Courses offered in the past four years. Courses offered currently are as noted.

Course Description

Intro to American Studies
Please refer to each section for specific course descriptions.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, SOC

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Course Description

Television and American Culture
This course explores American life in the last seven decades through an analysis of our central medium: television. Spanning a history of television from its origins in radio to today’s digital convergence via YouTube and Netflix, we will consider television's role in both representing and constituting American society through a variety of approaches, including: the economics of the television industry, television's role within American democracy, the formal attributes of various television genres, television as a site of gender and racial identity formation, television's role in everyday life, the medium's technological transformations, and television as a site of global cultural exchange. 3 hrs. lect./disc. / 3 hrs. screen

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, SOC

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Course Description

Black Freedom Struggles
This course explores racial tensions of the present moment and situates them in the historical context of the ongoing struggles for Black freedom. Topics discussed may include Black reparations, Abolitionism, mass incarceration, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Civil Rights Movement. The primary mode of interaction will be synchronous online discussions. Students will do individual and group presentations, engage in debates, and write essays. Readings may include Coates’ The Case for Reparations, Kendi’s We're Still Living and Dying in the Slaveholder's Republic, Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, ; and Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and screenings may include “13th” and “Eyes on the Prize.”. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2020

Requirements

AMR, NOR

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Course Description

Childhood in America
In this course we will explore “childhood” as an evolving social and cultural construct. Beginning by acknowledging great diversity in the lived experience of childhood (shaped by race, gender, geography, religion, ability/disability), we will examine representations of childhood and experiences of children from the early nineteenth century to the present. Together we will explore classic works of literature such as Alcott’s Little Women, Twain’s Huck Finn, and Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, in conversation with historical documents and visual and material artifacts (illustrations, painting, toys, and films). Throughout, we will consider how understanding conceptions of childhood illuminate American social and cultural history more broadly. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, HIS, LIT

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Course Description

U.S. Origin Stories
Some U.S. origin stories cast (white) Americans as chosen people, discoverers of a bountiful continent, their community a beacon of righteousness to the world. Other stories locate the nation's origins in slavery or in settler colonialism. One story celebrates America’s founding commitment to freedom, equality, and justice - principles which, in turn, sustain another origin story – that of America as a nation borne of and welcoming to immigrants. Origin stories might be foundational, but their meanings are never fixed. In this course we will explore the elasticity and persistence of origin stories, evident in current debates about whether U.S. history begins in 1619 or 1776, about migrant rights, about the self-determination of indigenous peoples, about white nationalism, and about U.S. global leadership. 3 hrs. lect./disc. This course is part of the Public Humanities Labs Initiative administered by the Axinn Center for the Humanities.*

Terms Taught

Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, HIS

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Course Description

Immigrant America
In this course we will trace American immigration history from the late 19th to the turn of the 21st century, and examine the essential place immigration has occupied in the making of modern America and American culture. The central themes of this course will be industrialization and labor migrations, aftermaths of wars and refugees, constructions of racial categories and ethnic community identities, legal defining of "aliens" and citizenship, and diversity in immigrant experiences. To explore these themes, we will engage a range of sources including memoirs, novels, oral histories, and films.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, HIS

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Course Description

Critical Studies of Sport
Sports offer important contexts for the study of social relations, inequalities, and differences in North America. Sports exist as an important arena where ideas around class, gender, sexuality, race, ability, and status are embodied and performed. In this course we will discuss the significance of sports to ideas of the self as well as in broader cultural, social, economic, and political realms. We will analyze a variety of issues including the relationship of sports to media, celebrity, money, religion, and education. We will also investigate the significance of sports and athletes to contemporary processes of globalization. (Not open to students who have taken AMST 1003).

Terms Taught

Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, SOC

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Course Description

Media, Sports, & Identity
In this course we will examine the relationship between media, sports, and the formulation of one’s identity. We will examine issues pertaining to gender identification, violence, and hero worship. Reading critical essays on the subject, studying media coverage of sporting events, and writing short analytical essays will enable us to determine key elements concerning how sports are contextualized in American culture. Student essays will form the basis of a more in-depth inquiry that each student will then present, using media, at the end of the course. (Not open to students who have taken WRPR 1002)

Terms Taught

Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, CW, SOC

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Course Description

Black Comic Cultures
In this course we will explore a range of black comic cultures, analyzing their emergence and transformation from the early 20th century to the present. Specifically, we will examine blackface minstrels of the early 20th century such as George Walker and Bert Williams, Bill Cosby’s performances in the 60s, and the ribald humor of LaWanda Page’s 1970s party records, before moving to the urban scene embodied in television shows such as Def Comedy Jam. We will also engage with theoretical materials that help us analyze black comedy as multidimensional, such as John Limon’s Stand-up Comedy in Theory, or, Abjection in America. (Critical Race Feminisms) 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019

Requirements

AMR, NOR, SOC

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Course Description

Nineteenth-Century American Literature
This course will examine major developments in the literary world of 19th century America. Specific topics to be addressed might include the transition from Romanticism to Regionalism and Realism, the origins and evolution of the novel in the United States, and the tensions arising from the emergence of a commercial marketplace for literature. Attention will also be paid to the rise of women as literary professionals in America and the persistent problematizing of race and slavery. Among others, authors may include J. F. Cooper, Emerson, Melville, Douglass, Chopin, Whitman, Dickinson, Twain, Hawthorne, Stowe, Alcott, Wharton, and James. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, LIT

