Undergraduate Semester Course Offerings

 

You can find the complete American Studies Department course slate on the Registrar's Schedule of Classes. Check back for more course descriptions throughout the registration period. 

Fall 2019 Courses

Dara Orenstein

W 12:45-3:15

CRN: 97394

The Walking Dead. World War Z. “Obama Zombies.” Why does the specter of the living dead loom so largely in contemporary U.S. culture? How is it useful? What does it illuminate about the relationship between capitalism and democracy that might otherwise remain inscrutable? And how has it served in this allegorical manner throughout modern U.S. history? How did it haunt the rise of mass production, or the growth of suburbs, or the eruption of a social movement like Occupy Wall Street? To answer such questions, in this seminar we will track the figure of the zombie from the Gilded Age to the crash of 2008, and from the sugar plantations of Depression-era Haiti and Louisiana to the tents of Zuccotti Park. Our syllabus will range across the humanities and social sciences, encompassing, to cite a few examples, the writings of Karl Marx, the films of George Romero, and the genre of the Zombie Survival Guide. Students will be expected to view a total of 11 films outside of class, to read an average of 2 articles or essays per week as well as 1 novel, to contribute to a class blog each week, to give 2 oral presentations in class during the semester, and to write a final paper.

 

Elizabeth Anker

M 11:10-12:25 and M 7:10-9:40

CRN: 93721

This class addresses the relationship between politics and film by examining how American

films interpret and challenge political power in America. We pair film analysis with readings in

political theory to interrogate the operations of power in political life. Exploring films thematically,

first we examine those that shape conventional interpretations of political power in America,

including concepts of limited government, popular sovereignty, and liberal individualism. Next,

we consider films that challenge these ideas by offering alternate conceptions of how power

functions, while addressing questions of ideology, surveillance, domination, and biopolitics. The

last section investigates particular genres—melodrama, the western, and film noir—that

reshape and rearticulate these themes within American political culture. Throughout, we will

focus on how to read the visual language of film and the written texts of political theory.

Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

 

Suleiman Osman

TR, 2:20-3:10

CRN: 97006

This course will examine American society, culture, and politics during the dynamic and

contentious decade of the 1960s. Students will examine topics such as the civil rights

movement, the student movement, the Vietnam War and anti-war movement, black power, the

counterculture, feminism, the environmental movement, and the New Right. Students

will also examine how the memory of the 1960s continues to shape debates about political

activism, foreign policy, and cultural consumption today. Students must also register for a

discussion section to satisfy the course requirement

 

Nicole Ivy

MW 2:20-3:10

CRN: 92471

This course explores how people’s efforts to make meaning of natural landscapes, built environments, social worlds, and encounters of difference influenced the formation of the United States. We track the development of national ideas about freedom and democracy alongside the evolution of everyday beliefs and practices in order to explore what culture might mean as a category of study-- and what difference the study of culture makes. Same as HIST 2010.

 

David Bjelajac

MW 3:45-5

CRN: 94460

This is a lecture survey of American art from the colonial period to the postmodern present. Primarily focused upon painting, the course also covers sculpture, architecture, printmaking and photography within the broader visual and material culture of United States history. Art works are analyzed in relation to issues of religion, nationalism, ethnicity, race, class and gender.

 

Melani McAlister

MW 12:45-1:35PM

CRN: 95688

This course will examine mass culture – film, radio, music, television, internet – and its role in US history from the turn of the 20th century to the present. Focusing on cultural production, consumption, and reception, this course will consider the historical contexts in which popular culture has emerged and developed. The cultural texts we will study range from silent films to 1950s sitcoms and twenty-first century new media. Students will learn to consider media histories in light of theoretical debates about ideology, media effects, national identity, ethnic and racial identity, gender roles, and imperialism. Reading and viewing requirements are extensive. In addition to other course requirements, student work includes a final paper in which students analyze a media artifact in its historical and cultural context

 

Chad Heap

TR 12:45-2:00PM

CRN: TBD

This course examines the ways that gender and sexuality have shaped American citizenship since the Second World War and requires students to engage with several forms of writing in the field of American studies. Together we will explore the state’s efforts to regulate marriage, reproduction, and obscenity; the emergence of the right to privacy and the privatization of sexuality; the role that gender and sexuality have played in determining who can work for the government, serve in the military, or immigrate to the United States; the development of women’s and LGBT social movements and identity politics; the ways that religious and pop cultural representations of women and sexual and gender minorities have shaped Americans’ understanding of good (and bad) citizens; and the effects of terror, violence, and the prison industrial complex on the full participation of women and members of the LGBT community in American politics and culture.

 

Nicole Ivy

MW 4:45-6:00PM

CRN: 97015

Who makes up the body politic? How have discussions of citizenship and belonging been mapped onto ideas about biology and difference? To approach these questions, this course explores of how representations of the physical form as well as ideas about what constitutes appropriate bodies are shaped by U.S. cultural, political, social, and economic discourse. Assigned texts will present specific theoretical emphasis on race, gender, sexuality, labor, ability, and class.

 

Amber Musser

TR 11:10-12:25PM

CRN: 96001

“one of the basic phenomena of the nineteenth century was what might be called power’s hold over life. What I mean is the acquisition of power over man insofar as man is a living being, that the biological came under state control…the right of sovereignty was the right to take life or let live. And then this new right is established: the right to make live and to let die.”

–Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended

 

Taking Michel Foucault’s idea that the management of race and sexuality is how power is exercised in modern life, this course examines the ways in which race and sexuality have been produced and regulated by multiple different entities. Drawing on history, theory, and literature, we will look at contemporary examples of the relationship between different forms of governmentality—both local and international— and racialization and sexuality. What assumptions lie behind our ideas of race? How are bodies managed according to the prevailing logics of racialized sexuality? How does sexuality inform the way that we see bodies as gendered, raced, or able-bodied? In addition to looking at the relationship between sexuality and capitalism, religion, and nation, this course asks how these ideas are embodied in particular raced and gendered ideologies. Students will gain historical context for thinking about the relationship between race, sexuality, and its management in addition to learning how to analyze different formations of racialized sexuality.

 

Tom Guglielmo

TR 9:35-10:25AM

CRN: 97017

This course examines Americans’ World War II experiences and how those experiences have been studied, debated, understood, and “remembered”—officially, culturally, and personally. Through a mix of reading, writing, and discussion, it focuses on six overlapping topics: GIs, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese American internment, African Americans, the Holocaust, and women.

 

Gayle Wald

MW 9:35-10:25AM

CRN: 97675

This interdisciplinary course explores the interactions and intersections of music and politics from the era of abolitionism to the present moment's activism around #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo. We will investigate music as political expression, music in social protest movements, and music as a tool of political organizing. Requirements: open ears, an interest in engaging deeply and widely with both primary and secondary source materials. This course fulfills a GPAC Humanities requirement. AMST 3600 will not overlap with AMST 2600. Students who have taken AMST 2600 are encouraged to take AMST 3600. 

 

Amber Musser

T 3:30-6:00

CRN: 94865

This course provides an introduction to the major theories and methods that define the field of American studies. In particular, we seek to understand the elusive yet omnipresent world of “culture”—the values, symbols, myths, ideas, ways of life, and systems of meaning that shape our identities and worldviews.

 

Tom Guglielmo

R 12:45-3:15

CRN: 97397

This is an advanced research seminar for American Studies majors on the topic of George Washington University. Each student will spend the semester writing a substantial research paper on some aspect of the university -- its student culture or activism; its race, class, or gender politics; its staff; its faculty; its leadership; its donors; its real estate holdings; its relationship with DC or Foggy Bottom; its cultural representation; its labor struggles; its “corporatization,” and so forth. Whatever intellectual interests brought students to American Studies, they will explore these by making GW their principal object of inquiry.

 

Vanessa Gamble

MW 12:45-2:00PM

CRN: 93847

This course focuses on the role of race and racism in the development of American medicine and public health by examining the experiences of African Americans from slavery to today. It will emphasize the importance of understanding the historical roots of contemporary policy dilemmas such as racial and ethnic inequalities and inequities in health and health care. The course will challenge students to synthesize materials from several disciplines to gain a broad

understanding of the relationship between race, medicine, and public health in the United States. Among the questions that will be addressed are: How have race and racism influenced, and continue to influence, American medicine and public health? What is race? How have concepts of race evolved? What have been some of the historical vulnerabilities of black bodies within the medical system? How has medical thought and practices contributed to the political and social status of African Americans? What are racial inequalities and inequities in health and health care? What is the history of these inequalities and inequities and what factors have contributed to their existence and persistence? How have African Americans, the medical and public health professions, and governmental agencies addressed these inequalities and inequities in health and health care? What have been the experiences of African Americans as patients and health care providers and how have they challenged racism in medicine. This course will satisfy a WID requirement.

 

Spring 2019 Courses

Dara Orenstein

Monday 12:45-3:15

CRN: 47078

The Walking Dead. World War Z. “Obama Zombies.” Why does the specter of the living dead loom so largely in contemporary U.S. culture? How is it useful? What does it illuminate about the relationship between capitalism and democracy that might otherwise remain inscrutable? And how has it served in this allegorical manner throughout modern U.S. history? How did it haunt the rise of mass production, or the growth of suburbs, or the eruption of a social movement like Occupy Wall Street? To answer such questions, in this seminar we will track the figure of the zombie from the Gilded Age to the crash of 2008, and from the sugar plantations of Depression-era Haiti and Louisiana to the tents of Zuccotti Park. Our syllabus will range across the humanities and social sciences, encompassing, to cite a few examples, the writings of Karl Marx, the films of George Romero, and the genre of the Zombie Survival Guide. Students will be expected to view a total of 11 films outside of class, to read an average of 2 articles or essays per week as well as 1 novel, to contribute to a class blog each week, to give 2 oral presentations in class during the semester, and to write a final paper.

Chad Heap

Monday & Wednesday 12:45-2:00

CRN: 48074

The sexual assault accusations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh; the allegations of sexual misconduct that led to the resignations of U.S. Senator Al Franken and U.S. Congressmen Tim Murphy, John Conyers Jr., and Trent Franks; and the release of a videotape of Donald Trump’s lewd conversation about women with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush: These are but a few of the sex scandals that have preoccupied Washington during the past couple years. Yet, no matter how contemporary such topics might seem, they are but the latest in a long history of sexual controversies in Washington and in the federal government, dating back to the earliest years of the Republic. Focusing on several such scandals in the recent and more distant past, this seminar will ask what these incidents can tell us about Americans’ changing attitudes toward sex and sexuality. We will also explore the insights these scandals provide into a number of broader historical transformations in American culture and politics, including the shifting contours of American citizenship and the definition of the nation, the shaping of political ideologies and party warfare, the emergence of mass media and its effects on molding public opinion, and the reconfiguration of the boundary between public and private in American life. Registration restricted to CCAS freshmen.

Nicole Ivy

Monday & Wednesday 2:20-3:35

CRN: 48575

The National Gallery of Art’s ongoing exhibition, Bodies of Work, explores how American painters and sculptors across the last fifty years have “reimagine[d] the human form as a site of fantasy, fear, and travail.” Taking its title from this show, this course will examine how the human body has figured in cultural and historical narratives, not simply as a physical fact but as site of social and political meaning making. Using an interdisciplinary approach that highlights visual culture analysis, we will trace how historical perspectives on the body and embodiment have shaped American culture. Our texts for this class will include both written works and visual objects. We will explore how artists and intellectuals have engaged embodiment over an expansive period of time, considering works by a diverse array of thinkers including: Thomas Jefferson, Donna Haraway, Kerry James Marshall, and Andy Warhol. Class meetings will include time spent at the National Gallery of Art, which offers free admission to all visitors.

