AMERICAN STUDIES (AMS)
Office: 101 ten Hoor Hall
Selected American topics for lower-division undergraduate students offered by American studies faculty members or supervised teaching assistants. Some examples include the following five-week, one-hour courses: Legendary John Lennon, American Organized Crime, Social History of Rock ’n‘ Roll, Wilderness and Mystery, Land of the Blues, From God to Gangsta Rap, Wild and Wicked Roaring ’20s, ’70s Soul Cinema, The Jamband Scene, Dystopian Science Fiction Movies, and Reading Sex and the City.
Exploration of the relation between the arts—popular, folk, and elite—and American culture in four selected periods: Victorian America, the ’20s and ’30s, World War II and the Postwar Era, and the ’60s. Class presentations and discussions revolve around novels, movies, slides, music, artifacts, and readings about the periods. This course is team taught by all the members of the American studies faculty. Offered fall semester.
A broad survey of American culture formed by global, national, and regional influences. The first section, “World,” looks at the United States as a product and shaper of international movements, ideas, and cultures from 1500 to the present. The second section, “Nation,” examines the creation of a distinctly American identity between 1790 and 1890 that ultimately incorporated and reflected global issues. The third section, “Regions,” focuses on the South and other regions as contributors to and consequences of national and global interactions. Team taught by the entire AMS faculty, lectures will include topics on film, music, literature, art, sports, and other cultural artifacts. Offered spring semester.
Selected American topics for lower-division undergraduate students offered by AMS faculty members or Americanists from related departments. Recent examples include The Asian-American Experience, The American Road, The Sporting Life, Baseball Since 1945, and Twilight Zone Culture. May be repeated for a maximum of 12 hours.
This course provides a basic outline of the diversity and complexity of the African American experience in the United States. It surveys the early academic and social concern of Black Studies advocates; the changes in the field’s objectives that arise from its connections to contemporary social movements for Black Power, women’s liberation, and multiculturalism; and its major theoretical and critical debates.
A cultural approach to African American lives, examining how the selected course texts express the formation of individual identity and how it is influenced by African American culture. The role of the individual, biography, and narrative in African American history and contemporary culture will be explored. The course draws upon a variety of texts, including historical and theoretical work, visual arts, music, literature, material culture, and documentary and feature films.
An examination of the lives of individual Southern figures—who lived, are living, or live only in the imagination—to explore critically the characteristics that constitute “Southern life,” the history and popular understandings of the South, and the role of the individual, biography, and narrative in history and contemporary culture. Moving chronologically, students will consider how the attributes of Southern lives change over time, while keeping mindful of the ways in which regional identities and stories are always contested, dialectic, and variable. The class draws upon a variety of texts, including historical and theoretical work, visual arts, music, literature, material culture, and documentary and feature films.
A lecture/discussion course utilizing a biographical approach to the salient themes, issues, and episodes of the American West. Some of these lives are real, some of them imagined, and others are a little of each. All of them, however, reveal much about both region and nation and how each has changed over time.
This lecture/discussion course focuses on individual American lives in their working experiences as they are expressed in their personal forms of autobiographies, oral histories, diaries, and letters. What does work mean to Americans as they construct their lives and judge their personal success or failure? What is the role of work in construction of a “good life” in this culture? And do these views vary according to the individual’s position in the ethnic, gender, class, and regional richness and diversity of the American experience?
This course has two principal objectives. Students will analyze the changing nature of American cultural values for the period dating from the early 1970s to the present. By placing materials drawn from literature, film, the visual arts, music, and popular culture within broader social and historical contexts, students will examine key developments in the everyday life patterns and cultural expressions of Americans in contexts that range from the local to the international. In addition, the course will familiarize students with a sampling of the interdisciplinary methodologies applicable to work in the field of American studies (e.g., analysis of images and primary documents, oral history, and ethnography). Offered fall semester.
Survey and analysis of such genres of American vernacular expression as legends, ghost tales, humor, music, and sermons as they express and shape particular regional and/or ethnic American identities. Course materials include ethnographic writing, sound recordings, film, and folklore scholarship. Attention also given to the competing and sometimes contradictory definitions of “folk” culture from the 19th century to the present.
Interdisciplinary investigation of American culture through motion pictures, film history, and relevant cultural/historical documents. Focus on the ways in which films have reflected and influenced prevailing American attitudes and values. Variable focus on a specified theme, genre, or representations of a particular American region.