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Course Description

Unruly Bodies: Black Womanhood in Popular Culture
In this course we will examine representations of black womanhood in popular culture, analyzing the processes by which bodies and identities are constructed as dangerous, deviant, and unruly. For example, materials will include the work of bell hooks and Patricia Hill Collins to analyze the imagery of black womanhood propagated by the television shows The Jerry Springer Show and Bad Girls Club. By contrast, we will also read Saidiya Hartman’s Scenes of Subjection as a lens through which to view “bad” black womanhood as a radically stylized means of redress in the Blaxploitation-era film Foxy Brown. (Critical Race Feminisms) 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019

Requirements

AMR, CMP, NOR

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Course Description

American Literature and Culture: Origins-1830
A study of literary and other cultural forms in early America, including gravestones, architecture, furniture and visual art. We will consider how writing and these other forms gave life to ideas about religion, diversity, civic obligation and individual rights that dominated not only colonial life but that continue to influence notions of "Americanness" into the present day. Required for all majors and minors.3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, LIT

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Course Description

Formation of Modern American Culture I: 1830-1919
An introduction to the study of American culture from 1830 through World War I with an emphasis on the changing shape of popular, mass, and elite cultural forms. We will explore a widely-accepted scholarly notion that a new, distinctively national and modern culture emerged during this period and that particular ideas of social formation (race, class, gender, sexuality, etc.) came with it. We will practice the interdisciplinary interpretation of American culture by exploring a wide range of subjects and media: economic change, social class, biography and autobiography, politics, photo-journalism, novels, architecture, painting, and photography. Required of all American studies majors and minors. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, HIS

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Course Description

Introduction to Latina/o Studies
In this course we will undertake an interdisciplinary investigation of the unique experiences and conditions of U.S. Latina/os of Caribbean, Latin American, and Mexican descent. We will critically examine transnational cultures, patterns of circular migration, and intergenerational transformations from a historical perspective while also using methodologies from the humanities and social sciences. Topics will include the conquest of Mexico’s northern frontier, Chicana/o and Nuyorican movements, Latina feminist thought, Latina/o arts, Central American migrations in the 1980s, Latina/o religiosities, as well as philosophies of resistance and acculturation. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2020

Requirements

AMR, HIS, NOR, SOC

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Course Description

Football and Higher Education
Football originated on US campuses, and its 150-year history reflects the vibrant, uneasy relation between sports and higher education. The first "big time" college sport in the United States, football became a media spectacle in the 1890s, and since then critics have debated the game's violence, educational merits, commercial trappings, and bearing on college admissions policies. The course will move from the 19th century to the present, tracing the sport's cultural meanings, its relation to class identity and gender roles, and its educational mission, including the sport's regulation by the NCAA. We will take an interdisciplinary approach to these issues, and readings may include literary and secondary works by Steve Almond, Owen Johnson, Dave Meggyesy, and Michael Oriard. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Fall 2021

Requirements

AMR, HIS, NOR, SOC

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Course Description

History of the American West
This is a survey of the history of the trans-Mississippi West from colonial contact through the 1980s. It explores how that region became known and understood as the West, and its role and meaning in United States history as a whole. The central themes of this course are conquest and its legacy, especially with regard to the role of the U.S. federal government in the West; human interactions with and perceptions of landscape and environment; social contests among different groups for a right to western resources and over the meanings of western identity; and the role of the West in American popular culture. 2 hrs. lect., 1 hr. disc. (formerly HIST/AMST 0374)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2022

Requirements

HIS, SOC

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Course Description

Formations of Race and Ethnicity in the U.S.
Historical memories, everyday experiences, and possible futures are powerfully shaped by racial and ethnic differences. Categories of race and ethnicity structure social relationships and cultural meanings in the United States and beyond. In this course we will track the theoretical and historical bases of ideas of race and ethnicity in modern America. We will investigate how race and ethnicity intersect at particular historical moments with other forms of difference including gender, sexuality, nation, and class. The course offers an approach informed by critical studies of race including texts in history, political theory, cultural studies, and anthropology. (Critical Race Feminisms) 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2022

Requirements

AMR, NOR, SOC

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Course Description

Gothic and Horror
This course examines the forms and meanings of the Gothic and horror over the last 250 years in the West. How have effects of fright, terror, or awe been achieved over this span and why do audiences find such effects attractive? Our purpose will be to understand the generic structures of horror and their evolution in tandem with broader cultural changes. Course materials will include fiction, film, readings in the theory of horror, architecture, visual arts, and electronic media. 3 hrs. lect./disc. 3 hrs lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019

Requirements

AMR, HIS, NOR

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Course Description

Asian Americas
In this course we will investigate cultural transformations, cultural politics, and the cultural productions of and about Asian Americans. The themes of immigration, nation, and citizenship are central to the construction of the U.S. racial category of Asian. Those addressed within the category are highly diverse and differentiated along class, gender, and generational lines, yet the racial category structures particular kinds of experiences and possibilities for subjects. Historical transformations and contemporary issues in a variety of Asian American contexts will be investigated through a variety of texts including historical accounts, cultural studies, anthropological studies, autobiography, and fiction. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, SOC

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Course Description

See the U.S.A.: The History of Tourism in American Culture
In this course, we will explore the history and evolution of American tourism, beginning in the 1820s, when middle-class tourists first journeyed up the Hudson River valley, and ending with our contemporary and continuing obsession with iconic destinations such as Graceland, Gettysburg, and the Grand Canyon. We will explore how the growth of national transportation systems, the development of advertising, and the rise of a middle class with money and time to spend on leisure shaped the evolution of tourism. Along the way, we will study various types of tourism (such as historical, cultural, ethnic, eco-, and 'disaster' tourism) and look at the creative processes by which places are transformed into 'destinations'. Our texts will come from visual art, travel literature, material culture, and film and television. We will consider their cultural meaning and reflect on our own motivations and responses as tourists, and by so doing contemplate why tourism was-and still is-such an important part of American life. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2021