Elizabeth Rule

Monday & Wednesday 12:45-1:35

CRN: 46034

In this course, students will explore the historical and contemporary intersections of race, gender, and law in the United States. The course will offer foundations in critical race, gender, and intersectionality theory, analyze a number of significant case studies, and contemplate historical lessons for the contemporary moment. The use of court documents, newspapers, popular culture materials, film, the digital humanities, and emerging classroom technologies will familiarize students with interdisciplinary methods of inquiry. Topics for discussion include: civil and human rights, gendered violence, mass incarceration, racial profiling, police brutality, same-sex marriage, affirmative action, and more

Dara Orenstein

Monday & Wednesday 9:35-10:25

CRN: 46568

This course examines the history of the United States from the Civil War to the present using culture as its central organizing concept. We will define culture broadly to encompass customs, beliefs, and practices, as well as more specific forms of literary and artistic expression. Central themes of the course include: the role of mass media in shaping a national culture; the intersections of culture and technology; changes in racial formations and ethnic affiliations; cultural influences on our buildings, neighborhoods, and cities; cultural meanings of gender and sexual identities; and the political consequences of cultural conflict. We will also consider transnational influences on American culture and, conversely, the effects of American culture abroad.

David Bjelajac

Tuesday & Thursday 12:45-2:00

CRN: 46040

This is a lecture survey of American art from the colonial period to the postmodern present. Primarily focused upon painting, the course also covers sculpture, architecture, printmaking and photography within the broader visual and material culture of United States history. Art works are analyzed in relation to issues of religion, nationalism, ethnicity, race, class and gender.

Elisabeth Anker

Monday & Wednesday 11:10-12:00

CRN: 44220

America was founded on the premise of providing freedom to its people. But what, exactly, is―”freedom”? Is it doing what you want or is it participation in politics? Is it about escaping domination or does it require sharing power? These questions have been debated in America since its founding. The course will examine varied answers to these questions provided by American thought and popular culture. We will intertwine the study of theoretical texts with cultural analysis to examine authors from Jefferson to Thoreau, speeches from Martin Luther King to George W. Bush, films from High Noon to Minority Report, and the video art of Jeremy Blake. Together, we will explore how concepts of freedom and anxieties over freedom’s possibility take cultural form. While we may not settle the question of what freedom is or how to produce it, we will learn both to appreciate its complexity and to critically engage its operations in American public life. This course satisfies a WID requirement. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirements.

Amber Musser

Tuesday & Thursday 2:20-3:35

CRN: 47284

Much of what we think about in relation to the African American experience begins with the central question: what does it mean to have been treated as a commodity? This course uses that question as the central point for examining African American life from slavery to the present by focusing specifically on how gender and sexuality have been part of commodification and central to resisting it. Students will gain historical contexts for this question in addition to learning to analyze contemporary portrayals of African American experience in literature, film, television, and music.

Chad Heap

Monday & Wednesday 3:45-4:35

CRN: 44145

This course examines the changing social organization and cultural meaning of sexual practices and desires in the US. Topics include the establishment of sexual and gender norms in colonial America; the relationship between sex and slavery; the contested boundaries drawn between same-sex sociability and eroticism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the relatively recent emergence of heterosexuality and homosexuality as predominant categories of sexual experience and identity; and the development of women’s liberation and lesbian, gay, queer and transgender politics. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

Nicole Ivy

Monday & Wednesday 4:45-6:00

CRN: 47288

This course examines how national ideas about health, disease, cleanliness, and contamination have concurrently informed and been shaped by notions of difference. Together, we will think through how forms of human difference have been historically medicalized — as unhealthy, as in need of repair or management. We will seriously consider how gender, sexuality, race, and ability continue to shape U.S. health care policy and practice. To do this, assigned course materials and class discussions will explore difficult-to-answer questions about the legacies of contagion narratives in American culture and politics. How have fears of outbreak influenced American military and economic actions? How do evolving understandings of the transmission and treatment of disease create and sustain moral panics? We will place primary sources such as political cartoons, plantation manuals, and printed broadsides in conversation with readings in social theory, feminist theory, and cultural studies. Across the semester, we will study and practice the essential skills of research, critical thinking, and textual analysis.

Melani McAlister

Tuesday & Thursday 2:20-3:35

CRN: 48576

This seminar will examine how people in the United States have represented Africa, as well as how Africans responded to those representations. Often, images in the US showed Africa and Africans as abject and in need of rescue, or as dangerous and savage. We will analyze the content of those images and their effect on US-African relations. We will also explore how, in some cases, Americans engaged African people in relationships of solidarity. The course will begin with a history of European imperial images of Africa, including the images that accompanied the slave trade. The majority of the semester will focus on US images produced after 1960. Drawing on a few case studies, we will examine cultural representations, including movies and travel narratives, as well as media reporting. We will see how Africa was understood by US policymakers who were positioning the US as a global power both during and after the Cold War. And we will study the work of social movements both in the US and Africa. Our case studies will include the views of African Americans toward pan-Africanism and anti- colonialism in the 1950s and 1960s; American and European responses to the Nigerian civil war in the late 1960s (when Doctors without Borders was founded); the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s; and US support for the founding of South Sudan in the 2000s. This course will be reading intensive and will require original research for a substantive final paper.

Melani McAlister

Tuesday & Thursday 11:10-12:00

CRN: 47289

The course examines U.S. cultural and political global engagement in the twentieth- and twenty-first-centuries. Focusing on the transnational flow of people, ideas, and culture, the course considers the history of the US in the world in terms of how cultural products (photography, film, music, television, internet) have shaped US understandings of the rest of the world, and how they have impacted global understandings of the United States. It also examines the role of religion, the influence of travel and migration, and the impact of war, along with humanitarianism and human rights activism. Lecture plus discussion sections. Significant reading, two exams, and a research paper.

Elisabeth Anker

Monday 12:45-3:10

CRN: 46049

This course offers students an introduction to the history, debates, and methodologies that are central to the field of American Studies. Students will analyze key texts in American Studies scholarship from the foundational ―Myth and Symbol school to contemporary transnational works. Students will also be introduced to different approaches to interdisciplinary research. Registration restricted to American Studies majors.

Thomas Dolan

Wednesday & Friday 11:10-12:25

CRN: 44822

As reported in December 2015, Public Policy Polling showed that 30% of Republicans and 19% of Democrats supported bombing “Agrabah,” the fictional city of Disney’s Aladdin. Among Trump supporters, the tally was even higher, as was their support for the “Muslim ban” and outlawing Islam in the US outright. How do we reconcile the fact that most Americans know so little about Islam and the Middle East, yet are equally certain of the need to ban Muslims, bomb Agrabah, or legislate against “sharia law”? The “Middle East” and “Islam” have long been American obsessions, but the omnipresence of these concepts belies a knowledge gap, such that specifics about the region and its religions often leave us puzzled. Rather than a historical survey, this course considers various perceptions of the “Middle East” to better understand the emotional and material investments Americans hold for the region. Exploring an expansive archive to include legislation, film, history, music, fiction and critical theory, the course embraces Melani McAlister’s insight that culture and foreign policy are mutually constitutive sites of meaning-making. These insights will guide mastery of material for this course, while also providing an overview of critical debates and methodologies in American Studies writ large. Each week of this course focuses on a particular theme to consider multiple, distinct and overlapping “Middle Easts.” Sessions will begin with a brief lecture summarizing key theoretical concepts and historical background before a student-led discussion of the text’s methodology, merits and questions. In addition, the course particularly highlights the scholarship of other GW professors to facilitate visits/Q&A with these faculty so students gain a greater understanding of the production of scholarship and feel empowered to take advantage of the many resources at their disposal.

Vanessa Gamble

Monday & Wednesday 12:45-2:00

CRN: 46278

This course surveys the history of infectious disease epidemics in the United States from the late nineteenth century to today. It examines the development of the medical and public health responses to epidemics and the social, political, cultural and economic impact of epidemics on American history and culture. We will use primary documents, historical accounts, memoirs, and films to understand the history of epidemic disease.

 


Fall 2018 Courses

David Bjelajac

T, 2:30-5:00

CRN: 22848

During the eighteenth-century, English, Scottish, Irish and continental European stonemasons’ medieval guild traditions inspired the modern cultural formation of Freemasonry and competing international networks of Masonic lodges. Freemasonry attracted men from a wide socioeconomic spectrum and found support from both radical revolutionaries and counterrevolutionary conservatives. But ever since the Age of Enlightenment and the American and French Revolutions, Freemasonry’s secretive lodge meetings, mysterious initiation rituals and esoteric visual symbols have fostered orthodox Christian opposition and anti-Masonic conspiracy theories charging a varying host of purported vices, blasphemies and subversive misdeeds. This course critically examines these conspiracy theories, popularized in a variety of media, while also exploring Freemasonry's racial, gender and class exclusions/divisions. Freemasonry's global networking assisted American imperialism and helped shape the nation’s capital. Washington, D.C.’s urban design, historic-revival architecture, monumental sculpture and large-scale history paintings will be subjects for lectures, readings, class discussions and field trips to local museums, libraries, buildings and monuments. The seminar will consider the manner in which George Washington himself came to personify American Freemasonry, becoming a model for later United States presidents who joined the fraternity. Students will read both primary and secondary sources and will be required to write papers critically analyzing visual objects and architectural spaces while also evaluating the literature of Freemasonry, anti-Masonry and secret-society conspiracies

Elizabeth Anker

M, 11:10-12:25 and M, 7:10-9:40

CRN: 24134

This class addresses the relationship between politics and film by examining how American films interpret and challenge political power in America. We pair film analysis with readings in political theory to interrogate the operations of power in political life. Exploring films thematically, first we examine those that shape conventional interpretations of political power in America, including concepts of limited government, popular sovereignty, and liberal individualism. Next, we consider films that challenge these ideas by offering alternate conceptions of how power functions, while addressing questions of ideology, surveillance, domination, and biopolitics. The last section investigates particular genres—melodrama, the western, and film noir—that reshape and rearticulate these themes within American political culture. Throughout, we will focus on how to read the visual language of film and the written texts of political theory. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

Nicole Ivy

TR, 3:45-4:35

CRN: 22718

How people’s efforts to make meaning of natural landscapes, built environments, social worlds, and encounters of difference influenced the formation of the United States. We track the development of national ideas about freedom and democracy alongside the evolution of everyday beliefs and practices in order to explore what culture might mean as a category of study-- and what difference the study of culture makes. Same as HIST 2010.

David Bjelajac

MW, 3:45-5:00

CRN: 25006

This is a lecture survey of American art from the colonial period to the postmodern present. Primarily focused upon painting, the course also covers sculpture, architecture, printmaking and photography within the broader visual and material culture of United States history. Art works are analyzed in relation to issues of religion, nationalism, ethnicity, race, class and gender.

Melani McAlister

TR, 11:10-12:00

CRN: 26910

This course will examine mass culture – film, radio, music, television, internet – and its role in US history from the turn of the 20th century to the present. Focusing on cultural production, consumption, and reception, this course will consider the historical contexts in which popular culture has emerged and developed. The cultural texts we will study range from silent films to 1950s sitcoms and twenty-first century new media. Students will learn to consider media histories in light of theoretical debates about ideology, media effects, national identity, ethnic and racial identity, gender roles, and imperialism. In addition to other course requirements, student work includes a final paper in which students analyze a media artifact in its historical and cultural context.

