American Studies (AMST)
This program is designed to encourage and support the interdisciplinary study of American culture. It draws upon the expertise of faculty in various disciplines and strives to understand the institutions, values, and beliefs that have shaped the experiences of U.S. residents. Recognizing the diverse and pluralistic nature of our society, the American Studies program enables the student to construct an interdisciplinary major around topics of the student's own choice such as urban studies, ethnicity, media, religion, gender roles, environmental thought or some other aspect of the American experience. The program supports interdisciplinary courses taught by Carleton faculty and it brings to campus nationally known visiting artists and scholars under the auspices of the Fred C. Andersen Foundation.
Requirements for a Major
American Studies is an interdisciplinary major which a student constructs from offerings in two or more departments of instruction. To major in American Studies students must fill out an application form that can be obtained online at the American Studies Web site. The form asks students to specify the general topic or focus of the major and the disciplines which seem most appropriate for study of that topic.
Majors must complete 69 credits in the following general areas:
I. Core Courses: Each student must complete all four of these:
AMST 115 Introduction to American Studies
AMST 345 Theory and Practice of American Studies
AMST 396 Junior Research Seminar
AMST 399 Senior Seminar in American Studies
American Studies 115 is a prerequisite for 345 and 396.
II. Survey Courses: Students must take three survey courses. Two of these courses must come from a single department. Students will also take a one-term survey course from a different department. Because the entire range of these survey courses is not offered every year, students should consult the online catalog and plan accordingly.
HIST 120 Rethinking the American Experience: American History, 1607-1865 (not offered in 2015-2016)
HIST 121 Rethinking the American Experience: American Social History, 1865-1945
HIST 122 U.S. Women's History to 1877
HIST 123 U.S. Women's History Since 1877
HIST 125 African American History I
HIST 126 African American History II (not offered in 2015-2016)
POSC 271 Constitutional Law I (not offered in 2015-2016)
POSC 272 Constitutional Law II
Students may also, at the discretion of the Director, substitute other American history classes for the history survey, so long as one class focuses on American history up to and including the Civil War and the other class focuses on American history after 1765. These classes may not include History 100 (A and I seminars).
One-term survey courses:
ARTH 160 American Art to 1940 (not offered in 2015-2016)
ECON 232 American Economic History: A Cliometric Approach (not offered in 2015-2016)
ENGL 212 Nineteenth-Century American Literature
ENGL 215 Modern American Literature (not offered in 2015-2016)
MUSC 126 America's Music
POSC 122 Politics in America: Liberty and Equality
RELG 140 Religion and American Culture (not offered in 2015-2016)
III. Topical Courses: Each student must take four courses that deal with elements of the American experience that he or she has determined are central to a particular focus within the major. Courses that will fulfill this requirement are listed under three groups. No more than one of these courses may be a 100-level course. (Survey courses above and beyond those used to satisfy the required one-term and two-term sequences may count as a Topical Course.) No more than two Topical Courses may be from the same group. Students must take courses from at least two groups. In order that majors acquire the research skills necessary to complete the major, one of these four courses must be a 300-level course.
IV. Integrative Exercise: A senior may choose:
AMST 400 Colloquium and Integrative Exercise in American Studies
a. Essay or Project Option: a 35-40 page essay on an approved topic; or an approved project (e.g., a critical documentary, radio narrative, web design project, performance piece, or service learning project) accompanied by a 15-20 page essay. Open only to students who receive approval of a project prospectus. Students hoping to write an essay are advised to take a methods course in one of the social science departments or SOAN 242 Qualitative Thinking.