Requirements

AMR, CW, HIS, NOR

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Course Description

Music in the United States
In this course we will examine folk, classical, and popular music in the United States from the 17th century to the present. We will use historical and analytical approaches to gain insight into the music, the musicians, and the social and cultural forces that have shaped them. Students will explore music’s relation to historical events, other artistic movements, technological changes, and questions of national identity and ethnicity. Topics will include music in the British colonies, minstrelsy, American opera and orchestras, jazz, popular music, and the experimentalist composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Music reading skills are useful but not required. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019

Requirements

ART, NOR

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Course Description

American Consumer Culture
For many Americans in the 20th century, consumer goods came to embody the promise of the "good life." Yet mass consumption also fostered economic, political, and social inequalities and engendered anti-consumerist activism. In this course we will pursue an interdisciplinary approach to American consumer culture, focusing on the rise of commercialized leisure and advertising; the role of radio, television, and film in shaping consumer practices; and the relationship of consumerism to social inequality and democratic citizenship. Readings will include works by Veblen, Marcuse, Bordieu, Marchand, Cohen, and Schor. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, HIS

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Course Description

The Cultural Work of Country Music
“I like all kinds of music...except country.” Arguably, aversion to American country music often tracks with class- and race-based assumptions about both makers and consumers of this genre. In this course we will challenge those views while studying the history of the form. Balancing our consideration of the big picture with case studies of performers like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and The Chicks, we will explore what types of music the “country” tag comprises; some of the major themes and motifs associated with the form; the Black and White roots of country music; and the politicization of the music and its performers throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Source materials for the course will include Bill Malone’s Country Music, USA; Ken Burn’s Country Music documentary; Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity, and A Good-Natured Riot: The Birth of the Grand Ole Opry.

Terms Taught

Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, HIS, SOC

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Course Description

American Bodies
Bodies are sites and sources of pain and pleasure, pride and shame, suffering and resistance. The events of 2020 have revealed the vulnerabilities of our bodies to an unprecedented degree: vulnerabilities not only to disease, but also to inequities in healthcare, labor conditions, and police violence. Even as we have been inundated with messages about public health and images of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, we have also seen bodies deployed as vehicles for protest. Which “American Bodies” are represented, and how? In this course we will analyze a variety of media, from scientific and medical illustration to performance art, memorials, and popular culture, critically examining the roles and constructions of race, gender, sexuality, and class. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019, Fall 2020

Requirements

AMR, NOR

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Course Description

American Landscape: 1825-1865
This course will explore American landscape painting through an interdisciplinary approach, employing art, literature, religion, and history. In studying the landscape paintings of Thomas Cole, Asher B. Durand, and Frederic Church, we will also consider the commercial growth of New York City; the myths and legends of the Catskill Mountains; the writings of James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, and Henry David Thoreau; the opening of the Erie Canal; and the design and construction of Central Park. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018

Requirements

AMR, ART, HIS, NOR

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Course Description

Constructing Memory: American Monuments and Memorials
“Democracy has no monuments,” John Quincy Adams once famously argued. “It strikes no medals; it bears the head of no man upon its coin; its very essence is iconoclastic.” Yet nearly 250 years after America’s founding, monuments and memorials surround us. In this course we will explore the memorializing impulse; the complexity and depth of emotion evoked by memorial acts; and the oftentimes heated controversies about modes, placement, and subject of representation. We will consider how and why America chooses to memorialize certain people and events, and what is gained—and sometimes erased—in the process. By choosing among a broad range of traditional and non-traditional modes of representation, we will consider how public memorials both reflect and shape Americans’ shared cultural values. The course will include site visits to local monuments and projects in which we propose designs or redesigns of memorials for a 21st century audience.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, ART, CW

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Course Description

African American Literature
This course surveys developments in African American fiction, drama, poetry, and essays during the 20th century. Reading texts in their social, historical, and cultural contexts—and often in conjunction with other African American art forms like music and visual art—we will explore the evolution and deployment of various visions of black being and black artistry, from the Harlem Renaissance through social realism and the Black Arts Movement, to the contemporary post-soul aesthetic. Authors may include Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, Ishmael Reed, Toni Morrison, Charles Johnson, and Octavia Butler. This course may also be counted as a general elective or REC elective for the ENAM major. 3 hrs lect./disc. (Diversity)/

Terms Taught

Fall 2019, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, LIT

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Course Description

Science Fiction
Time travel, aliens, androids, robots, corporate and political domination, reimaginings of race, gender, sexuality and the human body--these concerns have dominated science fiction over the last 150 years. But for all of its interest in the future, science fiction tends to focus on technologies and social problems relevant to the period in which it is written. In this course, we'll work to understand both the way that authors imagine technology's role in society and how those imaginings create meanings for science and its objects of study and transformation. Some likely reading and films include Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, H. G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau, Ridley Scott, Blade Runner, and works by William Gibson, Ursula LeGuin, Octavia Butler and other contemporary writers. (Students who have taken FYSE 1162 are not eligible to register for this course). 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