Chad Heap

MW, 2:20-3:35

CRN: 27896

This new Writing in the Disciplines (WID) course examines the ways that gender and sexuality have shaped American citizenship since the Second World War and requires students to engage with several forms of writing in the field of American studies. Together we will explore the state’s efforts to regulate marriage, reproduction, and obscenity; the emergence of the right to privacy and the privatization of sexuality; the role that gender and sexuality have played in determining who can work for the government, serve in the military, or immigrate to the United States; the development of women’s and LGBT social movements and identity politics; the ways that religious and pop cultural representations of women and sexual and gender minorities have shaped Americans’ understanding of good (and bad) citizens; and the effects of terror, violence, and the prison industrial complex on the full participation of women and members of the LGBT community in American politics and culture. In addition, the course will provide students with opportunities to hone their critical analysis and writing skills by requiring students to complete a variety of writing assignments geared toward different audiences (including analytical papers, journal entries, and a final research proposal and paper), to revise several of their assignments, and to participate in the peer review of other students’ work.

Dara Orenstein

TR, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 26918

“If you can't afford the good food or if you can't afford health care or if you don't have a job or if your car is dangerous because you can't get it fixed and you DIE,” the comedian Marc Maron wrote in 2013, “you just lost the game — bzzzzz — thanks for playing extreme capitalism.” If capitalism is a game, then what are its rules, and how do "you" learn them? Why does Maron imply a distinction between capitalism and “extreme” capitalism? Indeed, what does Maron mean by “capitalism,” and how is his definition different from that of Richard Pryor, or Charlie Chaplin? In this discussion-based, reading-intensive lecture course, we will sift through over a century’s worth of commentary on capitalism and its impact on the United States, examining an array of artifacts to put flesh on the bones of Maron’s “you,” and to historicize the grammar of our present. We will treat capitalism as both an economic and a cultural system, a way of life and a structure of feeling, drawing on readings of primary documents from Herman Melville to Milton Friedman, Lorraine Hansberry to June Jordan, Kurt Vonnegut to Kurt Cobain, the Wobblies to the World Bank.

Suleiman Osman

TR, 2:20-3:10

CRN: 26919

This introduces students to the exciting field of urban studies. Students will explore the political, architectural and cultural history of American cities, with a particular focus on Washington DC. Students will tackle urban planning and policy debates about topics such as urban renewal, sprawl, policing, public housing, immigration and gentrification. The course will include works by a range of urban writers such as Jane Jacobs, Mike Davis, Neil Smith, Malcolm X and clips from the TV show “The Wire.” Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirements.

Julie Chamberlain

WF 11:10-12:25

CRN: 27315

From the earliest encounters to today’s mass media landscape, religious figures have played an important role in U.S. history. This course chronicles some of the most important of these icons —from the 17th century “Mohawk Saint” to modern-day “prophets” such as Martin Luther King, Jr. (and even Oprah!)—to tell the tale of American religious history. We'll learn not only about individual personalities and the historical worlds they evoke, but also how they function as icons—that is, as objects of identification, admiration, skepticism and analysis. We'll distill major tensions in the field, including what has counted as “religion” at different moments in U.S. history. Because of their power, we’ll pay particular attention to Christian leaders, while accounting for the substantial challenges posed by religious and irreligious “outsiders”—many of whom became icons in their own right. As we do, we’ll foreground the ever-present impact of race, gender and class, as well as the role of media and technology.

P. Jacks

MW. 2:20-3:35

CRN: 27457

This course examines selected aspects of the built environment in the United States from the first period of European settlement to the eve of the Civil War. Stylistic properties, functions, common patterns of design, technological developments, and urbanistic patterns are introduced as vehicles for interpreting the historical significance of this legacy of both exceptional and representative examples. Buildings are analyzed both as artifacts and as signifiers of broader social, cultural, and economic tendencies. Other topics introduced include the persistence and mixing of cultural traditions, the role of the designer, the influence of region, and architecture as a component of landscape. Among the facets of the built environment that are examined are the multi-faceted nature of colonial building and settlement patterns; the emergence of national expression; the rise of city building and of a commercial core; the growing specificity of building types for commercial, governmental, institutional, and religious functions; the enduring importance of the single-family house; the multi-faceted nature of eclecticism; evolving views of nature and landscape design; and the impact of technology. Detailed examination is made of the contribution made by many celebrated figures in design, including Alexander Jackson Davis, Andrew Jackson Downing, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Robert Mills, Frederick Law Olmsted, William Strickland, and Richard Upjohn. At the same time, attention is given to broad tendencies in design and their effect upon rural and urban landscapes. The impact of peoples from Africa and the Caribbean, the British Isles, France, German states, the Netherlands, and Spain is examined during both the colonial and post-colonial periods. Lectures are profusely illustrated.

Gayle Wald

MW, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 27314

This interdisciplinary American Studies course uses popular music—from spirituals and blues to country music and hip hop—as a lens for thinking critically about identity, culture, and history from the 19th century to the present. Rather than survey the history of U.S. popular music, the course approaches popular music as a form of cultural production and expression that sheds light on U.S. national identity, history, and politics. Popular music, we will find, is not merely a cultural reflection of society, but a key means through which Americans enact and negotiate social opportunities, challenges, and struggles. We will examine popular music from the viewpoint of musicians, the music industry (businesses, labels, promoters), and music's publics (audiences, fans). Coursework involves lots of reading and frequent writing. The culmination of the course includes a “Critical Karaoke”—an oral presentation set to a song.

Jamie Cohen-Cole

MW, 9:35-10:25

CRN: 27793

This course examines the history of science and technology and their role in political and social life. Among the questions we will consider are: how has society, culture, and politics developed and changed because of technical developments ranging from electricity to the automobile, nuclear weapons, the internet, biotechnology and social sciences from SAT tests to economic modeling? How have struggles over science and technology over issues including evolution, global warming, GMOs, and vaccines shaped our culture? How have citizens and the government resolved conflicts over the truth or uses of science and technology? This course will satisfy a WID requirement.

Jamie Cohen-Cole

MW 11:10-12:25

CRN: 27823

This class is an introduction to the growth and development of mind sciences. We will examine how the psychological sciences have given us a variety of ways to understand ourselves, other people, and human nature. They have come to help us understand what it means to normal and have shaped the definitions of illness and insanity. Class topics will include the birth of experimental psychology, eugenics, personality testing, the SAT, cognitive science, evolutionary psychology, and the uses of mind sciences in politics, law, business, and education.

Dara Orenstein

TR, 4:45-6:00

CRN: 25507

This course provides an introduction to the major theories and methods that define the field of American studies. In particular, we seek to understand the elusive yet omnipresent world of “culture”—the values, symbols, myths, ideas, ways of life, and systems of meaning that shape our identities and worldviews.

Tom Guglielmo

W, 12:45-3:15

CRN: 26930

This is an advanced research seminar for American Studies majors on the meanings of citizenship in American life. Students will spend the semester writing substantial research papers on some aspect of this broad topic.

Vanessa Northington Gamble

MW, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 24280

This course focuses on the role of race and racism in the development of American medicine and public health by examining the experiences of African Americans from slavery to today. It will emphasize the importance of understanding the historical roots of contemporary policy dilemmas such as racial and ethnic inequalities and inequities in health and health care. The course will challenge students to synthesize materials from several disciplines to gain a broad understanding of the relationship between race, medicine, and public health in the United States. Among the questions that will be addressed are: How have race and racism influenced, and continue to influence, American medicine and public health? What is race? How have concepts of race evolved? What have been some of the historical vulnerabilities of black bodies within the medical system? How has medical thought and practices contributed to the political and social status of African Americans? What are racial inequalities and inequities in health and health care? What is the history of these inequalities and inequities and what factors have contributed to their existence and persistence? How have African Americans, the medical and public health professions, and governmental agencies addressed these inequalities and inequities in health and health care? What have been the experiences of African Americans as patients and health care providers and how have they challenged racism in medicine. This course will satisfy a WID requirement.

 


Spring 2018 Courses

Tom Guglielmo

TR, 9:35-10:50

CRN: 37331

This class will examine the history of race and racism in the United States from the turn of the twentieth century to the present day. Through a mixture of reading, writing, lecture, film viewings, and in-class discussion, we’ll explore the evolving social boundaries of race and their significance in shaping our lives, livelihoods, thoughts, and dreams. Class topics will include Jim Crow and mass incarceration, colonialism and immigration, Chinese exclusion and Japanese-American internment, civil rights and Black Lives Matter.

Suleiman Osman

MW, 12:45-1:35

CRN: 37332

A survey of American society, culture, and politics during the decade of the 1960s. Topics include the civil rights movement, the student movement, the Vietnam War, and the counterculture.

Kimberly Schisler

MW, 12:45-2:00; TR, 11:10-12:25

CRN: 38013/38024

This course examines the history of the United States from the Civil War to the present using culture as its central organizing concept. We will define culture broadly to encompass customs, beliefs, and practices, as well as more specific forms of literary and artistic expression. Key themes of the course include: the rise of consumer culture; the role of mass media in shaping a national culture; the impact of cultural values on the physical landscape; changes in racial formations and ethnic affiliations; cultural meanings of gender identities; and the political consequences of cultural conflict. We will also consider transnational influences on American culture and, conversely, the effects of American culture abroad. The course draws on many different kinds of primary sources, including memoirs, short stories, films, political speeches, music, photographs, and television shows. In addition, we will read analyses of culture from a variety of scholars and develop our own interpretations. Students must register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

David Bjelajac

TR, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 37337

This is a lecture survey of American art from the colonial period to the postmodern present. Primarily focused upon painting, the course also covers sculpture, architecture, printmaking and photography within the broader visual and material culture of United States history. Art works are analyzed in relation to issues of religion, nationalism, ethnicity, race, class and gender.

Elisabeth Anker

MW, 11:10-12:00

CRN: 34747

America was founded on the premise of providing freedom to its people. But what, exactly, is ―”freedom”? Is it doing what you want or is it participation in politics? Is it about escaping domination or does it require sharing power? These questions have been debated in America since its founding. The course will examine varied answers to these questions provided by American thought and popular culture. We will intertwine the study of theoretical texts with cultural analysis to examine authors from Jefferson to Thoreau, speeches from Martin Luther King to George W. Bush, films from High Noon to Minority Report, and the video art of Jeremy Blake. Together, we will explore how concepts of freedom and anxieties over freedom’s possibility take cultural form. While we may not settle the question of what freedom is or how to produce it, we will learn both to appreciate its complexity and to critically engage its operations in American public life. This course satisfies a WID requirement. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirements.

Chad Heap

WF, 12:45-1:35

CRN: 34647

This course examines the changing social organization and cultural meaning of sexual practices and desires in the US. Topics include the establishment of sexual and gender norms in colonial America; the relationship between sex and slavery; the contested boundaries drawn between same-sex sociability and eroticism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the relatively recent emergence of heterosexuality and homosexuality as predominant categories of sexual experience and identity; and the development of women’s liberation and lesbian, gay, queer and transgender politics. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

Tom Guglielmo

TR, 2:20-3:10

CRN: 37341

This class will investigate immigration patterns, immigration policy, and immigrants’ lives in the United States from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. Which immigrant groups have come to the United States? When and why have they come? And what have their lives been like once they got here? How has the federal government, and Americans more generally, responded to immigrants and immigration? Why have we welcomed some newcomers as good future Americans and scorned others as “forever foreigners” or “illegal aliens”? The course will explore these questions through a mix of reading, writing, lecture, and discussion.

