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 three survey courses should be part of a two-term sequence in one department. The third survey course should be a one-term course in 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.
Two-term survey courses:
HIST 120 Rethinking the American Experience: American History, 1607-1865
HIST 121 Rethinking the American Experience: American Social History, 1865-1945 (not offered in 2014-2015)
HIST 122 U.S. Women's History to 1877 (not offered in 2014-2015)
HIST 123 U.S. Women's History Since 1877 (not offered in 2014-2015)
HIST 125 African American History I (not offered in 2014-2015)
HIST 126 African American History II
POSC 271 Constitutional Law I
POSC 272 Constitutional Law II (not offered in 2014-2015)
One-term survey courses:
AFAM 113 Introduction to African/African American Studies (not offered in 2014-2015)
ARTH 160 American Art to 1940 (not offered in 2014-2015)
ECON 232 American Economic History: A Cliometric Approach (not offered in 2014-2015)
ENGL 212 Nineteenth-Century American Literature
ENGL 215 Modern American Literature (not offered in 2014-2015)
MUSC 126 America's Music
POSC 122 Politics in America: Liberty and Equality
RELG 140 Religion and American Culture
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 100. Self-Invention, Deception, and American Identity The "self-made man" (or woman) is a paradigm of American culture. Achieving economic and social success through individual determination and a strong work ethic is central to the American dream. The notion of "self-made," however, has inspired individuals through the centuries to construct their identities in more literal ways. We'll explore lying and truth-telling, especially through self-invention and identity performance, to understand how self-performance is a recurring and enduring theme in the construction of American identity. Themes and concepts include pseudonymity, passing, impersonation, and hoaxes, especially as they overlap with issues of class, gender, ethnicity, race, age, and nationality. 6 cr., AI, WR1, FallA. Russek
AMST 115. Introduction to American Studies: The Immigrant Experience Is America truly a nation of immigrants? What role has immigration played in the construction of an American identity? This course is a team-taught, comparative study of the experience of migrants and immigrants to America and other countries. We will use texts from history, literature, film, psychology, and other disciplines to help us investigate the following topics: the causes of emigration; acculturation and assimilation; changes in family structure and gender roles; discrimination; and ongoing debates about immigration policy in relation to national ideals and principles. 6 cr., HI, IDS, FallN. Cho, A. Russek
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., HI, WR2, IDS, SpringA. Estill, E. McKinsey
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, Fall,SpringW. Stern
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., SI, WR2, IDS, Not offered in 2014-2015.
AMST 215. Diverse Bodies, One Nation How has the U.S. historically and culturally handled diversity? This course looks at how difference has been negotiated, understood, legislated, represented. We will consider theoretical interventions into issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and disability in order to better understand how embodiment matters to understandings of Americaness. 6 cr., SI, WR2, IDS, Not offered in 2014-2015.
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. SpringA. Estill
AMST 226. Latinas in Hollywood Latinas have a long history in Hollywood, from silent films to J. Lo. We will examine how the presence of Latinas onscreen reflects the pressures and needs of different eras. We will think about the pressure to "pass" as white and compare that to the insistent stereotypes about Latinas circulated through film. Throughout the course we'll be attentive to the relationship between film and other media, between the U.S. and other countries. What are the linguistic, social, and economic conditions that enable a "cross-over" artist? And how do Latino/a literatures, documentaries, and performances respond to the film and television industries? Prerequisite: Spanish reading fluency a plus, but not required. 6 cr., LA, WR2, IDS, Not offered in 2014-2015.
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., LA, WR2, Not offered in 2014-2015.
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, Not offered in 2014-2015.
AMST 241. American Food? Is there such a thing as American cuisine? Can it exist outside of the United States? Who defines, creates, and eats it? This course examines perceptions of American food within historical and global contexts. We will look at the relationship between evolving definitions of American food and immigration patterns, global food distribution networks, travel and tourism, foreign policy and war, and labor and public health. Topics range from U.S. military commissaries and ethnic groceries to Parisian soul food restaurants and the adaptation of SPAM into Filipino cuisine. Reading proficiency in a language other than English welcomed. 6 cr., HI, IDS, WinterA. Russek
AMST 242. Unseen Evidence: Images and the Archive in American Studies How are we socially conditioned to see? In an age of self documentation, how do images construct individual and collective identities? This course is a study in visual culture and a practice in "unseeing," or rethinking the way we look at images as artifacts of historical, political, and social discourse. It traces the cultural work of images throughout nineteenth- and twentieth century U.S. history by focusing on three types: postcards, photographs, and cartoons. Working with the Carleton archives, this course introduces students to interdisciplinary research by exploring how American studies scholars use and redefine visual archives in the twenty-first century. 6 cr., WR; HI, WR2, WinterA. Russek
AMST 252. Food Culture in the United States We explore the creation, exchange, and consumption of food in America, and the spaces in which it is produced, sold, shared, and eaten, focusing especially on food as a cultural artifact that is intricately tied to individual and group identification. We will study what Americans eat now, how American cuisine has changed, and how food is intertwined with ideas about cultural and national identity. We'll consider geography, home and community cooking, business and industry, and globalization in the formation and evolution of eating culture in the U.S. and ways in which food practices overlap with politics, power, and national identity. 6 cr., SI, IDS, Not offered in 2014-2015.
AMST 253. From Printing Press to iPhone: Technology in American Culture What is the role of the machine in American culture? Throughout U.S. history, Americans have both embraced mechanization and reviled it. This course asks how technological developments have helped give meaning to Americans social experiences through various periods in U.S. history. The class will introduce students to central themes, methods, and exemplary American studies texts in an attempt to define (and redefine) American identity through the history of technological design. In the process, we will look at the influential role of technology on American history and culture through the lenses of gender, class, race, religion, disability, immigration, regionalism, and food. 6 cr., SI, WR2, Not offered in 2014-2015.
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, Not offered in 2014-2015.
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., WR; SI, WR2, IDS, Not offered in 2014-2015.
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. Gated Communities and Slums: Globalizing the American City Beyond white flight and suburbanization, the U.S. has witnessed the "secession of the successful" in fortified, gated communities. The spatial concentration of poverty in slums has simultaneously occurred. Gates and favelas or shantytowns have appeared in Brazil, India, China, South Africa and other neoliberal economies. We will examine the diffusion of these placed identities and debate whether they are symbiotic or antithetical. Prerequisite: American Studies 115 or permission of the instructor. 6 cr., SI, IS, SpringR. Keiser
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 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 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