CW, LIT

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Course Description

Re-Presenting Slavery
In this course we will examine 20th century American portrayals of chattel slavery through creative works and situate them in their historical contexts. Working primarily with fiction (Oxherding Tale, Kindred, The Underground Railroad), film (Mandingo, Django Unchained, Twelve Years a Slave), television (Roots, Africans in America, Underground), and visual art (works by Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Kara Walker), we will evaluate how those various representations of the “Peculiar Institution” have changed, and/or have been changed, by the cultural moments in which they appeared. This course may also be counted as a general elective or REC elective for the ENAM major. 3 hrs lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, ART, HIS

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Course Description

American Disability Studies: History, Meanings, and Cultures
In this course we will examine the history, meanings, and realities of disability in the United States. We will analyze the social, political, economic, environmental, and material factors that shape the meanings of "disability," examining changes and continuities over time. Students will draw critical attention to the connections between disability, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and age in American and transnational contexts. Diverse sources, including films and television shows, music, advertising, fiction, memoirs, and material objects, encourage inter and multi-disciplinary approaches to disability. Central themes we consider include language, privilege, community, citizenship, education, medicine and technology, and representation.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, HIS, SOC

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Course Description

Podcasting the Past: Leisure and Middlebury College
This course explores aspects of American life through an analysis of a widely underutilized luxury: leisure time. Using the college archives, we will study the microcosm of the Middlebury campus and identify noteworthy leisure activities through out the College’s history (i.e., fraternity boat rides down Otter Creek in the late-19th century or the establishment of Middlebury’s Quidditch team in 2005). We will consider how these acts of leisure reflect the broader values of the era(s) in which they emerged. Ultimately students will share their findings in an original, sound-rich documentary podcast. By the end of this course, students will have developed basic recording and sound editing skills and have new tools for translating complicated scholarly ideas into a format appropriate for a lay audience. Previous experience with sound editing or familiarity with podcasting is not required. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020

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Course Description

Class, Culture, and Representation
In this course we will examine the contested meanings of social class in U.S. culture from 1930 to the present. We will ask the following: How have workers, the workplace, and economic inequality been imagined in U.S. film, art, and popular culture? How have categories such as race, gender, and sexuality informed ideas about class? And how do the realities of economic inequality mesh with civic narratives of meritocracy and the “American Dream”? Readings will include works by Barbara Ehrenreich, Studs Terkel, Tillie Olsen, and Helena Maria Vilamontes. Films, music, and other media will supplement written materials. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Fall 2021

Requirements

AMR, HIS, NOR

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Course Description

American Psycho: Disease, Doctors, and Discontents (Pre-1900 AL)
What constitutes a pathological response to the pressures of modernity? How do pathological protagonists drive readers toward the precariousness of their own physical and mental health? The readings for this class center on the provisional nature of sanity and the challenges to bodily health in a world of modern commerce, media, and medical diagnoses. We will begin with 19th century texts and their engagement with seemingly "diseased" responses to urbanization, new forms of work, and new structures of the family and end with contemporary fictional psychopaths engaged in attacks on the world of images we inhabit in the present. Nineteenth century texts will likely include stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Later 20th-century works will likely include Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs, Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted, and Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, LIT

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Course Description

Chicagoland
In this course we will explore Chicago’s significance by focusing on its physical and spatial character. Moving from the 19th to the 21st century, we will examine the 1871 fire; the 1893 World’s Fair; the settlement house movement; the rise of modern architecture; the emergence of Black Chicago and development of a multi-ethnic, multi-class metropolis spread across various neighborhoods and suburbs; and recent planning efforts to revitalize the city as a space for all Chicagoans. Interdisciplinary in scope, the course will draw on a range of texts and theoretical perspectives to show the generative importance of Chicago’s rich and varied landscape. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2022, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, HIS

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Course Description

Beyond Intersectionality: Developing Anti-Racist and Anti-Capitalist Feminisms
Nearly thirty years ago, Kimberlé Crenshaw published the theory of “intersectionality,” in which she argued that racism and sexism collide to make black women’s marginalization distinct from those of both white women and black men (1989). Today, the terms “intersectionality” and “intersectional feminism” are ubiquitous, utilized by scholars, activists, artists, and our students. In this course, we will consider how discourses of and ideas about intersectionality move between and among spaces of dissent. Starting from the position that it is more epistemologically and politically powerful to state that our feminism is anti-racist and anti-capitalist than to say it is “intersectional,” we will address the following questions: What are the benefits and limits of the original theory of intersectionality? How are academic and activist approaches alike both emboldened and limited by intersectionality? What does it mean to be socially and politically conscious, and how do we move from consciousness to action in ways that are not siloed? Texts may include Crenshaw’s “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women” (1989) and Ange-Marie Hancock’s Intersectionality: An Intellectual History (2016). 3 hrs. lect. (Critical Race Feminisms)

Terms Taught

Spring 2019

Requirements

AMR, NOR, SOC

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Course Description

Mastodons, Mermaids, and Dioramas: Capturing Nature in America
Why did 18th-century museums stuff and mount exotic and domestic animals? Why does the American Museum of Natural History still house dioramas of so-called native peoples hunting? How has the study and staging of nature transferred into various kinds of artistic expression? In this course we will examine the intertwining of art, science, and ecology in the United States from the 1700s to the present day. Objects of study will include museum dioramas, scientific models, artifacts and artworks collected during scientific expeditions, and the work of Walton Ford and Christy Rupp, contemporary artists whose work engages ecological issues. (not open to students who have taken FYSE 1447) (formerly AMST 0214) 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2021, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, ART, CW