Dara Orenstein

TR, 3:45-5:00

CRN: 37719

“If you can't afford the good food or if you can't afford health care or if you don't have a job or if your car is dangerous because you can't get it fixed and you DIE,” the comedian Marc Maron wrote in 2013, “you just lost the game—bzzzzz—thanks for playing extreme capitalism.” If capitalism is a game, then what are its rules, and how do "you" learn them? Why does Maron imply a distinction between capitalism and “extreme” capitalism? Indeed, what does Maron mean by “capitalism,” and how is his definition different from that of Richard Pryor, or Charlie Chaplin? In this discussion-based, reading-intensive lecture course, we will sift through over a century’s worth of commentary on capitalism and its impact on the United States, examining an array of artifacts to put flesh on the bones of Maron’s “you,” and to historicize the grammar of our present. We will treat capitalism as both an economic and a cultural system, a way of life and a structure of feeling, drawing on readings of primary documents from Herman Melville to Milton Friedman, Lorraine Hansberry to June Jordan, Kurt Vonnegut to Kurt Cobain, the Wobblies to the World Bank.

Richard Longstreth

MW, 9:35-10:50

CRN: 32720

This course examines selected aspects of the built environment in the United States from the Gilded Age to the eve of World War II. Stylistic properties, functions, common tendencies of design, technological developments, and urban patterns are introduced as vehicles for interpreting the historical significance of this legacy of both exceptional and representative examples. Buildings are analyzed both as artifacts and as signifiers of broader social, cultural, and economic tendencies. Other topics introduced include the persistence and mixing of cultural traditions, the role of the designer, the influence of region, and architecture as a component of landscape. Among the facets of the built environment that are examined are the changing, multifaceted nature of eclecticism; the exponential growth of metropolitan areas; the emergence and development of tall commercial buildings; the rise of a comprehensive approach to planning; the enduring importance of the single-family house; evolving views of nature and landscape design;the pursuit of fantasy and reality in design; the impact of mass transportation systems and motor vehicles on the landscape; the reluctant acceptance of modernism; and the varied impacts of technology. Detailed examination is made of the contribution made by many celebrated figures in design, including Daniel Burnham, Frank Furness, Charles and Henry Greene, Irving Gill, Richard Morris Hunt, Charles McKim, Richard Neutra, Henry Hobson Richardson, John Wellborn Root, R. M. Schindler, Gustav Stickley, Stanford White, and Frank Lloyd Wright. At the same time, attention is given to broad tendencies in design and their effect upon suburban and urban landscapes. The impact immigrants and new ideas from abroad is examined throughout the decades covered. Lectures are profusely illustrated. For more information, contact Richard Longstreth.

Jamie Cohen-Cole

TR, 9:35-10:50

CRN: 38496

Where is the boundary between humans and robots? Is it that humans can bleed and robots can rust? Or is there something more important that gets to what is distinctive about humanity? Is it how we think, our intelligence, or our language? If so, then what happens when computers or robots or robots speak and perform intelligent tasks? Focusing on questions such as these this class looks at the history of computers, robots, and artificial intelligence. In tracking this history we will see how the line between humans and machines has been in constant motion as what we believe, and imagine about machines had affected what we know, imagine, and believe about the human mind. We will examine these themes by reading about computers, robots, and artificial intelligence in history and through the visions of the future given in science fiction stories and movies from Frankenstein to AI and I Robot. Topics covered in this course include Charles Babbage's analytical engine, the Turing Machine, cyberspace, and the origins, development, and criticism of research in artificial intelligence.

Kimberly Schisler

MW, 3:45-5:00

CRN:37350

Modes of power and forms of identification within and across U.S. national borders. Social constructions of the nation; forms of diversity and identity, such as race, gender, and sexuality; and the transnational flow of people, ideas, culture, and religion. Restricted to American Studies majors.

Richard Longstreth

TR, 3:45-5:00

CRN: 35618

During the fifteen-year period after World War II, the shape and character of the American landscape experienced profound changes. The highly centralized organization of cities that had dominated growth patterns since the early republic began decisively to shift to more diffuse patterns. Industrial production became ever more scattered and relied on sophisticated technological processes. Corporate offices likewise were relocating into what were formerly considered rural or quasi-rural sites. Retail activities regrouped along arteries far removed from the city center. Suburban residential development occurred at an accelerated pace and for the first time lay within reach of a major segment of the populace. At the same time, the urban core was experiencing accelerated decay and became subject to massive clearance programs. Central and outlying sections alike were shaped and reshaped by massive highway construction programs. A variety of renewal programs captured the limelight, but few proved effective in reversing the prevalent trend. Design was also experiencing significant changes. Only recently cast as extreme and freakish, avant-garde modernism rose to the fore in architectural training and also in building campaigns for commerce, industry, and education. The United States now led the world in fostering a rich spectrum of approaches to design that made the environment of preceding decades seem markedly dated.Among other topics explored are the impact of widespread motor vehicle use on the metropolis, the rise of a mass consumer market for goods and housing, fundamental shifts in popular taste, critical views of the city, and the undercurrent of persistence in traditional patterns of settlement. reversing the prevalent trend. Design was also experiencing significant changes. Only recently cast as extreme and freakish, avant-garde modernism rose to the fore in architectural training and also in building campaigns for commerce, industry, and education. The United States now led the world in fostering a rich spectrum of approaches to design that made the environment of preceding decades seem markedly dated. Among other topics explored are the impact of widespread motor vehicle use on the metropolis, the rise of a mass consumer market for goods and housing, fundamental shifts in popular taste, critical views of the city, and the undercurrent of persistence in traditional patterns of settlement. This year the seminar will focus on the dualities of the boom in outlying areas and the decline of inner-city areas. The growth of the periphery beyond the traditional scope of bedroom communities (suburbs in the nineteenth-century sense) will be explored. No less attention will be given to efforts at urban revitalization through commercial and institutional projects as well as efforts to lure the middle-class in-town and to segregate the poor. Participants may choose from a wide range of topics concerning architecture, landscape, and urbanism, as well as cultural, economic, social, and technological factors that have an impact on the built environment for their research paper. For more information, contact Richard Longstreth.

Gayle Wald

TR, 9:35-10:50

CRN: 37860

Post-civil rights is a term used to describe black American art and performance in the contemporary era, in which struggles over race and racial justice take new forms and respond to new challenges, including the notion that the nation is "post-race." This course examines how black American artists—primarily writers but also fine artists, musicians, and film/TV producers —have defined, critiqued, and engaged with concepts of post-ness in their work. It is also concerned with how a generation born after legal desegregation views the "golden age" of civil rights and Black Power. Featured writers/artists include: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Claudia Rankine, Ava DuVernay, Colson Whitehead, Jesmyn Ward, Chimamanda Adichie, Kara Walker, and Solange.

Michael Horka

WF, 2:20-3:35

CRN: 38142

Scientific models of climate change abound, but how can we understand the relationship between science, politics, power, and ecological crisis? This course utilizes science fiction as a way to model, inhabit, and engage with climate change. Students will examine how science fiction imagines the relationship of climate change at various scales from the microbe to human and nonhuman bodies to the biosphere. Using an interdisciplinary approach, students will consider how ecological changes are interconnected with histories and theories of race, gender, and nature, along with capitalism, colonialism, and biopolitics. Topics will include the relationship between bodies and ecosystems, along with the Anthropocene, dystopia, apocalypse, nonhuman animals, genetic modification, species extinction, contagion, terraforming, and the atmosphere.

Vanessa Gamble

MW, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 37656

This course surveys the history of infectious disease epidemics in the United States from the late nineteenth century to today. It examines the development of the medical and public health responses to epidemics and the social, political, cultural and economic impact of epidemics on American history and culture. We will use primary documents, historical accounts, memoirs, and films to understand the history of epidemic disease.

 


Fall 2017 Courses

Chad Heap

MW, 2:20-3:35

CRN: 83059

The release of a videotape of Donald Trump's lewd conversation about women with Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, Trump's attempts to revisit the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair during the recent presidential campaign, and Congressman Anthony Weiner's sexually suggestive tweets: These are just a few of the sex-related scandals that have preoccupied Washington in recent years. Yet, no matter how contemporary such topics might seem, they are but the latest in a long history of sexual controversies in the federal government, dating back at least to our first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton's affair with Maria Reynolds. Focusing on several incidents in the recent and more distant past, this seminar will ask not only what the history of Washington’s sex scandals can tell us about Americans’ changing attitudes toward sexuality over the past two centuries but also how a careful examination of these scandals can provide new insights into broader historical transformations in American culture and politics, including the shifting contours of American citizenship and the definition of the nation, the shaping of political ideologies and party warfare, the emergence of mass media and its effects on molding public opinion, and the reconfiguration of the boundary between public and private in American life. Registration restricted to CCAS freshmen.

Dara Orenstein

T, 12:45-3:15

CRN: 85708

The Walking Dead. World War Z. “Obama Zombies.” Why does the specter of the living dead loom so largely in contemporary U.S. culture? How is it useful? What does it illuminate about the relationship between capitalism and democracy that might otherwise remain inscrutable? And how has it served in this allegorical manner throughout modern U.S. history? How did it haunt the rise of mass production, or the growth of suburbs, or the eruption of a social movement like Occupy Wall Street? To answer such questions, in this seminar we will track the figure of the zombie from the Gilded Age to the crash of 2008, and from the sugar plantations of Depression-era Haiti and Louisiana to the tents of Zuccotti Park. Our syllabus will range across the humanities and social sciences, encompassing, to cite a few examples, the writings of Karl Marx, the films of George Romero, and the genre of the Zombie Survival Guide. Students will be expected to view a total of 11 films outside of class, to read an average of 2 articles or essays per week as well as 1 novel, to contribute to a class blog each week, to give 2 oral presentations in class during the semester, and to write a final paper.

Elisabeth Anker

M, 11:10-12:25 and M, 7:10-9:40

CRN: 84596

This class addresses the relationship between politics and film by examining how American films interpret and challenge political power in America. We pair film analysis with readings in political theory to interrogate the operations of power in political life. Exploring films thematically, first we examine those that shape conventional interpretations of political power in America, including concepts of limited government, popular sovereignty, and liberal individualism. Next, we consider films that challenge these ideas by offering alternate conceptions of how power functions, while addressing questions of ideology, surveillance, domination, and biopolitics. The last section investigates particular genres—melodrama, the western, and film noir—that reshape and rearticulate these themes within American political culture. Throughout, we will focus on how to read the visual language of film and the written texts of political theory. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

Jamie Cohen-Cole

MW, 11:10-12:25

CRN: 86708

The sciences and philosophy ask hard questions: What is the nature of knowledge? What characteristics define humanity? How much does culture matter? It turns out that these questions have provoked fierce disagreements for how we understand, raise, and educate children. They are tied to our visions of morality, politics, education, and the shape we want the future to take. This seminar adopts a historical approach to see how these questions and the debates about children have been approached by philosophers, biologists, anthropologists, and psychologists.

Staff

TR, 3:45-4:35

CRN: 82912

This course starts with the argument that understanding culture is key to understanding American history. Culture can refer to art and literature—some of which we will explore in class. However, culture can also refer to popular forms of expression, including the way people act. With this broader perspective, we will study some of the major scholarship addressing the evolution of American culture—from the Colonial period through Reconstruction. For example, we will look at what scholars have to say about why minstrel shows were popular and about how Indian captivity narratives were used to justify the conquest of the West. To shape our analyses, we will examine old newspapers, read popular literature, and explore the museums here in Washington, DC—then develop our own opinions and arguments as we engage in small group discussions and complete class assignments. This is an upper division course, but it is geared toward freshman and sophomores who are looking for a challenge. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

David Bjelajac

MW, 3:45-5:00

CRN: 85951

This is a lecture survey of American art from the colonial period to the postmodern present. Primarily focused upon painting, the course also covers sculpture, architecture, printmaking and photography within the broader visual and material culture of United States history. Art works are analyzed in relation to issues of religion, nationalism, ethnicity, race, class and gender.