b. Examination Option: A written examination given early in spring term
American Studies Courses
AMST 115. Introduction to American Studies: Placing Identities This course will examine the different spaces that inform the production of U.S. identities. We will think about the ways the construction of neighborhoods (urban or suburban) affects our sense of place, ethnicity, and community; we'll consider the impact that border geographies, whether physical or cultural, have on national imaginings; we shall look at contemporary cultural expressions of small town vs. big city life and consider what they feature as particular and unique about Americanness. 6 cr., WR; HI, WR2, IDS, SpringA. Estill
AMST 115. Introduction to American Studies: Immigration and American Culture This course is an introduction to the field of American Studies--its pleasures, challenges, and central questions--through the lens of immigration and migration. Using interdisciplinary readings and assignments, we will explore the richness and complexity of American culture by placing immigration and migration at the center of our investigations. Throughout the term, our study of diverse topics (Borders and Boundaries, World War II, and Sound) will model different ways of making connections and analyzing relationships between immigration, identity, and culture in the United States. 6 cr., WR; HI, WR2, IDS, FallN. Cho
AMST 203. Investigative Tips for the Incurably and Globally Curious Whether you are an enterprising journalist, suspicious partner, or nosy neighbor, you'll love this introduction to the many tools used by investigative reporters. A veteran investigative journalist will demonstrate that no document is off limits, and no secret secure, from someone who is trained to dig up the dirt--and all in an ethical fashion! We'll use case studies, movie clips, and scavenger hunts in and around Northfield. 1 cr., NE, Not offered in 2015-2016.
AMST 214. Music in the 1970s Frequently derided as a nadir of musical culture, the 1970s featured extraordinary musical creativity and change. In addition to the flowering of funk, soft rock, heavy metal, disco, and punk, the era also saw debates over authenticity in country music, experimentation with minimalism, jazz, and technology in classical music, and the beginnings of a "world music" market. We'll approach these with deliberate interdisciplinarity, exploring the varied music and musical cultures through focused listening, analysis of period video and historic documents, and through the work of scholars from a variety of disciplines. No prior musical experience needed. 6 cr., WR; SI, WR2, IDS, Not offered in 2015-2016.
AMST 225. Beauty and Race in America In this class we consider the construction of American beauty historically, examining the way whiteness intersects with beauty to produce a dominant model that marginalizes women of color. We study how communities of color follow, refuse, or revise these beauty ideals through literature. We explore events like the beauty pageant, material culture such as cosmetics, places like the beauty salon, and body work like cosmetic surgery to understand how beauty is produced and negotiated. 6 cr., HI, WR2, IDS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2015-2016.
AMST 228. Mean Girls: the Movie, the Phenomenon This course uses the movie Mean Girls (2004) as a hub to analyze and consider the cultural, linguistic, and representational impact of teen movies. We will work to understand why and how Mean Girls operates as a 'cult' film: what social conditions is it engaging and what historical trends does it name? We will consider the nature of teen movies in general and how race and gender and class are constructed through the text. We will assess the role of social media in generating gifs, quotes, and images that perpetuate a cultural discourse around Mean Girls. 6 cr., WR; HI, WR2, IDS, Offered in alternate years. Not offered in 2015-2016.
AMST 230. The American Sublime: Landscape, Character & National Destiny in Nineteenth Century America Focusing on the early nineteenth century struggle to create an American nation and a national culture, we will look at the ways Americans adopted and adapted European ideas, particularly the aesthetic idea of the Sublime, in their attempt to come to terms with the conquest of the new land and its native inhabitants and with the nature of their national enterprise. Writers Irving, Cooper, Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, and Dickinson and painters Cole, Bierstadt, Church, Kensett, and Lane will be included. Major themes will include attitudes towards landscape and settlement, a distinctively American character, the nature and utility of art, and ideas of American empire. 6 cr., WR; LA, WR2, Not offered in 2015-2016.