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Course Description

Art and Material Culture of American (US) Middle-class home
In this course we will consider the effects of technology and mechanical reproduction on the United States home, from prints to posters, houseplants to aquariums, mass-produced decorations to home-made crafts. We will also study the culture of at-home visual entertainments, from early “magic lanterns” and optical toys to the effects of televisions and computers on perception and social life. How do race, class, gender, and issues of labor and leisure inflect the middle-class domestic sphere and relate to social concerns outside the home? We will also examine the work of contemporary artists inspired by the aesthetics and social relationships of the United States middle-class home, including Martha Rosler, Mona Hatoum, and Laurie Simmons. 3 hrs. lect. AMR, ART, NOR

Terms Taught

Spring 2022

Requirements

AMR, ART, NOR

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Course Description

The Guitar in American Culture
Although it has European and African antecedents, modern acoustic and electric guitars are American inventions. From the genteel parlor guitars of the 19th century elite to the electric weaponry of today’s rock stars, the guitar is an essential artifact of American material culture. Drawing on histories, cultural critiques, interviews, and sound and video recordings, we will study both the evolution of the instrument and the builders and players who have helped define its role. Examining artifacts and talking with working guitar builders will illuminate the craft of guitar making. The culmination of the course will be a student-curated exhibition.

Terms Taught

Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR

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Course Description

Viewer Discretion Advised: Controversies in American Art & Museums, 1876-Present
What are the “culture wars,” and why do they matter? What ideas are considered too “obscene” for American audiences? In this course we will explore controversies and scandals sparked by public displays of art in the U.S. including: Eakins’s Gross Clinic (1876), seen as too “bloody” for an art exhibition; the U.S. Navy’s objections to Paul Cadmus’s painting of sailors (1934); censorship and NEA budget cuts (Mapplethorpe & Serrano, 1989); backlash to The West as America’s deconstruction of myths of the frontier (1991); tensions surrounding Colonial Williamsburg’s “slave auction” reenactment (1994); debates over the continued display (and occasional defacement) of Confederate monuments in the era of the Black Lives Matter Movement. (open to AMST, HARC and ART majors only, other by approval) 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, ART, HIS

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Course Description

Reconstructing Literature: Realism, Regionalism, and the American scene, 1870-1919 (Pre-1900 AL)
American literature evolved in the late 1800s as a new generation of writers portrayed a rapidly changing culture, transformed by urbanization, industrial growth, immigration, class tensions, new roles for women, shifting race relations, and demographic transformations that seemed to split the nation into city and country. While realism was an effort to describe “life as it is” and regionalism focused on the distinctive features of specific places, both modes of representation stemmed from historical forces that were reshaping the nation. Works to be covered may include fiction by William Dean Howells, Charles Chesnutt, Sarah Orne Jewett, Kate Chopin, and Theodore Dreiser. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, HIS, LIT

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Course Description

The Computerized Society: A Cultural History of the Computer Since WWII
What theorist Jean-Francois Lyotard called “the computerized society” turns out to be about far more than just machines. Technological developments are inextricably linked to other factors: culture, politics, economics, war, identity, race, class, gender, the law, region. In this course we will take an American studies approach to the evolution of the modern computer to grasp its history—and therefore its present significance. Students will encounter a wide range of sources and complete three analytic essays that begin with creative prompts to generate compelling historical interpretations of technology and its contextualized importance in America and the world. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018

Requirements

AMR, HIS, NOR, SOC

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Course Description

Posthuman Medicine: Morals, Machines, and Bodies
Medical treatments and technologies now keep people alive when they once surely would have died. But the increasing power of medicine has also raised nightmarish possibilities of lives controlled, squandered, or sacrificed to a system that often alienates patients, is centered on profit, and has a long history of treating marginal populations recklessly. How do science fiction writers, doctors, film makers, memoirists, and healthcare corporations portray an ever more medicalized vision of human experience and human bodies? Texts and films for the course will include HG Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau, Atul Gawande, Complications; Octavia Butler, Clay’s Ark; Michael Gondry, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Karen Russell, Sleep Donation, and Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go.

Terms Taught

Fall 2022

Requirements

LIT

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Course Description

Portraits of the Lady: The New Woman in American Literature & Culture
At the end of the 19th century, women fought against restrictions limiting their sphere of influence. As they sought to exercise more control over their lives personally, socially, and economically, this “New Woman,” and the way she was changing the face of society, became a popular subject in literature and art. In this course we will consider portraits of women by well-known American authors (such as James, Chopin, Wharton, Sui Sin Far, Cather, Larsen, Hurston) alongside those by prominent painters, sculptors, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers. We will consider how representations of women through the early twentieth century embodied the values of the nation and codified both the fears and aspirations of its citizens. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, ART, LIT

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Course Description

Hemingway's Outsized Life
In this class we will explore the work of Ernest Hemingway, a writer whose literary style and heroic self-construction remain a source of fascination and controversy. Through a mostly chronological reading of his writings, we will examine Hemingway’s emergence as a pioneering modernist and member of the 1920s “lost generation,” his portrayal of war and violence, and his representations of gender, race, and “American-ness.” Assigned texts will include short stories, novels, and autobiographical works, as well as critical studies (including Ken Burns’ recent documentary film) that consider the impact of Hemingway’s life and writing on broader U.S. cultural history.