Joseph Kip Kosek WF, 9:35-10:25 CRN: 85306 This course explores the history of religion in American politics and public life. It addresses several key questions: Is the United States a religious nation, a secular nation, or some of each? When has religion promoted, or prevented, bigotry, conflict, and violence? What exactly do we mean by “separation of church and state?” In what ways has religion shaped the politics of gender and race? What is the relationship of religion to American democracy? Specific topics include the formation of the Constitution, the Civil War, immigration, World War II, the civil rights movement, the Christian Right, and American Islam. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

Phil Jacks

MW, 9:35–10:50

CRN: 87259

This course examines selected aspects of the built environment in the United States from the first period of European settlement to the eve of the Civil War. Stylistic properties, functions, common patterns of design, technological developments, and urbanistic patterns are introduced as vehicles for interpreting the historical significance of this legacy of both exceptional and representative examples. Buildings are analyzed both as artifacts and as signifiers of broader social, cultural, and economic tendencies. Other topics introduced include the persistence and mixing of cultural traditions, the role of the designer, the influence of region, and architecture as a component of landscape. Among the facets of the built environment that are examined are the multi-faceted nature of colonial building and settlement patterns; the emergence of national expression; the rise of city building and of a commercial core; the growing specificity of building types for commercial, governmental, institutional, and religious functions; the enduring importance of the single-family house; the multi-faceted nature of eclecticism; evolving views of nature and landscape design; and the impact of technology. Detailed examination is made of the contribution made by many celebrated figures in design, including Alexander Jackson Davis, Andrew Jackson Downing, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Robert Mills, Frederick Law Olmsted, William Strickland, and Richard Upjohn. At the same time, attention is given to broad tendencies in design and their effect upon rural and urban landscapes. The impact of peoples from Africa and the Caribbean, the British Isles, France, German states, the Netherlands, and Spain is examined during both the colonial and post-colonial periods. Lectures are profusely illustrated.

Gayle Wald

MW, 3:45-4:35

CRN: 87584

This course uses U.S. popular music—from spirituals to rock-and-roll to country to hip hop to go-go (DC's indigenous popular music)—as a lens for thinking critically about identity, culture, and history from the 19th century to the present. We will approach popular music as a form of cultural production and expression that sheds light on identity, history, and politics. Students will have the chance to learn about concepts of appropriation, authenticity, commodification, and fandom. The course requires substantial reading and frequent writing, and it culminates in “Critical Karaoke”—an oral presentation set to a favorite song. Sample syllabus available through Blackboard.

Jamie Cohen-Cole

MW, 12:45-1:35

CRN: 87721

This course examines the history of science and technology and their role in political and social life from the late nineteenth century to the present as well as the ways in which the science depended on historical developments. Among the questions we will consider are: How has society, culture, and politics developed and changed because of technical developments ranging from electricity to the automobile, the internet, and biotechnology? What difference did technologies like nuclear weapons and computers make to the Cold War? How has social science work from SAT tests to economic modeling shaped political culture and defined meritocracy? How have new scientific conceptions of the environment, of race and gender, of the market, and of modernity been impacted by new meanings of citizenship, democracy, and the nation state? How have struggles over science from evolution to global warming shaped our political culture?

Tom Guglielmo

MW, 9:35-10:50

CRN: 86715

This course examines Americans’ World War II experiences and how those experiences have been studied, debated, understood, and “remembered”—officially, culturally, and personally. It focuses on six overlapping topics—soldiers, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Holocaust, women, Japanese American internment, and African Americans. Throughout the course, my aim is for students to deepen their interest in and knowledge about America’s World War II history and memory; to think carefully, creatively, and critically about World War II – and about history more generally; and to improve their writing through practice, revision, and peer review.

Elaine Pena

MW, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 84798

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that Latinos will make up the majority minority in the United States by 2050. But who are Latinos? What does that term mean now and how has it changed over time? How does the term Latino affect the communities it seeks to represent? Throughout the semester, we will critically analyze the evolution of the term and its impact on discussions of race, identity, and citizenship expectations in the United States. Using transnational and hemispheric frameworks, we will engage ethnographic and historical analyses, literary works, and films that explore Latino community formation across geographic regions in the United States and beyond. One of the goals of this course is to not only identify how transnational and hemispheric historical, political, and economic changes have shaped the term Latino but also connect those processes to contemporary understandings of immigration policy and political participation.

Staff 

MW, 9:35-10:50

CRN: 86720

This course will examine the history of women in the United States from pre-Columbian settlement until Reconstruction. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which gender has been an important component in the construction of power relationships; the ways in which issues of race and class have affected the relationships among women; and the ways in which ideas about gender have evolved during the past several centuries.

Erin Chapman

MW, 2:20-3:35

CRN: 87151

In this course, we will explore the major themes and concepts emerging from the early history of the African presence in the Americas and in the new nation known as the United States of America. A major focus of this course will be the emergence and evolving significance of the concept of race. We will study the ways in which race evolved to justify and facilitate the new regime of Atlantic slavery and how race intersected with gender, economics, religion, and nationality. We will approach the history of the development of the New World and the first century of the United States from the perspective of people of African descent. We will study Africans’ and African Americans’ experiences in slavery and freedom, the dynamic oppression they faced, the communities and institutions they built, and the racial advancement politics they formed. We will thus study both the significance of race in the formation of the United States and the roles of the African Americans who helped to construct that new nation.

Dara Orenstein

TR, 4:45-6:00

CRN: 86721

This seminar introduces students to major methods for understanding and interpreting cultural materials. We will explore how and why culture—particularly mass culture such as film, television, photography, music, fashion, and advertising—plays such a significant role in our lives. At various point in the semester, we will examine 1) the ways that we experience culture and ground our identities in it; 2) the ideological messages and stereotypes that circulate in cultural products; 3) the institutional, corporate and individual production of cultural products and spaces; and 4) the ways that different audiences interpret the culture they consume. This course is reading intensive and discussion-oriented. Registration restricted to American Studies majors; minors admitted with permission of instructor.

David Bjelajac

T, 3:30-6:00

CRN: 84797

This course explores the visual arts in relation to a wide range of natural and human sciences. Seventeenth and eighteenth-century artists’ handbooks described the physical, chemical properties of pigments and painting media, while painters and color theorists variously responded to Sir Isaac Newton’s Opticks (1704) and subsequent investigations into the physical properties of light that later were supplemented by ophthalmological studies of eyes and eyesight. Covering several centuries, the course will consider the manner in which artists represented New World flora and fauna and and created landscapes informed by the study of natural history, geology and geography. The course will examine the aesthetics of the sublime in relation to the discourses of alchemy, cosmology, psychology and psychiatry. We will examine how aesthetics and visual arts were intertwined with evolutionary theories of human development, involving issues of race, gender and class. For Gilded Age collectors and patrons, the visual arts were of therapeutic value for treating neurasthenia or nervous disorders caused by the urban, capitalist distancing of American civilization from its mythic rootedness as “nature’s nation”.

Erin Chapman

M, 11:10-1:00

CRN: 87152

In this WID seminar, we will study the radical side of the 20th century black freedom movement, including feminism, nationalism, varieties of Marxism, and combinations of these. Although African American activists continued to draw upon these radical praxes throughout the black freedom movement, the historiography of the traditional civil rights era is only beginning to address their significance. Therefore, this course will emphasize the northern and Midwestern arenas of the black freedom movement where historians have better documented the ways in which black radicalism remained at the forefront of activists’ social criticism and strategies. Readings may include historical monographs, biographies, speeches, essays, and scholarly articles by black radical artists, activists, and scholars from throughout the 20th century. Assignments will include weekly reading responses and papers based on class reading assignments and additional primary sources.

Elisabeth Anker

M, 3:30-6:00

CRN: 87739

This course will satisfy a WID requirement This is an advanced research seminar for American Studies majors, with a thematic focus on the varieties and practices of democratic cultures in America. Students will undertake original, independent research on a related topic of their choosing, using a combination of historical research and cultural criticism. Importantly, each project will need to define and defend what, exactly, democracy means in the social, political and historical context they examine. Students will spend the semester writing a substantial research paper based on primary source materials and cultural analysis, and all papers must be grounded in relevant, existing scholarship.

Vanessa Northington Gamble

MW, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 84796

This course focuses on the role of race and racism in the development of American medicine and public health by examining the experiences of African Americans from slavery to today. It will emphasize the importance of understanding the historical roots of contemporary policy dilemmas such as racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care. The course will challenge students to synthesize materials from several disciplines to gain a broad understanding of the relationship between race, medicine, and public health in the United States. Among the questions that will be addressed are: How have race and racism influenced, and continue to influence, American medicine and public health? What is race? How have concepts of race evolved? What are racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care? What is the history of these disparities? What factors have contributed to these disparities? How have African Americans, the medical and public health professions, and governmental agencies addressed disparities in health and health care? What have been the experiences of African Americans as patients and health care providers? This course will satisfy a WID requirement.

 


Spring 2017 Courses

Dara Orenstein

T, 3:30-6

CRN: 55606

The Walking Dead. World War Z. “Obama Zombies.” Why does the specter of the living dead loom so largely in contemporary U.S. culture? How is it useful? What does it illuminate about the relationship between capitalism and democracy that might otherwise remain inscrutable? And how has it served in this allegorical manner throughout modern U.S. history? How did it haunt the rise of mass production, or the growth of suburbs, or the eruption of a social movement like Occupy Wall Street? To answer such questions, in this seminar we will track the figure of the zombie from the Gilded Age to the crash of 2008, and from the sugar plantations of Depression-era Haiti and Louisiana to the tents of Zuccotti Park. Our syllabus will range across the humanities and social sciences, encompassing, to cite a few examples, the writings of Karl Marx, the films of George Romero, and the genre of the Zombie Survival Guide. Students will be expected to view a total of 11 films outside of class, to read an average of 2 articles or essays per week as well as 1 novel, to contribute to a class blog each week, to give 2 oral presentations in class during the semester, and to write a final paper.

Joseph Kosek

TR, 9:35-10:25

CRN: 54897

This course examines the history of the United States from the Civil War to the present using culture as its central organizing concept. We will define culture broadly to encompass customs, beliefs, and practices, as well as more specific forms of literary and artistic expression. Key themes of the course include: the rise of consumer culture; the role of mass media in shaping a national culture; the impact of cultural values on the physical landscape; changes in racial formations and ethnic affiliations; cultural meanings of gender identities; and the political consequences of cultural conflict. We will also consider transnational influences on American culture and, conversely, the effects of American culture abroad. The course draws on many different kinds of primary sources, including memoirs, short stories, films, political speeches, music, photographs, and television shows. In addition, we will read analyses of culture from a variety of scholars and develop our own interpretations. Students must register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

Elisabeth Anker

MW, 11:10-12:00

CRN: 55685 America was founded on the premise of providing freedom to its people. But what, exactly, is ―”freedom”? Is it doing what you want or is it participation in politics? Is it about escaping UNDERGRADUATE COURSES 2 AMST Spring 2017 domination or does it require sharing power? These questions have been debated in America since its founding. The course will examine varied answers to these questions provided by American thought and popular culture. We will intertwine the study of theoretical texts with cultural analysis to examine authors from Jefferson to Thoreau, speeches from Martin Luther King to George W. Bush, films from High Noon to Minority Report, and the video art of Jeremy Blake. Together, we will explore how concepts of freedom and anxieties over freedom’s possibility take cultural form. While we may not settle the question of what freedom is or how to produce it, we will learn both to appreciate its complexity and to critically engage its operations in American public life. This course satisfies a WID requirement. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirements.

