Anglo-Saxon" American identity? What are the borders, visible and invisible, against which this identity has leveraged position and power? How have these borders shifted over time, and in social and cultural space? How has whiteness located itself at the center of political, historical, social, and literary discourse, and how has it been displaced? How does whiteness mark itself, or mask itself? What does whiteness look like, sound like, and feel like from the perspective of the racial "other"? What happens when we consider whiteness as a racial or ethnic category? And in what ways do considerations of gender and class complicate these other questions? We read works by artists, journalists, and critics, among them Bill Finnegan, Benjamin DeMott, Lisa Lowe, David Roediger, George Lipsitz, Roland Barthes, Chela Sandoval, Eric Lott, bell hooks, Cherríe Moraga, Ruth Frankenberg, James Baldwin, Homi Bhabha, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, James Weldon Johnson, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, William Faulkner, Nathanael West, Alice Walker, and Don DeLillo. We also explore the way whiteness is deployed, consolidated and critiqued in popular media like film (Birth of a NationPulp FictionPleasantville) television ("reality" shows, The West Wing) and the American popular press.

Not offered in 2014/15.

Two 75-minute periods.

281b. Theirs or Ours? Repatriating Individuals and Objects (1)

(Same as ANTH 281) Collecting Native American objects and human remains was once justified as a way to preserve vanishing cultures. Instead of vanishing, Native Americans organized and asked that their ancestors be returned, along with their grave goods, and other sacred objects. Initially, museums fought against the loss of collections and scientists fought against the loss of data. Governments stepped in and wrote regulations to manage claims, dictating the rights of all parties. Twenty years after the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) repatriation remains a controversial issue with few who are truly satisfied with the adopted process. This course examines the ethics and logistics of repatriation from the perspectives of anthropology, art, history, law, museum studies, Native American studies, philosophy, and religion. Recent U.S. cases are contrasted with repatriation cases in other parts of the world, for repatriation is not just a Native American issue. Ms. Beisaw.

Two 75-minute periods.

283b. U.S. Consumer Culture (1)

(Same as HIST 283) examines the rise of consumer culture in twentieth century America. This culture has flourished, in part, because consumer capitalism has continuously transformed everyday wants into needs. We explore how the growth of mass production, advertising, department stores, shopping malls, modern technologies, and imperialism have shaped the nation's desire for goods and pleasure. Americans' relationships with these commodities and services reveal how people have come to understand themselves as consumers (staking claims to the ability to consume as a function of citizenship) and how consumption has shaped their lives (where they have defined themselves by what they buy). We take a chronological and thematic approach to contextualize the culture of consumption, in its many forms, across time and space. Mr. Mills.

Two 75-minute periods.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2to1)

Permission of the director required.

297a. Readings in American Studies (1/2)

Topic for 297.01: Native American Art. Selected readings in Native American art, with emphasis on the Inuit, Haudenosaune (Iroquois), Pueblo and Navajo peoples.  Not offered in 2014/15.

Topic for 297.02: Regional Cultures of Native North America. Directed reading of ethnographies on a particular region of North America to be chosen by the student in consultation with the instructor. Students will write brief reviews and comparative analyses of 3-4 ethnographies written about the same culture group.

Topic for 297.03: Regional Prehistory of Native North America. Directed reading of field reports and syntheses of the prehistory of a particular region of North America to be chosen by the student in consultation with the instructor. Students will write brief analyses of the field reports and critique the synthesis based on more recent field reports.

Topic for 297.04: Native American Memoir and the Premise of Memoir. Selected readings from Native authors, including Sherman Alexie, Kimberly Blaeser, Forest Carter, Louise Erdrich, Joy Harjo, Gordon Henry, Linda Hogan, Ignatia Broker, Janet McAdams, Molly McGlennen, N. Scott Momaday, Nasdijj, Leslie Marmon Silko, Stephanie Sellers, and Gerald Vizenor. Ms. Nichols.

Topic for 297.05: Native American Philosophies and Religions. Directed reading of Indigenous North American philosophical and religious belief systems. Students will write brief reviews of chosen texts and a final research paper on a (related) topic of the student's choice. Ms. McGlennen.

Topic for 297.06: Native American Ethnobotany. Directed reading on the ways that Native Americans in North America (north of Mexico) perceive and interact with plants. Particular cultural groups and time periods to be chosen by the student in consultation with the instructor. Students will write brief reviews of chose texts and a final research paper on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor. Not offered in 2014/15.