Terms Taught

Spring 2022

Requirements

AMR, LIT

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Course Description

Madness in America
It's a mad, mad course. In this course we will focus on representations of madness from colonial to late 20th century America, emphasizing the links between popular and material culture, science, medicine, and institutions. We will consider how ideas about madness (and normalcy) reflect broader (and shifting) notions of identity. Thus, issues of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, community, class, and region will play significant roles in our discussions and critiques. To complement foundational readings, this course will draw on American literature, documentary and entertainment films, music, and materials from the college's special collections.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, SOC

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Course Description

Love, Sex, Race, and Disability
In this course we will explore the connections between gender and sexuality, race, and disability. Culture and representation, understandings of diversity and difference, and contexts (political, social, and historical) will provide central areas of study. Comparing and integrating topics and perspectives, we will critically analyze the constructions and politics of identity (and multiple identities) and historical perspectives on gender and sexuality, race, and disability. We also will consider the impact of education and activism, as well as the meanings of intimate relationships across and between genders and sexualities, races, and disabilities. Our work will foster a fundamental reexamination of American life and history through its study of bodies and minds, identities, languages, cultures, citizenship and rights, power and authority, what is a "natural" and "unnatural." This course will draw on diverse sources, including documentary and Hollywood films, poetry and short fiction, academic texts, such as Freakery, Gendering Disability and Disability and the Teaching of Writing, and memoirs, such as Eli Clare's Exile and Pride.

Terms Taught

Spring 2022

Requirements

AMR, NOR, SOC

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Course Description

The Graphic Novel
In this course we will study some of the most widely respected graphic novels produced in the last thirty years. Our purpose will be to understand how the form works and is structured by its dual, but sometimes competing, interests in the verbal and the visual, and to think about distinct styles of illustration. We will also think about how landmark examples have shaped the form. Working with software designed for the purpose, students will use photographs to produce short comics of their own. Possible texts include: Alan Moore, Watchmen; Art Spiegelman, Maus; Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan; Alison Bechdel, Fun Home.3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, LIT

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Course Description

Issues in Critical Disability Studies: U.S. and the World
Disability as a category and as lived experience plays an important but often overlooked role in national, transnational, and global contexts. In this course we will explore disability’s changing meanings in the United States and around the World. Comparative and transnational approaches will draw our attention to disability’s many meanings across wide-ranging historical, cultural, and geographical settings. Foundational concepts and principles, including ableism and Universal Design, shape our critical inquiry. Key themes frame the course: access, language, power, violence, normalcy, identity, community, institutions, and rights and justice. We will engage with diverse primary sources, from memoirs and documentary films to advertisements, material objects, and oral histories. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, CMP, HIS, SOC

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Course Description

Livin' for the City
In this course we will engage the idea of the "ghetto" as constructed through literature, film, music, and television. Our exploration will relate this concept to geographic spaces and to a socially-constructed set of ideas about urban African American spaces and communities. We will combine critical textual analysis with fundamental concepts from human geography and social history to explore shifting conceptions of the “ghetto”, consider its impact on urban African American space, and examine how the responses of urban black American artists affect, resist, and change its imaginative geography. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020

Requirements

AMR, CMP, NOR, SOC

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Course Description

Disability in Film and Television
In this course we will investigate film and television representations of disability and disabled people to gain an understanding of how these reflect prominent cultural ideas across twentieth and twenty-first century US history. Specifically, we will trace changes and continuities in the various functions of disability in film and TV, and how disabled people have used these media to express their own lived experiences. Key themes to be covered include access, stereotype, spectacle, community, and activism. Our intersectional study will involve disability, deaf, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and age. Through readings, screenings, and engaged discussions students will gain insights into ways film and television reflect and shape the understandings of disability in American history and culture. This class includes regular screenings. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, HIS, SOC

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Course Description

Vermont Incarcerated: A Digital History
Course participants will contribute to Vermont Incarcerated, a new digital history project that will curate the nineteenth- and twentieth-century history of Vermont state carceral institutions and the vulnerable persons compelled to live in them. We will use digital technologies to tell the human stories of the Vermont State Prison in Windsor, the State Hospital in Waterbury, the State Industrial School in Vergennes, and the State Training School in Brandon. In addition to digital project work, we will read scholarship on the digital humanities and on the histories of crime and punishment, mental illness, and intellectual disability in the United States. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2023

Requirements

AMR, HIS

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Course Description

Vermont Collaborations Public Humanities Lab
In collaboration with local archives, museums, and community organizations, we will work closely with primary sources, learning skills of transcription, analysis, and interpretation; in the spirit of Public Humanities, we will share this scholarship with the broader community, whether in the form of an exhibition, a publication, a website, podcasts, or other digital media. The focus will change annually or by sections, but this project-based course will emphasize place-based experiential learning and community partnerships in its critical engagement with histories of collections and archives. This course is part of the Public Humanities Labs Initiative administered by the Axinn Center for the Humanities.
*For Spring 2021:*
2021 marks the bicentennial of the birth of Henry Luther Sheldon, founder of Middlebury’s Sheldon Museum of Vermont History (founded 1881). In this course we will mine the Archives of the Sheldon Museum for information about the early years of the museum’s establishment, exploring institutional history, histories of collecting, and local history, alongside a critical investigation of how archives and collections are formed, developed, and made legible (or illegible) to broader publics. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021, Fall 2022

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Course Description

American Misogyny
In this course we will explore the place of misogyny in U.S. media and politics. Early topics will include film noir, Cold War gender scapegoating, and lesbian pulp fiction. Subsequent topics will include the backlash against second-wave feminism, the rise of “post-feminism,” and the impact of reality TV and social media on feminist and antifeminist expression. We will conclude by examining how misogyny informs U.S. culture and politics in the Trump era. Throughout the course, we will consider how discourses of misogyny are inflected by white, cisgender, ableist, ageist, and class privilege. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022