Chad Heap

MW, 3:45-4:35

CRN: 55522

This course examines the changing social organization and cultural meaning of sexual practices and desires in the US. Topics include the establishment of sexual norms in colonial America; the relationship between sex and slavery; the contested boundaries drawn between same-sex sociability and eroticism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the relatively recent emergence of heterosexuality and homosexuality as predominant categories of sexual experience and identity; and the development of women’s liberation and lesbian, gay, queer and transgender politics. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

Suleiman Osman

TR, 12:45-1:35

CRN: 54481

This introduces students to the exciting field of urban studies. Students will explore the political, architectural and cultural history of American cities, with a particular focus on Washington DC. Students will tackle urban planning and policy debates about topics such as urban renewal, sprawl, policing, public housing, immigration and gentrification. The course will include works by a range of urban writers such as Jane Jacobs, Mike Davis, Neil Smith, Malcolm X and clips from the TV show “The Wire.” Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirements.

Melani McAlister

WF, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 57034

This seminar will examine how people in the United States have represented Africa, as well as how Africans responded to those representations. Often, images in the US showed Africa and Africans as abject and in need of rescue, or as dangerous and savage. We will analyze the content of those images and their effect on US-African relations. We will also explore how, in some cases, Americans engaged African people in relationships of solidarity. The course will begin with a history of European imperial images of Africa, including the images that accompanied the slave trade. The majority of the semester will focus on US images produced after 1960. Drawing on a few case studies, we will examine cultural representations, including movies and travel narratives, as well as media reporting. We will see how Africa was understood by US policymakers who were positioning the US as a global power both during and after the Cold War. And we will study the work of social movements both in the US and Africa. Our case studies will include the views of African Americans toward pan-Africanism and anticolonialism in the 1950s and 1960s; American and European responses to the Nigerian civil war 3 AMST Spring 2017 in the late 1960s (when Doctors without Borders was founded); the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s; and US support for the founding of South Sudan in the 2000s. This course will be reading intensive and will require original research for a substantive final paper.

Scott Larson

WF, 2:20-3:35

CRN: 57036

In 2014, Time Magazine announced “The Transgender Tipping Point” as the “next civil rights frontier.” Even as transgender celebrities including Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox have drawn national audiences, bathrooms have become battlegrounds for gender justice, and trans people have been targeted by hate crimes and state violence. While trans rights may appear to be a relatively new phenomenon, even a “frontier,” transgender and gender non-conforming people and communities have a long history in the United States. This course seeks to explore contemporary transgender movements, politics, and identities in historical context. We will look at trans pasts to analyze how contemporary understandings of gender systems and identities are historically constructed, and we will use our historical work to think critically about trans futures. Throughout the course, we will be particularly attentive to the ways that race, class, citizenship, and ability are woven into and constitutive of gender and gender variance.

Scott Larson

TR, 2:20-3:35

CRN: 57035

In contemporary US culture, "religion" and "sexuality" are often imagined to be opposing forces, or to be locked in struggles over freedom and morality. This course will examine the ways that religion and sexuality intersect and even shape what "counts" as religion and as sexuality. We employ a range of theoretical, historical, and anthropological approaches to explore religion, sexuality, and secularity, and we will engage a wide range of religious practices and traditions, as well as different sexual practices, identities and gender expressions. We will engage contemporary debates over religious freedom, and question the relationship between secularity and sexual liberation, both by engaging ways that religious movements have worked for gender and sexual freedoms and ways that secularization has failed to bring about liberation for women and sexual minorities. To ground these contemporary debates, we will investigate historical religious movements that used ideas about sexuality and sexual reform to found or revitalize religious movements, from 18th century revivalism to 19th century utopianism and moral reform; from debates over Native American dance traditions to the rise of the 20th century religious right and contemporary global questions of laws banning head scarves in France, “pinkwashing” Israel, sexuality and the rise of Hindu nationalism, and Islamophobia in the gay alt-right.

Jamie Cohen- Cole

MWF, 11:10-12

CRN: 58113

This class is an introduction to the growth and development of psychology since the nineteenth century and role of the mind sciences in shaping modern society, politics and culture. We will examine how the psychological sciences have given us a variety of ways to understand ourselves, other people, and human nature. They have come to help us understand what it means to normal and have shaped the definitions of illness and insanity. Class topics will include phrenology, experimental psychology, eugenics, intelligence testing, cognitive science, evolutionary psychology, cognitive neuroscience, the growing use of drugs to treat mental illness, and the use of mind sciences in politics, law, business, and education.

Calvin Warren TR, 12:45-1:35 CRN: 53016 Why is our culture obsessed with serial killers, horror films, street fights, YouTube clips of brutality, and homicidal video games? What does violence provide for our culture. Is it possible to live without it? This course will provide an overview of contemporary theoretical approaches to violence and American culture. In particular, we will interrogate the relationship between violence and identity, subjection and Ethics, knowledge and violence, and pleasure and terror. The course will consider the theoretical difficulties of studying violence: how do we isolate it as a conceptual object? Is there anything outside of violence, or is the world itself violence? We will examine concepts such as terror, “slow death,” horror, pain, terror, torture, necropolitics, and systemic forms of violence such as slavery, genocide, colonialism, and imprisonment. In particular, we will use theoretical frameworks to analyze instances of violence in American Culture and “violent products” that bring tremendous pleasure. Readings will include theoretical texts by Giorgio Agamben, Slavoj Zizek, Saidiya Hartman, Lauren Berlant, Elaine Scarry, Frank Wilderson, Adriana Cavarero, Achille Mbembe, among others.

Richard Longstreth

MW, 2:20-3:35

CRN: 53019

This course examines selected aspects of the built environment in the United States from the Gilded Age to the eve of World War II. Stylistic properties, functions, common tendencies of design, technological developments, and urban patterns are introduced as vehicles for interpreting the historical significance of this legacy of both exceptional and representative examples. Buildings are analyzed both as artifacts and as signifiers of broader social, cultural, and economic tendencies. Other topics introduced include the persistence and mixing of cultural traditions, the role of the designer, the influence of region, and architecture as a component of landscape. Among the facets of the built environment that are examined are the changing, multi-faceted nature of eclecticism; the exponential growth of metropolitan areas; the emergence and development of tall commercial buildings; the rise of a comprehensive approach to planning; the enduring importance of the single-family house; evolving views of nature and landscape design; the pursuit of fantasy and reality in design; the impact of mass transportation systems and motor vehicles on the landscape; the reluctant acceptance of modernism; and the varied impacts of technology. Detailed examination is made of the contribution made by many celebrated figures in design, including Daniel Burnham, Frank Furness, Charles and Henry Greene, Irving Gill, Richard Morris Hunt, Charles McKim, Richard Neutra, Henry Hobson Richardson, John Wellborn Root, R. M. Schindler, Gustav Stickley, Stanford White, and Frank Lloyd Wright. At the same time, attention is given to broad tendencies in design and their effect upon suburban and urban landscapes. The impact immigrants and new ideas from abroad is examined throughout the decades covered. Lectures are profusely illustrated.

David Bjelajac

TR, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 57042

This course explores American art during the 18th century “consumer revolution,” the American War for Independence, and the early republic. Lectures and readings emphasize the socioeconomic and political purposes of art with a focus on the visual culture of the Enlightenment and Second Great Awakening. Issues of national identity, republican ideology, capitalist enterprise and institutional slavery will be discussed in relation to paintings, sculptures, prints and architectural spaces. A civil war, the American Revolution sowed the seeds for the Civil War of 1861-65.

Scott Larson

WF, 9:35-10:50

CRN: 57044

This course will examine the history of women in the Americas and in the United States from trans-Atlantic encounters through the Civil War. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which gender relates to structures of power; the ways in which issues of race, class, sexuality, and ability have shaped ideas about women and femininity; and the ways that women made American social, political, and cultural history. We will investigate the historical construction of womanhood itself in early America, asking how ideas about gender and sexuality changed over time and how people worked to shape and to challenge gender norms.

Dara Orenstein

TR, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 57050

This seminar introduces students to major methods for understanding and interpreting cultural materials. We will explore how and why culture—particularly mass culture such as film, television, photography, music, fashion, and advertising—plays such a significant role in our lives. At various point in the semester, we will examine 1) the ways that we experience culture and ground our identities in it; 2) the ideological messages and stereotypes that circulate in cultural products; 3) the institutional, corporate and individual production of cultural products and spaces; and 4) the ways that different audiences interpret the culture they consume. This course is reading intensive and discussion-oriented. Registration restricted to American Studies majors; minors admitted with permission of instructor.

Calvin Warren

TR, 3:45-5:00

CRN: 55714

Popular culture needs black sexuality. Understanding this necessity in our global imaginary will preoccupy our course. We will analyze the erotic economies, which produce, circulate, and profit from black sexuality. How do black bodies structure cinematic, haptic, or psychic desire? What forms of erotic labor are black bodies required to perform pornographically, morally, or politically? Does a phenomenon such as “down low” provide resources for disrupting heteronormative imperatives or does it reinforce them? We will address these questions, and many more, using cinema, music, photography, fashion, and television shows as our guides. The course will pair theoretical readings on black sexuality with historical and contemporary examples.

Elaine Pena

MW, 2:20-3:35

CRN: 57051

This upper-level undergraduate and graduate-level seminar explores borders (the literal edge or limit of a territory) and boundaries (intra-societal differences). The course highlights the U.S.- Mexico border but it also draws our attention to border zones across the globe to help us assess and challenge what is local and particular about border space. Seminar readings draw from cultural anthropology, cultural geography, and performance studies to examine classic tensions among state formation, sovereignty, and nationalism. Using a variety of optics and approaches, assigned readings seek to deepen our understanding of global immigration and accompanying anxieties, various forms of border security, and the impact of transport, customs, and trade on border zones. They also examine the production and reinforcement of social categories—how residents living in an either/or environment strategically recognize and deny cultural forms or call upon intangible heritage to make territorial claims and refine intra-group hierarchies.

Vanessa Northington Gamble

MW, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 58560

This course will focus on narratives as a mechanism to study the history of American medicine in the twentieth century. It will use various styles of narrative such as historical accounts, memoirs, short stories, essays, and films. These stories will provide a framework to examine several themes in the history of medicine including illness and healing from the patient’s perspective, the roles of nurses and physicians, cultural representations of disease, the state of medical knowledge, the impact of race and gender, and societal responses to disease.

 


Fall 2016 Courses

Suleiman Osman

WF, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 13335

In the past decade, American society has undergone a dramatic cultural shift. We are now a country thoroughly shaped by social media and new media. But with this transformation has come new debates about its benefits and drawbacks. Is Google making us smarter or stupider? Does Twitter spark revolutionary political change or encourage slacktivism? Does Facebook build community or make us depressed and lonely? Are selfies a form of agency and resistance or symptoms of a narcissistic society? Does social media empower us and give us autonomy or erode our privacy in a new surveillance society? This course will introduce students to influential techno-skeptic and techno-utopian writing about social and new media. The course will pair these writings with classic American Studies texts by writers such as Alexander de Tocqueville, Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Dewey, Walter Lippman, W.E.B. DuBois, Saul Alinsky, Robert Putnam and Judith Butler. Registration restricted to CCAS freshman.

Calvin Warren

W, 12:45-3:15

CRN: 17069

From The Bachelor to The Real House Wives of Atlanta, reality television has invaded American culture. For many, it is a “guilty pleasure,” while for others it provides a structure of self-making, deep reflection, and societal critique. We will explore the recent phenomenon of reality television from a theoretical perspective. To accomplish this, we will grapple with challenging questions: Why does reality television provide great pleasure, even sadistic pleasure? What psychic and affective mechanisms are involved in our investment and identification with certain characters and scenarios? How does the television mediate our desire? Is there any distinction between “reality television” and the world we call “real”? What is “reality” anyway? These questions will guide our investigation. We will also view reality television shows weekly and pair them with theoretical readings to gain more insight. Registration restricted to CCAS freshman.