298a or b. Independent Study (1/2to1)

Permission of the director required.

American Studies: III. Advanced

302a. Senior Thesis or Project (1/2)

Required of students concentrating in the program.

The senior project is graded Distinction, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory.

Yearlong course 302-AMST 303.

303b. Senior Thesis or Project (1/2)

Required of students concentrating in the program.

The senior project is graded Distinction, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory.

Yearlong course AMST 302-303.

313b. Multidisciplinary Research Methods (1)

This course explores the challenges of conducting multi- and interdisciplinary inquiry within the field of American Studies. Drawing on key texts and innovative projects within the field, the course examines the ways in which varying disciplines make meaning of the world and puts specific modes of inquiry into practice. Students learn how to seek, produce, and evaluate different forms of evidence and how to shape this evidence in the direction of a broader project. Specific forms of inquiry may include: interpreting archival documents, conducting interviews, making maps, crafting field notes, analyzing cultural texts, among others. Mr. Simpson.

Prerequisite or co-requisite: a discipline-specific methods course appropriate to the student. 

Required of all Junior American Studies majors.

315b. Senior Project Seminar (1)

This course is required for all senior American Studies majors. The seminar engages current debates in the field of American Studies, as it prepares students to undertake the Senior Project. The course is designed to help students to identify a compelling research problem, locate appropriate critical resources, deepen their engagement with the disciplinary and interdisciplinary methods appropriate to their focus within the major, and locate their projects within a broader field of inquiry. Texts include Bruce Burgett and Glen Hendler, Keywords for American Culture Studies; Wayne Booth et al., The Craft of Research. Taught by the Director, Ms. Brawley.

Corequisite: Senior Project; offered in the fall semester in the senior year. 

Not offered in 2014/15.

One 2-hour period.

331a. Topics in Archaeological Theory and Method (1)

(Same as ANTH 331) The theoretical underpinnings of anthropological archaeology and the use of theory in studying particular bodies of data. The focus ranges from examination of published data covering topics such as architecture and society, the origin of complex society, the relationship between technology and ecology to more laboratory-oriented examination of such topics as archaeometry, archaeozoology, or lithic technology.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Topic for 2014/15a: From the Natural History Museum to Ecotourism: The Collection of Nature. From the rise of the Natural History Museum, the Bureau of Ethnology, and early endeavors to create a national literature, the appropriation of American Indian lands and American Indians (as natural objects) offered Euro-Americans a means to realize their new national identity. Today, the American consumer-collector goes beyond the boundaries of the museum, national park, and zoo and into ecotourism, which claims to make a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate money, jobs, and the conservation of wildlife and vegetation. This course investigates historical and current trends in the way North Americans recover, appropriate, and represent non-western cultures, 'exotic' animals, and natural environments from theoretical and ideological perspectives. Course readings draw from the fields of anthropology, archaeology, museology, literature, and environmental studies. Ms. Pike-Tay.

Prerequisite: previous coursework in Anthropology, or permission of the instructor. 

One 3-hour period.

350a. Confronting Modernity (1)

Not offered in 2014/15.

366a. Art and Activism in the United States (1)

(Same as AFRS 366, ART 366, and WMST 366) Vision and Critique in the Black Arts and Women's Art Movements in the United States. Focusing on the relationships between visual culture and social movements in the U.S., this seminar examines the arts, institutions,and ideas of the Black Arts movement and Women's Art movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Analyzing paintings, photographs, posters, quilts, collages, murals, manifestos, mixed-media works, installations, films, performances, and various systems of creation, collaboration, and display, we explore connections between art, politics, and society. Ms. Collins.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. 

Not offered in 2014/15.

One 2-hour period.

367b. Artists' Books from the Women's Studio Workshop (1)

(Same as ART 367 and WMST 367) In this interdisciplinary seminar, we explore the limited edition artists' books created through the Women's Studio Workshop in Rosendale, New York. Founded in 1974, the Women's Studio Workshop encourages the voice and vision of individual women artists, and women artists associated with the workshop have, since 1979, created over 180 hand-printed books using a variety of media, including hand-made paper, letterpress, silkscreen, photography, intaglio, and ceramics. Vassar College recently became an official repository for this vibrant collection which, in the words of the workshop's co-founder, documents "the artistic activities of the longest continually operating women's workspace in the country." Working directly with the artists' books, this seminar will meet in Vassar Library's Special Collections and closely investigate the range of media, subject matter, and aesthetic sensibilities of the rare books, as well as their contexts and meanings. We will also travel to the Women's Studio Workshop to experience firsthand the artistic process in an alternative space. Ms. Collins.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. 