Requirements

AMR, HIS, NOR

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Course Description

Toni Morrison and American Culture
In this course we will explore how Toni Morrison has helped shape and been shaped by ongoing American conversations about race and identity. Beginning with The Origin of Others, her recent collection of essays, and ranging through her fiction from The Bluest Eye to Beloved to Home, we will assess her work in the contexts of the cultural moments in which the novels appeared, using commentary from Black cultural critics like Ta-Nehisi Coates, bell hooks, Shaun King, and James Baldwin to inform our readings. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018

Requirements

AMR, HIS, LIT, NOR

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Course Description

Theories of Popular Culture
This writing-intensive course introduces a range of theoretical approaches to study American popular culture, exploring the intersection between everyday life, mass media, and identity and social power. We will consider key theoretical readings and approaches to studying culture, including ideology and hegemony theory, audience studies, subcultural analysis, the politics of taste, and cultural representations of identity. Using these theoretical tools, we will examine a range of popular media and sites of cultural expression, from television to toys, films to music, to understand popular culture as a site of ongoing political and social struggle. (FMMC 0102 or FMMC 0104 or AMST 0101 or instructor approval) 3 hrs. sem/3 hrs. screen.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019

Requirements

SOC

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Course Description

Reading, Slavery, and Abolition
In this course we will study both black and white writers' psychological responses to, and their verbal onslaughts on, the "peculiar institution" of chattel slavery. We will work chronologically and across genres to understand how and by whom the written word was deployed in pursuit of physical and mental freedom and racial and socioeconomic justice. As the course progresses, we will deepen our study of historical context drawing on the substantial resources of Middlebury's special collections, students will have the opportunity to engage in archival work if they wish. Authors will include Emerson, Douglass, Jacobs, Thoreau, Stowe, Walker, and Garrison. This course may also be counted as a general elective or REC elective for the ENAM major 3 hrs. sem. (Diversity)/ This course is part of the Public Humanities Labs Initiative administered by the Axinn Center for the Humanities.*

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

AMR, HIS, LIT

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Course Description

Theory and Method in American Studies (Junior Year)
A reading of influential secondary texts that have defined the field of American Studies during the past fifty years. Particular attention will be paid to the methodologies adopted by American Studies scholars, and the relevance these approaches have for the writing of senior essays and theses. (Open to junior American studies majors only.) 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

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Course Description

American Art in Context: Art and Life of Winslow Homer
Although generally regarded as a popular painter of American life, Winslow Homer often provides a penetrating and sometimes disturbing view of post-Civil War America. Among the topics to be considered: Homer's paintings of the Civil War; his illustrations of leisure and recreation; and his depictions of women and children in the Gilded Age. During the second half of the course, we will turn our attention to Homer's landscape paintings of the Adirondacks, the Caribbean and the Maine coast, as well as his seascapes of the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018

Requirements

AMR, ART, HIS, NOR

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Course Description

Vermont Life’s Vermont: A Collaborative Web Project
Students in this course will work collaboratively to build an online history project aimed at a wide audience. Since 1946, Vermont Life magazine has created particular images of the landscape, culture, and recreational possibilities in the state. Our goal will be to construct a website that examines the evolution of these images and the meaning of the state over time, paying particular attention to consumerism, the environment, tourism, urban-rural contrasts, local food movements, and the ways that race, class, and gender influence all of these. The course is open to all students and requires collaborative work but not any pre-existing technological expertise. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Spring 2021

Requirements

AMR, HIS, NOR

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Course Description

Global Cities of the United States
In this seminar we will engage the study of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles as "global cities." We will explore each as a site of networks that link populations in the United States to people, things, media, money, and ideas beyond the borders of the nation-state. The principal themes and issues covered during the semester will include the formation of transnational
communities, flows of labor and capital cultural production, and religious responses to diaspora. Our interdisciplinary approach to these topics will require students to use methods and theories from both the social sciences and the humanities. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020

Requirements

CMP, SOC

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Course Description

Independent Study
Select project advisor prior to registration.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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Course Description

Senior Essay
For students who have completed AMST 0400 and are not pursuing an honors thesis. Under the guidance of one or more faculty members, each student will complete research leading toward a one-term, one-credit interdisciplinary senior essay on some aspect of American culture. The essay is to be submitted no later than the last Thursday of the fall semester. (Select project advisor prior to registration)

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

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Course Description

Senior Work
(Approval required)

Terms Taught

Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

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Course Description

Senior Research Tutorial
This seminar will focus on the development of sophisticated research skills, the sharing with peers of research and writing in progress, and the completion of a substantial research project. Those writing one-credit essays will complete their projects over the course of this tutorial.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018

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Course Description

Honors Thesis
For students who have completed AMST 0705, and qualify to write two-credit interdisciplinary honors thesis. on some aspect of American culture. The thesis may be completed on a fall/winter schedule or a fall/spring schedule. (Select a thesis advisor prior to registration)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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Course Description

Hollywood’s West: The American West on Film
From its beginnings the Hollywood western has presented an imaginative geography, a powerful popular fantasy expressing deep truths, and perhaps still deeper desires about American identity. Initially the western reasserted 19th century America’s optimistic vision of manifest destiny; ultimately, many westerns challenged that optimism, often explicitly presenting racial, sexual, and political tensions. Over time, westerns have been re-defined, re-invented and expanded, dismissed, re-discovered, and spoofed. Working with a broad range of films, including Stagecoach, High Noon, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Blazing Saddles, Unforgiven, Lone Star, Smoke Signals, Cowboys & Aliens—we will explore the ways in which westerns have both shaped and reflected the dominant social and political desires and anxieties of their respective eras. .