Libby Anker

T, 12:45-3:15

CRN: 17584

Democracy is the rule of the people over themselves. But in our era of globalized power, people often have little access to governing power, and national governments also seem to have limited capacity to govern populations or control the flow of goods, people, and capital. If citizens and states are losing power, who has power under globalization? How is power concentrating in large corporations, transnational money flows, biopolitical regimes, international social media, and non-governmental human rights organizations? None of these entities are elected or accountable to the people, yet all have increasing control over them. UNDERGRADUATE COURSES 2 AMST Fall 2016 We will investigate many o f the unaccountable political powers in the current moment, and examine their effects on possibilities for radical democracy. We will also take advantage of our location in Washington DC, and will attend museum exhibitions, gallery openings, and/or political events that are directly pertinent to course themes. Registration restricted to CCAS freshman.

Libby Anker

M, 11:10-12:25 AND M, 7:10-9:40

CRN: 15297

This class addresses the relationship between politics and film by examining how American films interpret and challenge political power in America. We pair film analysis with readings in political theory to interrogate the operations of power in political life. Exploring films thematically, first we examine those that shape conventional interpretations of political power in America, including concepts of limited government, popular sovereignty, and liberal individualism. Next, we consider films that challenge these ideas by offering alternate conceptions of how power functions, while addressing questions of ideology, surveillance, domination, and biopolitics. The last section investigates particular genres—melodrama, the western, and film noir—that reshape and rearticulate these themes within American political culture. Throughout, we will focus on how to read the visual language of film and the written texts of political theory. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

Scott Larson

TR, 9:35-10:25

CRN: 13169

This course starts with the argument that understanding culture is key to understanding American history. Culture can refer to art and literature—some of which we will explore in class. However, culture can also refer to popular forms of expression, including the way people act. With this broader perspective, we will study some of the major scholarship addressing the evolution of American culture—from the Colonial period through Reconstruction. For example, we will look at what scholars have to say about why minstrel shows were popular and about how Indian captivity narratives were used to justify the conquest of the West. To shape our analyses, we will examine old newspapers, read popular literature, and explore the museums here in Washington, DC—then develop our own opinions and arguments as we engage in small group discussions and complete class assignments. This is an upper division course, but it is geared toward freshman and sophomores who are looking for a challenge. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

David Bjelajac

MW, 3:45-5:00

CRN: 17381

This is a lecture survey of American art from the colonial period to the postmodern present. Primarily focused upon painting, the course also covers sculpture, architecture, printmaking and photography within the broader visual and material culture of United States history. Art works are analyzed in relation to issues of religion, nationalism, ethnicity, class and gender. As we’re immersed in the 2016 presidential campaign, particular attention will be devoted to the dynamic interrelationship between art and politics, from the revolutionary era and early republic of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to artists’ mediation of contemporary political imagery.

Kip Kosek

WF, 12:45-1:35

CRN: 16538

This course explores the history of religion in American politics and public life. It addresses 3 AMST Fall 2016 several key questions: Is the United States a religious nation, a secular nation, or some of each? When has religion promoted, or prevented, bigotry, conflict, and violence? What exactly do we mean by “separation of church and state?” In what ways has religion shaped the politics of gender and race? What is the relationship of religion to American democracy? Specific topics include the formation of the Constitution, the Civil War, immigration, World War II, the civil rights movement, the Christian Right, and American Islam. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

Chad Heap

MW, 2:20-3:35

CRN: 16593

This course critically examines the ways that gender and sexuality have shaped American citizenship since the Second World War. Together we will explore the state’s efforts to regulate marriage, reproduction, and obscenity; the emergence of the right to privacy and the privatization of sexuality; the role that gender and sexuality have played in determining who can work for the government, serve in the military, or immigrate to the United States; the development of women’s and LGBT social movements and identity politics; the ways that religious and pop cultural representations of women and sexual and gender minorities have shaped Americans’ understanding of good (and bad) citizens; and the effects of terror, violence, and the prison industrial complex on the full participation of women and members of the LGBT community in American politics and culture. (NOTE: Students who took Prof. Heap’s Fall 2015 course with the same title are not eligible to take this class.)

Dara Orenstein

TR, 12:45-1:35

CRN: 16594

“If you can't afford the good food or if you can't afford health care or if you don't have a job or if your car is dangerous because you can't get it fixed and you DIE,” the comedian Marc Maron wrote in 2013, “you just lost the game—bzzzzz—thanks for playing extreme capitalism.” Who is “you” in Maron's scenario, and who is not hailed by that mode of address? Why does Maron imply a distinction between capitalism and “extreme” capitalism? Indeed, what does Maron mean by “capitalism,” and how is his definition different from that of, say, Richard Pryor, or Charlie Chaplin? In this discussion-based, reading-intensive lecture course, we will sift through over a century’s worth of commentary on American capitalism, historicizing the grammar of our present conjuncture. We will examine capitalism as not only an economic but also a cultural system, a way of life and a structure of feeling, drawing on readings of primary texts from Horatio Alger to Milton Friedman, Richard Wright to Chuck Palahniuk, Lorraine Hansberry to Joanna Russ, Bob Dylan to Chuck D, the Wobblies to the World Bank.

Scott Larson

TR, 2:20-3:35

CRN: 17726

In 2014, Time Magazine announced “The Transgender Tipping Point” as the “next civil rights frontier,” and in recent months, schools and bathrooms have become battlegrounds for gender justice. While trans* rights may appear to be a relatively new phenomenon, even a “frontier,” transgender and gender nonconforming people and communities have a long history in the United States. This course seeks to explore contemporary transgender movements, politics, and identities in historical context. In particular, we will be focusing on how contemporary understandings of transgender identity are historically and culturally constructed, and have only recently come to be seen as separate from modern sexual identities. We will use our historical work to think critically about key concerns in trans* and gender non-conforming movements today: the contested relationship between feminist and transgender movements; challenges to the medical and psychiatric models of sex and gender “disorders;” trans* and gender nonconforming 4 AMST Fall 2016 children and childhoods; and the effects of state power on trans* people through incarceration, deportation, and imperialism. Throughout the course, we will be particularly attentive to the ways that race, class, citizenship, and ability are woven into and constitutive of both gender construction and gender crossings.

Richard Longstreth

MW, 9:35–10:50

CRN: 12886

This course examines selected aspects of the built environment in the United States from the first period of European settlement to the eve of the Civil War. Stylistic properties, functions, common patterns of design, technological developments, and urbanistic patterns are introduced as vehicles for interpreting the historical significance of this legacy of both exceptional and representative examples. Buildings are analyzed both as artifacts and as signifiers of broader social, cultural, and economic tendencies. Other topics introduced include the persistence and mixing of cultural traditions, the role of the designer, the influence of region, and architecture as a component of landscape. Among the facets of the built environment that are examined are the multi-faceted nature of colonial building and settlement patterns; the emergence of national expression; the rise of city building and of a commercial core; the growing specificity of building types for commercial, governmental, institutional, and religious functions; the enduring importance of the single-family house; the multi-faceted nature of eclecticism; evolving views of nature and landscape design; and the impact of technology. Detailed examination is made of the contribution made by many celebrated figures in design, including Alexander Jackson Davis, Andrew Jackson Downing, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Robert Mills, Frederick Law Olmsted, William Strickland, and Richard Upjohn. At the same time, attention is given to broad tendencies in design and their effect upon rural and urban landscapes. The impact of peoples from Africa and the Caribbean, the British Isles, France, German states, the Netherlands, and Spain is examined during both the colonial and post-colonial periods. Lectures are profusely illustrated.

Elaine Pena

TR, 2:20-3:10

CRN: 15643

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that Latinos will make up the majority in the United States by 2050. But who are Latinos? What does that term mean now and how has it changed over time? How does the term Latino affect the communities it seeks to represent? Throughout the semester, we will critically analyze the evolution of the term and its impact on discussions of race, identity, and citizenship expectations in the United States. Using a hemispheric approach, we will engage ethnographic and historical analyses, literary works, and films that explore Latino community formation in geographic regions across the nation. We will also review key debates and questions in Latin American and Latino Studies. One of the goals of this course is to not only identify how historical, political, and economic changes have shaped the term Latino but also connect those processes to shifts in policy and political mobilization. This course will satisfy a WID requirement. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

Elaine Pena TR, 4:45-6:00 CRN: 16746 This course invites students to examine America using international, transnational, and cross-border processes as optics. A wide array of itineraries, exchanges, networks, and social movements have shaped America and have created dynamic variations of the American experience. Using key works in American Studies, this course shows that the United States is deeply invested in maintaining those long-standing strategies of social reproduction and 5 AMST Fall 2016 economic development. But does the cross-border flow of capital, people, ideas, and values weaken or strengthen national character? Do those processes make the category of “nation” obsolete? Do they change the way we think about American racial politics, American citizenship, or what constitutes American religion? We will consider those questions using a variety of interpretive tools. We will also situate those discussions within the development of American Studies as a discipline to understand how scholarly debates have changed over time. This course is restricted to American Studies majors only.

Gayle Wald

TR, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 14047

This interdisciplinary American Studies course uses popular music—from spirituals and blues to country, hip hop, and go-go—as a lens for thinking critically about identity, culture, and history from the 19th century to the present. It is not a historical survey of U.S. popular music or a course in popular music appreciation; rather, drawing on different methodologies, we will approach popular music as a form of cultural expression that sheds light on U.S. national identity, history, and politics. Popular music, we will find, is not merely a cultural reflection of society, but a key means through which Americans enact and negotiate social opportunities, challenges, and struggles. We will examine popular music from the viewpoint of musicians (and other producers), the music industry (labels, promoters), and music's publics (audiences, fans). Students will have the chance to learn about concepts of appropriation, affect, audience, authenticity, commodification, fandom, feminism, genre, identity, listening, popularity, and soundscapes, among other topics. This course blends traditional college writing tasks with nontraditional assignments, including a Tin Pan Alley songwriting exercise, and it culminates in a “Critical Karaoke”—an oral presentation set to a song.

David Bjelajac

T, 3:30-6:00

CRN: 15642

Within a global framework, this seminar broadly surveys the historical origins and varied political, cultural meanings of revolutionary symbols and myths from England’s Glorious Revolution of 1688, the “first modern revolution,” through the American and French Revolutions of the eighteenth century to the various New-Left movements of the 1960s and 1970s. American artists' identification with the American revolutionary tradition will be explored in relation to nineteenth-century, Transcendentalist, Spiritualist and communal utopian critiques of capitalism. Slave revolts, abolitionism and the Civil War kept alive the struggle over American Revolutionary War symbolism, as seen especially in the art and architecture of Washington, D.C. Students will also learn how post-Civil War racial segregation, mass immigration, labor unionization and radical or reform movements resisted Gilded Age monopoly capitalism while inspiring an array of politically engaged artists. During the 20th century, cultural critics saw correspondences between anti-academic, Modernist art and working class rebellion against factory discipline and the capitalist system of wage labor. The seminar will situate the fine arts within a broader visual, material culture. We will consider how post-1945 critics and theorists addressed mass culture’s and capitalism’s power to consume and assimilate oppositional art. What creative strategies did contemporary artists invent to radically critique or challenge capitalism’s global hegemony? We explore how changing symbols and visual media materials themselves are fraught with politically contentious, competing meanings.