AMST 240. The Midwest and the American Imagination The history of American culture has always been shaped by a dialectic between the local and the universal, the regional and the national. The particular geography and history of the Midwest (the prairie, the plains, the old Northwest, Native Americans and white adventurers, settlers and immigrants) have shaped its livelihoods, its identities, its meanings. Focusing on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this course will explore literature, art history, and the social and cultural history of the Midwest. 6 cr., HI, WR2, SpringE. McKinsey
AMST 247. We've Never Not Been Here: Indigenous Peoples and Places "Everything you know about Indians is wrong." Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche author) This interdisciplinary course offers an introduction to important topics in the field of Native American Studies. We will examine history, literature, art, politics, and current events to explore the complex relationship between historical and contemporary issues that indigenous peoples face in the United States. We will pay particular attention to the creative ways that indigenous communities have remained vibrant in the face of ongoing colonial struggle. Topics include histories of Indian-settler relations, American Indian sovereignties, Indigenous ecological knowledge practices, American Indian philosophical and literary traditions, and American Indian activism. 6 cr., HI, IDS, WinterA. Smith
AMST 267. Utopia, Dystopia, and Myopia: Suburbia in Fiction and Scholarship This course peers through the picture window of suburban life in the United States. Our primary text will be film. To what extent do fictional accounts reflect the scholarly concerns and analytical conclusions of historians and social scientists? What themes are common in film and/or literature but get little attention from scholars? Students will be obligated to view films on their own if designated show times are inconvenient. Some films may be R-rated. Prerequisite: American Studies 115 or sophomore standing. 6 cr., SI, IDS, SpringR. Keiser
AMST 268. Music in American Social Movements We’ll consider the central role of music in a variety of social movements, including the labor, civil rights, gay rights, and anti-war movements, the anti-nuclear and environmental movements, the American Indian Movement, the Black Arts movement, the Jesus Movement, and Occupy Wall Street. How specifically, is music instrumental in social change? What musical choices are made, and by whom? How are new musics made, and old musics repackaged, to help mobilize social movements and create collective identity? We’ll approach these questions through focused listening and through the work of diverse scholars and participants. No musical experience required. 6 cr., SI, WR2, IDS, Not offered in 2015-2016.
AMST 345. Theory and Practice of American Studies Introduction to some of the animating debates within American Studies from the 1930s to the present. We will study select themes, theories, and methodologies in the writings of a number of scholars and try to understand 1) the often highly contested nature of debates about how best to study American culture; and 2) how various theories and forms of analysis in American Studies have evolved and transformed themselves over the last seventy years. Not designed to be a fine-grained institutional history of American Studies, but a vigorous exploration of some of the central questions of interpretation in the field. Prerequisite: Normally taken by majors in their junior year. African/African American Studies 113 or American Studies 115 or permission of instructor. 6 cr., NE, IDS, WinterA. Estill
AMST 396. Place, Memory, and National Narrative in American Studies How does a place become part of our cultural memory and national heritage, even if we've never been there? In this course we will draw on the interdisciplinary strengths of American Studies to explore how certain places and histories come to be important to an American national imaginary. We will critically examine specific sites of national memory such as Plymouth Rock, Mt. Rushmore, and the Alamo and consider the processes through which narratives of nationalism are created from contested histories and places, paying particular attention to Native American perspectives. Prerequisite: American Studies major or permission of instructor. 6 cr., HI, SpringA. Smith
AMST 399. Senior Seminar in American Studies This seminar focuses on advanced skills in American Studies research, critical reading, writing, and presentation. Engagement with one scholarly talk, keyed to the current year's comps exam theme, will be part of the course. Through a combination of class discussion, small group work and presentations, and one-on-one interactions with the professor, majors learn the process of crafting and supporting independent interdisciplinary arguments, no matter which option for comps they are pursuing. Students also will learn effective strategies for peer review and oral presentation. Prerequisite: American Studies 396. 6 cr., NE, FallE. McKinsey
AMST 400. Integrative Exercise - Exam Students read selected works and view films in the field of American Studies and in a special topic area designated by the program. For integrative exercise examination students only. Prerequisite: American Studies 396. 3 cr., S/NC, WinterStaff
AMST 400. Integrative Exercise- Essay Seniors working on approved essays or projects in American Studies with the support of their advisers, will work independently to complete their theses, performances or projects to satisfy the college "comps" requirement. Students will be required to give a public presentation on their papers or projects during the spring term. Prerequisite: American Studies 396. 3 cr., S/NC, WinterStaff