One 2-hour period.

370a. Transnational Literature (1)

(Same as  ENGL 370) This course focuses on literary works and cultural networks that cross the borders of the nation-state. Such border-crossings raise questions concerning vexed phenomena such as globalization, exile, diaspora, and migration-forced and voluntary. Collectively, these phenomena deeply influence the development of transnational cultural identities and practices. Specific topics studied in the course vary from year to year and may include global cities and cosmopolitanisms; the black Atlantic; border theory; the discourses of travel and tourism; global economy and trade; or international terrorism and war.

Topic for 2014/15a: Indigenous Transnationalisms. This course focuses on the ways in which transnational studies has become a more helpful tool in unpacking particular critical questions that both American Studies and literary/cultural criticism produce. In many ways, transnational literatures and visual culture continue to serve as a means to subvert dominant narratives of the nation-state as a static and stable territory.  Many contemporary North American Indigenous writers and artists -- across colonial and tribal borders alike -- utilize their work to more accurately reflect the global flow of Indigenous peoples, ideas, texts, and products etc. and call into question the geo-political boundaries of colonial nation-states.  Indigenous transnationalism as a theoretical position demonstrates how some Native American/First Nation/Indio literatures and visual culture produce a mobilizing force of shared cultural and political alliances across nationalistic lines while remaining steadfast to tribally-specific and inter-tribal identities and citizenships.  In this way, many Indigenous artists are critiquing national identity and imperialism, and radically challenging the histories, geographies, and contemporary social relations that define the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean. Ms. McGlennen.

One 2-hour period.

375b. Seminar in Women's Studies (1)

(Same as AFRS 375    and WMST 375) Topic for 2014/15b: 21st Century Feminisms.

May be repeated for credit if the topic has changed.

Prerequisite: WMST 130. 

One 2-hour period.

380b. Art, War, and Social Change (1)

(Same as SOCI 380) Can the arts serve as a vehicle for social change? In this course we look at one specific arena to consider this question: the issue of war. How is war envisioned and re-envisioned by art and artists? How do artists make statements about the meaning of war and the quest for peace? Can artists frame our views about the consequences and costs of war? How are wars remembered, and with what significance? Specifically, we look at four wars and their social and artistic interpretations, wrought through memory and metaphor. These are: The Vietnam War, its photography and its famous memorial; World War I and the desolation of the novels and poetry that portrayed it; World War 11 and reflections on Hiroshima; and the Spanish Civil War through Picasso's famous anti-war painting Guernica, the recollections of Ernest Hemingway, the memories of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and the photography of Robert Capa. By looking at both the Sociology of Art and Sociology of War we consider where the crucial intersections lie. Ms. Miringoff.

Not offered in 2014/15.

382b. Documenting America (1)

The demand for documentation, the hunger for authenticity, the urge to share in the experiences of others were widespread in the first half of the twentieth century. A huge world of documentary expression included movies, novels, photographs, art and non-fiction accounts. This course explores the various ways in which some of these artists, photographers, writers and government agencies attempted to create documents of American life between 1900 and 1945. The course examines how such documents fluctuate between utility and aesthetics, between the social document and the artistic image. Among the questions we consider are: in what ways do these works document issues of race and gender that complicate our understanding of American life? How are our understandings of industrialization and consumerism, the Great Depression and World War II, shaped and altered by such works as the photographs of Lewis Hine and Dorothea Lange,the paintings of Jacob Lawrence, the films of Charlie Chaplin, the novels and stories of Chester Himes, William Carlos Williams and Zora Neale Hurston, the non-fictional collaboration of James Agee and Walker Evans. Ms. Cohen and Ms. Wallace.

Not offered in 2014/15.

One 2-hour period.

383b. Indigenous New York (1)

Over half of all Native American people living in the United States now live in an urban area. The United States federal policies of the 1950's brought thousands of Indigenous peoples to cities with the promise of jobs and a better life. Like so many compacts made between the United States and Native tribes, these agreements were rarely realized. Despite the cultural, political, and spiritual losses due to Termination and Relocation policies, Native American people have continued to survive and thrive in complex ways. This seminar examines the experiences of Indigenous peoples living in urban areas since the 1950's, but also takes into consideration the elaborate urban centers that existed in the Americas before European contact. Using the New York region as our geographical center, we examine the pan-tribal movement, AIM, Red Power, education, powwowing, social and cultural centers, two-spiritedness, religious movements, and the arts. We study the manner in which different Native urban communities have both adopted western ways and recuperated specific cultural and spiritual traditions in order to build and nurture Indigenous continuance. Finally, in this course, we understand and define "urban" in very broad contexts, using the term to examine social, spiritual, geographical, material, and imagined spaces in which Indigenous people of North America locate themselves and their communities at different times and in different ways. Ms. McGlennen.