Jamie Cohen-Cole

R, 12:45-3:15

CRN: 16632

This is an advanced seminar for American Studies majors in which students will write original research papers on Cold War America. Students will undertake independent 6 AMST Fall 2016 research on this topic using historical research to examine the culture, society, and politics of the period. Students might write papers that examine the ways in which geopolitics intersected with aspects American life. Questions that might be considered include: what forms did anticommunism take and how did they affect American society? How did society, culture, and politics develop because of technical developments related to the cold war including nuclear arms, the computer, airplanes, survey research, and even new conceptions of race, gender, sexuality, rationality, and modernity? Students may rely on sources ranging from archival to print or visual media and material culture. We will begin with by developing the fundamental skills for writing a research paper and reading exemplary articles. Students will then engage in individual research projects of their own choosing that are based in primary sources and address important scholarly issues related to Cold War culture. Registration restricted American Studies juniors and seniors only.

Vanessa Northington Gamble

MW, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 15641

This course focuses on the role of race and racism in the development of American medicine and public health by examining the experiences of African Americans from slavery to today. It will emphasize the importance of understanding the historical roots of contemporary policy dilemmas such as racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care. The course will challenge students to synthesize materials from several disciplines to gain a broad understanding of the relationship between race, medicine, and public health in the United States. Among the questions that will be addressed are: How have race and racism influenced, and continue to influence, American medicine and public health? What is race? How have concepts of race evolved? What are racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care? What is the history of these disparities? What factors have contributed to these disparities? How have African Americans, the medical and public health professions, and governmental agencies addressed disparities in health and health care? What have been the experiences of African Americans as patients and health care providers? This course will satisfy a WID requirement.

 


Spring 2016 Courses

Thomas Guglielmo

F, 12:45-3:15

CRN: 77161

This class will examine the history of race and racism in the United States from the turn of the twentieth century to the present day. Through a mixture of reading, writing, lecture, in-class discussion, film viewings, and trips around DC, we’ll explore the evolving social boundaries of race and their significance in shaping our lives, livelihoods, thoughts, and dreams. Class topics will include Jim Crow and mass incarceration, colonialism and immigration, Chinese exclusion and Japanese-American internment, civil rights and Black Lives Matter.

Joseph Kip Kosek

TR, 9:35-10:25

CRN: 76124

This course examines the history of the United States from the Civil War to the present using culture as its central organizing concept. We will define culture broadly to encompass customs, beliefs, and practices, as well as more specific forms of literary and artistic expression. Key themes of the course include: the rise of consumer culture; the role of mass media in shaping a national culture; the impact of cultural values on the physical landscape; changes in racial formations and ethnic affiliations; cultural meanings of gender identities; and the political consequences of cultural conflict. We will also consider transnational influences on American culture and, conversely, the effects of American culture abroad. The course draws on many different kinds of primary sources, including memoirs, short stories, films, political speeches, music, photographs, and television shows. In addition, we will read analyses of culture from a variety of scholars and develop our own interpretations. Students must register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

Elisabeth Anker

WF, 11:10-12:00

CRN: 77268

America was founded on the premise of providing freedom to its people. But what, exactly, is ―”freedom”? Is it doing what you want or is it participation in politics? Is it about escaping domination or does it require sharing power? These questions have been debated in America since its founding. The course will examine varied answers to these questions provided by American thought and popular culture. We will intertwine the study of theoretical texts with cultural analysis to examine authors from Jefferson to Thoreau, speeches from Martin Luther King to George W. Bush, films from High Noon to Minority Report, and the video art of Jeremy Blake. Together, we will explore how concepts of freedom and anxieties over freedom’s possibility take cultural form. While we may not settle the question of what freedom is or how to UNDERGRADUATE COURSES 2 AMST Spring 2015 produce it, we will learn both to appreciate its complexity and to critically engage its operations in American public life. This course satisfies a WID requirement. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirements.

Chad Heap

MW, 3:45-4:35

CRN: 77067

This course examines the changing social organization and cultural meaning of sexual practices and desires in the US. Topics include the establishment of sexual norms in colonial America; the relationship between sex and slavery; the contested boundaries drawn between same-sex sociability and eroticism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; the relatively recent emergence of heterosexuality and homosexuality as predominant categories of sexual experience and identity; and the development of women’s liberation and lesbian, gay, queer and transgender politics. Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirement.

Thomas Guglielmo

TR, 2:20-3:10

CRN: 74580

This class will investigate immigration patterns, immigration policy, and immigrants’ lives in the United States from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. Which immigrant groups have come to the United States? When and why have they come? And what have their lives been like once they got here? How has the federal government, and Americans more generally, responded to immigrants and immigration? Why have we welcomed some newcomers as good future Americans and scorned others as “forever foreigners” or “illegal aliens”? The course will explore these questions through a mix of reading, writing, lecture, and discussion.

Suleiman Osman

TR, 11:10-12:00

CRN: 75476

This introduces students to the exciting field of urban studies. Students will explore the political, architectural and cultural history of American cities, with a particular focus on Washington DC. Students will tackle urban planning and policy debates about topics such as urban renewal, sprawl, policing, public housing, immigration and gentrification. The course will include works by a range of urban writers such as Jane Jacobs, Mike Davis, Neil Smith, Malcolm X and clips from the TV show “The Wire.” Students must also register for a discussion section to satisfy the course requirements.

Calvin Warren

TR, 12:45-1:35

CRN: 73440

From the auction block to the White House, African Americans have played a central role in shaping democracy and national culture. This course will provide a survey of the historical, political, and cultural dimensions of the African American experience in the U.S. The course will be organized chronologically and thematically and will cover topics such as American slavery, medical experimentation, Hurricane Katrina, aesthetics, hip-hop, and Afro-futurism. We will grapple with important ethical, political, and philosophical questions that the African American experience raises. For example, what does it mean to be human? How does race complicate ideas of justice and violence? We will use multi-disciplinary strategies of reading and interpretation to examine the continuity, and rupture, of historical experiences. The course will use primary historical documents, 3 AMST Spring 2015 literature, film, and secondary critical sources to investigate the contours of this experience.

Richard Longstreth

MW, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 73445

This course examines selected aspects of the built environment in the United States from the Gilded Age to the eve of World War II. Stylistic properties, functions, common tendencies of design, technological developments, and urban patterns are introduced as vehicles for interpreting the historical significance of this legacy of both exceptional and representative examples. Buildings are analyzed both as artifacts and as signifiers of broader social, cultural, and economic tendencies. Other topics introduced include the persistence and mixing of cultural traditions, the role of the designer, the influence of region, and architecture as a component of landscape. Among the facets of the built environment that are examined are the changing, multi-faceted nature of eclecticism; the exponential growth of metropolitan areas; the emergence and development of tall commercial buildings; the rise of a comprehensive approach to planning; the enduring importance of the single-family house; evolving views of nature and landscape design; the pursuit of fantasy and reality in design; the impact of mass transportation systems and motor vehicles on the landscape; the reluctant acceptance of modernism; and the varied impacts of technology. Detailed examination is made of the contribution made by many celebrated figures in design, including Daniel Burnham, Frank Furness, Charles and Henry Greene, Irving Gill, Richard Morris Hunt, Charles McKim, Richard Neutra, Henry Hobson Richardson, John Wellborn Root, R. M. Schindler, Gustav Stickley, Stanford White, and Frank Lloyd Wright. At the same time, attention is given to broad tendencies in design and their effect upon suburban and urban landscapes. The impact immigrants and new ideas from abroad is examined throughout the decades covered. Lectures are profusely illustrated.

Scott Larson

TR, 9:35-10:50

CRN: 77981

This course will examine the history of women in the Americas and in the United States from transAtlantic encounters through the Civil War. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which gender relates to structures of power; the ways in which issues of race, class, sexuality, and ability have shaped ideas about women and femininity; and the ways that women made American social, political, and cultural history. We will investigate the historical construction of womanhood itself in early America, asking how ideas about gender and sexuality changed over time and how people worked to shape and to challenge gender norms.

Elaine Peña

MW, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 73451

This course invites students to examine America using international, transnational, and cross-border processes as optics. A wide array of itineraries, exchanges, networks, and social movements has shaped America and created dynamic variations of the American experience. Using key works in American Studies, this course shows that the United States is deeply invested in maintaining those long-standing strategies of social reproduction and economic development. But does the cross-border flow of capital, people, ideas, and values weaken or strengthen national character? Do those processes make the category of “nation” obsolete? Do 4 AMST Spring 2015 they change the way we think about American racial politics, American citizenship, or what constitutes American religion? We will consider those questions using a variety of interpretive tools. We will also place those discussions within the broader field of American Studies, particularly the history of the discipline, to understand how scholarly debates have changed over time.

Jason Stevens

M, 3:30-6:00

CRN:74588

Since the age of silent movies, religion has proven a popular, profitable, and still controversial subject in American cinema. This course will introduce students to the topic by combing narrative analysis, film history, and religious study. Questions may include:

  1. How have filmmakers adapted Hollywood genres in order to promote belief?
  2. How have commercial representations of holy figures, stories, and miracles altered people’s sense of the boundaries between the sacred and the profane?
  3. How has censorship shaped the content of films dealing with faith?
  4. In what ways have films shaped Americans’ perceptions of religious nationalism, millennialism, race, and empire?

Patrick Nugent

W, 3:30-6:00

CRN: 77300

This course will historicize the ecological, social, and political landscape of the New York City. Developing an environmental history of the region, the class will trace the development of metropolitan parks, landfills, water systems, transportation infrastructure, zoning codes, and residential communities. It will also engage a number of fields and approaches helpful in engaging debates surrounding the “natural world”—including environmental justice and history of science. The course will encourage students to historicize a specific urban landscape of their choosing—say a park, pier, or highway. After collectively accumulating a series of assignments—from traditional papers and presentations to audio recordings and digital maps— the class will by the end of the semester produce an environmental walking tour of the city available to an online public.

Ashley Brown

WF, 2:20-3:35

CRN: 74587

This advanced seminar will examine the cultural history of African American political resistance from the early to middle twentieth century. We will study the various art forms that people of African descent have employed to assert their humanity, preserve their identity, and critique oppression of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Fiction, poetry, film, music, theater, memoir, aesthetics, and athletics are among the creative devices that we will explore. We will mine the complex cultures of the seminal places and organizations recognized as having played crucial roles in the long black freedom struggle. We will also probe the political contributions and legacies of leading African American cultural figures.

Vanessa Northington Gamble

MW, 12:45-2:00

CRN: 75494

This course surveys the history of epidemics in the United States from the late nineteenth century to today. It examines the development of the medical and public health responses to 5 AMST Spring 2015 epidemics and the social, political, cultural and economic impact of epidemics on American history and culture. This semester the course will focus on tuberculosis, the 1918 influenza epidemic, polio, and HIV/AIDS. We will use primary documents, historical accounts, memoirs, and films to understand the history of these four diseases.

Erin Chapman

R, 11:10-1:00

CRN: 77115

In this seminar we will study both American slavery and the racial legacies it spawned as they continue to play out in U.S. culture, political traditions, and identity formation. We will first consider slavery’s relationship to the ideal of American democracy and the history of slavery as a bedrock institution of U.S. society. We will read books such as Johnson’s Soul by Soul, Roediger’s The Wages of Whiteness, Hartman’s Lose Your Mother, and McElya’s Clinging to Mammy. As we do so, we will consider slavery as a foundational institution within U.S. society and culture and interrogate the widespread influence of notions of race, hierarchy, and social mobility established through slavery that continue to operate in American society. As we conclude, we will take up the question of current claims of “post-race” politics and “post-black” identities and their implications for the ongoing problem of race in the United States.