An interdisciplinary investigation of the American popular music tradition in its commercial rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll idioms. Emphasis is on the relationship between these unique forms of expression and American culture and character. Technical musical skills and training are not required.
Prerequisite for 300-level courses: 6 hours in the department or permission of the instructor.
Selected American topics for advanced undergraduate students, offered by American Studies faculty members or Americanists from related departments. Recent examples include American Hobo Subculture, World War II and Modern Memory, Women’s Liberation Movement, Justice and Civil Society, Southern Sexual Cultures, and Cultures of American Slavery. May be repeated for a maximum of 12 hours.
A survey of mainstream Christian expressions of black spirituality as well as other forms of sacred collective consciousness. Study of local churches and theology is encouraged.
A study of the “miseducation” of Africans in America. The course explores education for blacks from West Africa at the middle of the second millennium and early American society to the emergence of the separate school system of the 19th and 20th centuries.
A study of the North American landscape as altered and used by successive waves of native peoples, explorers, immigrants, westering pioneers, and industrial/urban builders.
Examines 19th-century American popular culture as epitomized by the famous showman P.T. Barnum (1810–91), by using Barnum as a prism to focus on how American culture offered spectacular possibilities for self-advancement and self-delusion.
An examination of the objects created by African Americans variously classified as “folk,” “self-taught,” and “outsider” artists. Course material will address the African origins and American transformations of traditional arts and crafts (architecture, pottery, iron work, and quilting) as well as the work of selected 20th-century artists in such media as painting, sculpture, and assemblage. Key concerns will include not only analysis and cultural/historical contextualization of these artists and their works but also political and theoretical debates with respect to issues of collection, modes of exhibition, and use of the above-listed classifications.
Few things remained so central to the 19th American century experience as the West, a region to be explored, inhabited, and incorporated into an expanding urban-industrial society. From Lewis and Clark to Buffalo Bill, this lecture/discussion course examines the relationship between America and the West as it developed throughout the 19th century.
This lecture/discussion course examines the growth of the American West during the 20th century as both the embodiment of modernity and, as mythic imagination, an escape from the very modernity it represents.
Explores the first two decades of America’s “Modern Times” (1919–41), when Americans redefined themselves and their society, embracing and debating (sometimes hotly) old beliefs, new conceptions, and the implications of a machine-driven, modern-mass society.
An examination of the changing social and cultural background of American writers and artists during the 19th and 20th centuries. Topics will include the definition of the developing role of the artist in American Culture, an assessment of the American and European influences on artists, and an appraisal of the influence of artists on American culture. Painting, literature, music, photography, and architecture are among the arts dealt with.
A selective survey and analysis of 20th century U.S. popular culture-—particularly, comic books, fan culture, television, music, advertising, and sports. Examines ways in which popular culture has reflected and shaped aspects of American society such as gender ideologies, economics, race, class, and regional identity.
Examination of the cultural concepts, myths, and experiences of black and white Southern women from a variety of economic and social backgrounds. Special attention is given to the interaction of race, class, and gender in Southern women’s lives. Texts include historical studies, autobiographies, biographies, oral histories, and novels written by and about women in the 19th- and 20th-century South.
An examination of the work of formally trained 20th century African American painters, sculptors, and photographers in relation to broader currents in the social and cultural history of the United States. Examines ways in which African American art has alternately reflected, shaped, and challenged such important historical events and currents as the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression, the Cold War, the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, the Women’s Movement, and contemporary identity politics. Also evaluates the contributions of selected artists in relation to such key art movements as Modernism, Social Realism, and Postmodernism.
Examination of selected topics from the American experience during the Second World War. Topics include the Homefront, the Holocaust, race relations, the emergence of American air power, and the impact of the war on American memory and postwar American society.
An interdisciplinary investigation of American culture in a period framed by the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 to the election of President John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Interdisciplinary investigation of American culture from the Kennedy assassination in 1963 to the Kent State University massacre in 1970 using the popular cultural explosion of the Beatles as a prism that informs the whole.
Lecture topics, readings, and classroom discussions will pursue major connections between baseball and American society from 1880 to the present: (1) the modernization of America and the rise of an urban, industrial game; (2) baseball and race; and (3) postwar America and baseball.