Not offered in 2014/15.

One 2-hour period.

384a. Racial Borderlands (1)

Borders have been made to demarcate geographic and social spaces. As such, they often divide and separate national states, populations, and their political and cultural practices. However, borders also serve as spaces of convergence and transgression. Employing a comparative and relational approach to the study of American cultures, this seminar examines concepts, theories and methodologies about race and ethnicity that emerged along the U.S. racial borderlands between the 18th and 20th centuries. We also consider the historical and contemporary ways in which discourses about race have been used to define, organize, and separate different social groups within the U.S. racial empire state. Throughout the semester we ask the following questions: How does race emerge as an idea in the U.S. political and social landscape? What is the relationship between race, gender and empire? What are the relational and historical ways in which ideas about race have been used to arrange and rank distinct social groups in the U.S. imperial body? How have these hierarchies shifted across space and time and how have different groups responded to these racial formations? Lastly, this seminar considers the future potential and limits of solidarity as a practice organized around ideas about race and exclusion for different marginalized populations within the U.S. empire state. Mr. Alamo.

385b. Seminar in American Art (1)

(Same as AFRS 385 and ART 385) Topic for 2014/15b: The Visual Culture of the American Civil War. Today, images of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Ukraine are ubiquitous; they appear online, in print, and on television. Press coverage was equally pervasive during the American Civil War, but, in the nineteenth century, illustrated newspapers, documentary photography, and figurative monuments were new media that had only recently been developed. This course explores how and why the American Civil War was represented in the fine arts and visual culture in order to understand the complex and reciprocal relationship between the visual arts and politics. How did painting, photography, sculpture, and print shape the ideologies and realities of the War, and how did the War define the possibilities and limitations of these media as well as the relationship between them? We explore these questions through seminar meetings on such topics as slavery, violence, soldiers and veterans, the homefront, landscape, and emancipation as well as through the work of major American artists like Mathew Brady, Frederic Church, Robert Duncanson, Winslow Homer, Edmonia Lewis, and Thomas Nast. Ultimately, our goal is to develop a better understanding of the Civil War and American art as well as an intellectual and historical context for evaluating the visual culture of war in the United States today. Ms. Elder.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. 

One 2-hour period.

386b. Baseball and American Society (1)

Baseball has been more than merely a game in American life and history. It has permeated American culture, and reflected U.S. society. The more one peels away the layers of baseball's history, the more one finds that baseball emerges as a barometer of American culture. From challenges to racial segregation to campaigns for labor rights, baseball has mirrored and engendered social, economic, and political change in America. This course grapples with the multifaceted meanings and experiences of baseball in American society, with a particular focus on how baseball reflects, reinforces, and sometimes challenges social inequalities. We work with diverse texts to explore baseball in relation to enduring questions about race, class, and gender as well as emergent debates about globalization, new statistical measures, performance enhancing drugs, and the growing sport-media complex. Exploring broad questions about sports, culture, and society, this course is not just for baseball fans. Mr. Hoynes.

One 2-hour period.

389b. From the Natural History Museum to Ecotourism:The Collection of Nature (1)

(Same as ENST 389) From the rise of the Natural History Museum, the Bureau of Ethnology, and early endeavors to create a national literature, the appropriation of American Indian lands and Amerian Indians (as natural objects) offered Euro-Americans a means to realize their new national identity. Today, the American consumer-collector goes beyond the boundaries of the museum, national park, and zoo and into ecotourism, which claims to make a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate money, jobs, and the conservation of wildlife and vegetation. This course investigates historical and current trends in the way North Americans recover, appropriate, and represent non-western cultures, 'exotic' animals, and natural environments from theoretical and ideological perspectives. Course readings draw from the fields of anthropology, archaeology, museology, literature, and environmental studies. Ms. Graham, Ms. Pike-Tay.

Not offered in 2014/15.

Two 75-minute periods.

399b. Senior Independent Work (1/2to1)