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 Social History, 1607-1865
HIST 121 Rethinking the American Experience: American Social History, 1865-1945
HIST 122 U.S. Women's History to 1877 (not offered in 2012-2013)
HIST 123 U.S. Women's History Since 1877 (not offered in 2012-2013)
HIST 125 African American History I
HIST 126 African American History II
POSC 271 Constitutional Law I (not offered in 2012-2013)
POSC 272 Constitutional Law II (not offered in 2012-2013)
One-term survey courses:
AFAM 113 Introduction to African/African American Studies (not offered in 2012-2013)
ARTH 160 American Art to 1940
ECON 232 American Economic History: A Cliometric Approach
ENGL 212 Nineteenth-Century American Literature
ENGL 215 Modern American Literature
POSC 122 Politics in America: Liberty and Equality
RELG 140 Religion and American Culture (not offered in 2012-2013)
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. The Long View: History and American Culture As the pace of American life seems to move ever faster, who has time for the past? Yet without the past there would be neither present nor future, for only history explains the origins of the present. It is history’s long view that will be the heart of this course. Contemporary American questions (is America a Christian nation?, is higher education worth it?, do people deserve to go bankrupt?, what’s so American about Mom and apple pie?) only make sense in their historical perspective, which replaces simplistic answers with deeper understanding. 6 cr., AI, WR1, FallS. Zabin
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., HU, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IDS, SpringN. Cho, C. Clark
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., AL, WR; HI, WR2, IDS, FallA. Estill
AMST 127. Introduction to U.S. Latino/a Studies This course will survey the field of Latino/a Studies, juxtaposing it to Chicano, Caribbean and Latin American Studies in order to trace the historical, methodological, and paradigmatic conflicts that led to its institutionalization. How does the lens of U.S. Latino/a Studies help us to examine heterogeneous and changing Latino communities? How are the "Latin Boom" of the entertainment industry and the recent demographic shift that places Latinos as the "majority minority" related? A selection of texts from a variety of disciplines (including history, the social sciences, literature, music, and the visual arts) will inform our discussions. 6 cr., ND, WR, RAD; SI, WR2, IDS, QRE, Not offered in 2012-2013.
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. The course will take a particular focus on reporting around the globe, with an emphasis on how local cultures, customs and geography affect the news gathering process. 1 cr., ND; NE, WinterW 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., AL, WR; SI, WR2, IDS, Offered in alternate years. WinterM Russell
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., HU, WR, RAD; SI, WR2, IDS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
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., ND, WR; 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., AL, WR, RAD; LA, WR2, IDS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
AMST 227. Beyond the Border: Latinos Across America The metaphor of the U.S.-Mexico border often determines our understanding of Latinos' place in the United States. This class studies Latinidad in other spaces: New York, the suburban Southwest, the rural Midwest, and the agricultural Southeast. We will use several disciplines--literary studies, history, cultural studies (music, film, and dance), and sociology--to investigate the following questions: How do immigrant Latinos change the communities they move into? How do these communities change Latinos? How are place and identity transformed? How do the mass media influence how Americans think about where and how Latinos belong in the U.S.? 6 cr., AL, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IDS, QRE, Not offered in 2012-2013.
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., AL, WR; LA, WR2, WinterE. McKinsey
AMST 239. Introduction to Asian American Studies This course is designed as an interdisciplinary study of Asian American identities and cultures. We will address the diversity and fluidity of Asian American experiences through an examination of history, social sciences, literature, and film. Students of all majors and backgrounds are welcome to enroll. 6 cr., ND, WR, RAD; HI, WR2, IDS, Not offered in 2012-2013.
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., AL, WR; HI, WR2, Not offered in 2012-2013.
AMST 267. Utopia, Dystopia, and Myopia: The Suburbs in American Fiction 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., SS, WR; SI, WR2, Not offered in 2012-2013.
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 in the field 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. The course is 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. Normally taken by majors in their junior year. Prerequisite: American Studies 115. 6 cr., ND; NE, IDS, WinterA. Estill
AMST 396. Suburbanization in America: Causes and Consequences The process of suburbanization transformed the United States in a revolutionary way, yet this was a quiet revolution. Both the causes and consequences of suburbanization can be found in the country's politics, race relations, economy, literature and popular imagery, architecture and design, technology, and our definition of community. This course will take an explicitly interdisciplinary approach to these topics. Prerequisite: AMST 115 or approval of the Instructor. 6 cr., SS, WR; SI, WR2, IDS, 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. Concurrent enrollment in AMST 400 is required. Prerequisite: American Studies 396. 6 cr., ND; NE, WinterE. 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, ND, WinterM. Russell
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. They 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, ND, WinterM. Russell