Terms Taught

Winter 2019

Requirements

AMR, ART, NOR, WTR

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Course Description

American Deaf Culture and History
In this course we will explore America’s “DEAF-WORLD” from the early 19th century through the present day. Creative, community-based, and scholarly readings, as well as memoirs, TV shows, films, and material objects will illustrate diverse traditions of “deaf,” including religious, biomedical, and social-cultural forms. Central themes will guide our work: language and communication, community and identity, cultural values and practices, education, artistic and popular representations, technology and bioethics, and activism. Through these themes we will learn about audism and ableism—foundational concepts in deaf studies—as they relate to other systems of power and privilege. Intersecting social identities within deaf cultural worlds also will draw sustained attention. We will engage in a highly collaborative learning process. Small group research projects and interactive class discussions will contribute to deeper learning about continuity and change, and varying perspectives in and about America’s “DEAF-WORLD.” This course does not require knowledge of American Sign Language.

Terms Taught

Winter 2023

Requirements

AMR, HIS, SOC, WTR

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Course Description

Segregation in America: Baseball and Race
This course examines the African-American contribution to the National Pastime. Organized baseball was segregated, black and white, from the end of the 19th century to the mid-20th century. Within segregated black communities, amid the debilitating effects of a separate and unequal world, a rich culture emerged and an absorbing chronicle was written. We will learn about life in baseball's "Negro leagues," and the great black players and teams, and consider how this sporting phenomenon reflects American values and history (Not open to students who have taken AMST 0221)

Terms Taught

Winter 2019

Requirements

AMR, HIS, NOR, WTR

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Course Description

Material Culture in Focus
In this course we will investigate material culture, objects made or altered by human hands and design. We will keep a tight focus on one object or group of objects, cultivating an in-depth understanding and benefitting from access to local collections, curators, makers, and users. The focus will change annually, but the subject will always be an object of material culture that students will examine first-hand and research. Students will then create a lasting documentation and analysis of the work for public benefit, whether as an exhibition, a publication, or a website. This course is part of the Public Humanities Labs Initiative administered by the Axinn Center for the Humanities.

For Winter 2021, we will focus on hair and hairwork, exploring the multivalent meanings of hair in American culture, past and present. Nineteenth-century Americans often saved or exchanged locks of hair as mementos, constructing elaborate items of jewelry or keepsake wreaths that emblematized familial relationships and kinship networks. These tokens could serve memorial purposes or solidify friendships. This material, crafted from the body, was often worn on the body, near the heart, or displayed within the intimate space of the home. In more recent decades, hair has become an activist issue and a potent political medium for artists foregrounding feminism and ethnic or racial identity. In this course, we will study many artifacts of hairwork in local collections, conducting archival research and sharing our findings via a website and exhibition; a studio workshop will give us hands-on experience with Victorian techniques of hairwork. We’ll also consider the work of contemporary artists who use hair as a medium: Janine Antoni, Mark Bradford, Sonya Clark, Aisha Cousins, Wenda Gu, David Hammons, Althea Murphy-Price, Paula Santiago. (This course is open to AMST, ART, HIST, and HARC majors, others by waiver)

Terms Taught

Winter 2021

Requirements

AMR, ART, HIS, NOR, WTR

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Course Description

Asian American Food Studies
In this course we will discuss how food shapes a sense of belonging and identity in Asian America. Going beyond how Asian American cultures are consumed through food items and restaurants, we will focus on how Asian Americans have defined themselves through food. Required readings will engage questions about the production, circulation, and consumption of food. We will critically engage the genres of memoir, recipe books, fiction, historical accounts, cultural criticism, and food criticism as we write pieces in each of these styles. There will also be a limited amount of cooking involved in the course.

Terms Taught

Winter 2019, Winter 2020

Requirements

AMR, CW, NOR, SOC, WTR

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Course Description

American Pulp Fiction
In this course we will consider how American pulp fiction has reflected cultural attitudes, represented categories of identity, and been regularly reimagined from the golden age of the genre in the 20th century to contemporary times. We will read stories by Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, and H.P. Lovecraft, as well as Chester Himes’ The Heat is On. We will also view Pulp Fiction, the Maltese Falcon, and Lovecraft Country.

Terms Taught

Winter 2022

Requirements

AMR, LIT, NOR, WTR

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Course Description

The Graphic Novel and the Postmodern City
From dystopian visions of isolation and alienation to utopian illustrations of soaring towers and integrated communities, comics and graphic novels since the 1970s have represented a range of cityscapes and ways of living in them. Our efforts will focus on understanding how comics work as a cultural form distinct from others and how various artists and writers have imagined urban space in relatively recent U.S. cultural history. Some texts might include: Daniel Clowes, Ghost World; Alan Moore and David Lloyd, V for Vendetta; Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth, and G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphono, Ms. Marvel.

Terms Taught

Winter 2021

Requirements

AMR, LIT, NOR, WTR

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Course Description

Music in the United States
In this course we will examine folk, classical, and popular music in the United States from the 17th century to the present. We will use historical and analytical approaches to gain insight into the music, the musicians, and the social and cultural forces that have shaped them. Students will explore music’s relation to historical events, other artistic movements, technological changes, and questions of national identity and ethnicity. Topics will include music in the British colonies, minstrelsy, American opera and orchestras, jazz, popular music, and the experimentalist composers of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Terms Taught

Winter 2022

Requirements

AMR, ART, NOR, WTR

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