This course explores “gender” and “culture” as categories of critical and historical analysis. Engaging a range of theoretical and methodological approaches, students will examine how these categories are produced and contested over time while paying particular attention to the intersections of gender constructions and identities with race, sexuality, class, region, and nation. Students will analyze a variety of modes of representation, including documentary and feature film, literature, material culture, visual cultures, and historical, and theoretical works.
Prerequisite for 400-level courses: 12 hours in the department or permission of the instructor.
AMS 400 Internship. 1 to 3 hours, pass/fail.
Prerequisite: Permission of the departmental chairperson.
An internship opportunity that combines independent study and practical fieldwork experience focusing on a particular problem or topic related to American culture and experience. Examples are internships in archival fieldwork, material culture fieldwork, museum management, and sound recordings. Credits earned in this course are not applicable to the major or minor in American studies. May be repeated for a maximum of 6 hours.
An interdisciplinary investigation of the complexities of the African American experience in American culture, ranging from emergence of the Atlantic world and the slave trade to critical issues of the early 21st century. Topics may include the influence of African traditions on American culture; chattel slavery and its historical legacy; the role of religion in the social history of African Americans; the contributions of African Americans to the creative arts; and the critical role played by African Americans in American freedom struggles. To address such topics—and the intersection of these topics with one another—the course will explore insights from various scholarly disciplines and examine several kinds of cultural artifacts such as autobiography, oral history, film, literature, music, and the visual arts.
AMS 402 Special Topics in African American Studies (same as AAST 402). 3 hours. Selected African American topics for advanced undergraduate students. May be repeated for a maximum of 12 hours.
AMS 403 Honors Research: American Studies and American Culture. 3 hours.
Prerequisite: Sponsorship of a faculty member and 3.3 overall GPA or membership in the University Honors Program.
Internship opportunity that combines guided and independent study with on- or off-campus research experience involving a particular methodological approach to American culture and experience. Examples are social science methods, oral history, original manuscript research, and technology.
AMS 405 Directed Study. 1 to 3 hours each semester.
Prerequisite: Sponsorship of a faculty member.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 hours.
Selected American topics for advanced undergraduate majors in American studies, offered by AMS faculty members or Americanists from related departments. May be repeated for a maximum of 6 hours.
A lecture/discussion course on the role of women in American culture that concentrates on the major social and cultural contributions of women from all backgrounds and walks of life. Key question involves the historic roles of women in America and how their status reflects the structure of society as a whole. Most of the readings focus on the 20th century and the relationships between individual women and the cultural networks in which they participate and help create.
Examines certain specific issues and problems that occurred with American culture from about 1500 to 1865. The period begins with conceiving new worlds, in which European, African, and Native American populations engaged and influenced one another in profound and sometimes unexpected ways. Through primary sources, students will also explore such topics as the emergence of colonial societies; the creation of a revolution; 19th-century manners, communities, and institutions; and the cultural politics behind slavery and the Civil War. Offered fall semester.
An exploration of the development of American cultural experience since 1865, focusing on the major material forces and intellectual currents that helped to shape American attitudes, assumptions, institutions, behavior, and values. The course will draw upon insights from many disciplines and will include several kinds of primary cultural evidence as well as recent major synthetic works of cultural scholarship. Topics and reading assignments are chosen to enlarge awareness of the transformation of America to a diverse, metropolitan, industrial society and include the built landscape, changes in the workplace, immigration, changing class and gender relationships, the rise of leisure, and the development and triumph of modern corporate/consumer culture. Offered spring semester.
In-depth study of a particular period or era in American historical experience. Recent examples include the Ragtime Era, the Jazz Age, the Great Depression, the Season of 1954–55, the ’60s, Contemporary America, the Romantic Revolutionaries (1905–14), the Postwar Era, American Avant Garde, the South and ’30s Expression, the Civil Rights Movement, the American ’20s, the ’50s, America between the Wars, the Colonial Period, the Aspirin Age, Postmodern America, Contemporary America, and Writing West.
Study of special topics within the American cultural experience. Recent examples include American Thought, Sports in American Life, American Perspectives on the Environment, the Civil Rights Movement, the Picture Press, Music and Ethnicity, the Politics of Culture, Regionalism, Homelessness in America, American Autobiography, American Monuments, Southern Popular Culture, Politics and Culture, Historical Memory, America by Design, Women in America, Race in America, 19th-Century Popular Culture, and Disasters in America.