Courses

  • AMST 115: Introduction to American Studies

    This overview of the "interdisciplinary discipline" of American Studies will focus on the ways American Studies engages with and departs from other scholarly fields of inquiry. A particular emphasis will be placed on the stories of individuals who have been marginalized in the social, political, cultural, and economic life of the United States due to their class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, citizenship, and level of ability. Students will engage with a variety of media, including academic scholarship, works of fiction, journalism, film, poetry, art, material culture, advertising, and music as they practice reading and writing about cultural artifacts from a critical perspective. Texts will include work by Diane Arbus, James Baldwin, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Kendrick Lamar, Spike Lee, Jackson Pollock, Mae Ngai, and Bruce Springsteen.

    6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Fall 2017 · Christopher M Elias
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2018 · Nancy J 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 credit; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; not offered 2017–2018
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2017–2018
  • 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.

    not offered 2017–2018
  • 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 credit; Literary/Artistic Analysis, Writing Requirement; not offered 2017–2018
  • AMST 234: American Identities in the Twentieth Century

    What does it mean to be an American and how has that definition changed over time? This course examines how individual Americans have explored the relationship between their selves and their country’s recent history. We will read memoirs and autobiographies to explore American identities through a variety of lenses, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, citizenship status, region, and ability. Key texts will include works by Alison Bechdel, Audre Lorde, Malcolm X, and Mine Okubo.

    not offered 2017–2018
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; not offered 2017–2018
  • 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 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies, Writing Requirement; not offered 2017–2018
  • AMST 261: Unwritten America

    This course is an examination of the hidden/excluded/silenced narratives in American literature and culture. We will read books, watch films, and draw from community resources in our exploration of groups that have been marginalized from the mainstream. The course will center around the stories of communities such as the Hmong, the Karen, and the Eritreans, among others. Be prepared to engage in conversations about power, privilege, and the underlying structures that govern exposure and understanding.

    6 credit; Literary/Artistic Analysis, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2017–2018
  • AMST 265: Scandal!: Gossip and Misinformation in American Politics from Yellow Journalism to Fake News

    This course explores the relationship between gossip, the news media, and American politics. How have falsehoods and misinformation influenced American politics? How has gossip journalism impacted political journalism, and vice-versa? What is the relationship between the mass media and the “truth”? How has propaganda circulated in the United States and played a role in public discourse? Just how free and fair is the American press? Our chronological examination will address topics and events such as yellow journalism, the birth of celebrity culture, the rise of gossip magazines, McCarthyism, the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, the role of the 24-hour news cycle, the Clinton impeachment, Steven Colbert’s concept of “truthiness,” and the rise of “fake news.” Though our focus will be on the long twentieth century, we will also look more deeply into the American past to help contextualize recent developments. We will investigate the underbelly of the American news media, trace the circulation of information (especially information that some would prefer to keep secret), and scrutinize the creation of political personas. The course will prioritize classroom discussion and writing assignments. Students will also perform a critical analysis of how current supermarket tabloids and gossip blogs report on American politics.

    6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry; offered Fall 2017 · Christopher M Elias
  • 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.

    Prerequisites: American Studies 115 or sophomore standing 6 credit; Social Inquiry, Intercultural Domestic Studies; not offered 2017–2018
  • AMST 287: California Program: California Art and Visual Culture

    An in-depth exploration of the dynamic relationship between the arts and popular conceptions of California: whether as bountiful utopia, suburban paradise, or multicultural frontier. We will meet with California artists and art historians, and visit museums and galleries. Art and artists studied will range from native American art, the Arts and Crafts movement and California Impressionism to the photography of Ansel Adams, urban murals and the imagery of commercial culture (such as lithographs, tourist brochures, and orange-crate labels).

    6 credit; Literary/Artistic Analysis; not offered 2017–2018
  • AMST 289: California Program: California Field Studies

    Students will participate in a number of field trips dealing with California's history, literature, and environment. Sites visited will include Sutter's Fort, the Modoc Lava Beds, the California Indian Museum, Teatro Campesino, and Hearst Castle. Students will also complete an Oral Culture Project.

    4 credit; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; not offered 2017–2018
  • 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. Normally taken by majors in their junior year.

    Prerequisites: American Studies 115 or instructor permission 6 credit; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement, Intercultural Domestic Studies; offered Winter 2018 · Serena R Zabin
  • AMST 396: "Invisible Domain": Religion and American Studies

    Though evidently a crucial organizer of “American” experience and identities, religion remains paradoxical within U.S. culture and, for some recent scholars, an undertheorized “invisible domain” in American Studies. Shoving off from familiar religious narratives of U.S. origins, meaning, and destiny, we will consider alternatives grounded in three themes recurrent in historical experience and popular culture: captivity, violence, and prophetic authority. Early attention to major trends of American Studies scholarship will lead in the course’s second half to students’ production and public sharing of an extended research essay. Required for juniors in the American Studies major.

    Prerequisites: American Studies major or instructor permission 6 credit; Humanistic Inquiry, Writing Requirement; offered Spring 2018 · Peter J Balaam
  • 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.

    Prerequisites: American Studies 396 6 credit; Does not fulfill a curricular exploration requirement; offered Fall 2017 · Elizabeth McKinsey
  • AMST 400: Integrative Exercise: Exam and Essay

    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.

    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.

    Prerequisites: American Studies 396 3 credit; S/NC; offered Winter 2018