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Seminars

2007-2008

Fall

314 Children's Television: History, Politics, Economics
Heather Hendershot, Anschutz Distinguished Fellow 

The class examines the history, aesthetics, economics, and ideology of children’s television, from the late 1940s to the present. We will examine in particular how reformers, censors, parents, and producers use television to reinforce or challenge the cultural ideal of childhood innocence. Although we will discuss studies of children’s attitudes towards television, we will not focus on how children may be positively or negatively affected by TV. Rather, the bulk of the class focuses on how adults make decisions about children’s television. Programs studied will include Sesame Street, Howdy Doody, Pok émon , and SpongeBob SquarePants.

329/SOC 329   Immigrant America
Alejandro Portes, Department of Sociology

This course will review historical and contemporary evidence of U.S-bound international migration. It will examine its types and the forms of economic, political, and linguistic adaptation of immigrant groups to American Society. Other topics will be the role of religion and the character and forms of assimilation of the second generation.

341 The 1950s
Jenna Weissman Joselit, Visiting Professor of History

When it comes to the 1950s, common wisdom has it that the food was bad (and frozen); that cars bore fins and little else; that fashions were frivolous and the music sappy and sentimental; that gender relations were at an all time low and the nation’s moral conscience dormant. Was this really the case? By exploring the primary sources of the period – its advertisements, landmark court cases, films and television programs, liturgy, press, fiction, nonfiction and poetry, memoir, material culture and song – we’ll uncover a much more complex reality.

Spring

ST07  La Nueva Latina
Arlene Dávila, Visting Professor of Anthropology

This course is about modern conceptions of Latina women in the United States.  We will explore this topic using a variety of resources including feminist theory, academic writing, literature, and film.  What is La Nueva Latina? Where do Latinas fit into the cannon of feminist theory? How have sterotypes emerged to characterize Latinas as sassy, sensual, etc., and how true are theses sterotypes?  How are Latinas subjugated/empowered by popular media representations?  This course will encourage participants to tackle these and other important questions at the heart of Latina identitiy formation in our society.

308        Americans at Work and at Play
Nicholas Dawidoff, Anschutz Distinguished Fellow           

Many of America’s most significant fiction and nonfiction writings take forms of work or play as their primary subject. In this course, students will read and write themselves about the vocational and avocational experiences of other Americans. As they study the lives of farmers, ministers, factory workers, a midwife, fishermen, ballerinas, soldiers, businessmen, ballplayers, musicians, writers and also the unemployed, it will become apparent that authors like Alfred Kazin, Ernest Hemingway, James Agee, Frederick Douglass, Willa Cather, Joan Didion, James Baldwin, David Remnick and Richard Ford have complex intentions beyond their stated themes. That is, great novelists, journalists and historians have always used whatever particular story they were telling to ponder absorbing questions of the human spirit like love, loss, fear, faith, hope, chaos, family, shame and death. Much of the conversation will be about writing, and students will have ample opportunity to develop their own. Students will write short papers on each theme, and will present two of them in seminar to their peers. A few of the writers studied will visit the class. 

310        America in the Age of Reagan: From Watergate to the War on Terror
Sean Wilentz, Department of History

The past forty years have been a profoundly conservative era in American history. Without question, Ronald Reagan was the central figure in the conservative ascendancy of the 1970s and 1980s which fixed the terms for political debate in the 1990s and after. Yet the character and impact of the so-called Reagan Revolution – including just how conservative it really was – remain matters of intense controversy. This seminar will examine the key changes and continuities in American politics, economics, culture and society from the Watergate crisis to today’s War on Terror. With a combination of primary and secondary readings as well as selected films, we will also attempt to see how possible it is to treat the recent past and even the present historically – undertaking what the historian and critic Theodore Draper called “present history” in order to make sense of the contemporary world with the sorts of questions and reasoning that historians employ in making sense of the more distant past.

312        Culture and the Crisis: American Arts in the 1930s
Elizabeth Bergman, Department of Music

This seminar explores American music, film, literature, dance, and painting in the 1930s. The two defining forces of the decade – the Great Depression and the new Deal – are considered not as economic condition nor political policy but as cultural context, with that context taken to be inseparable from the texts themselves. We will examine a variety of works that respond to and represent the social, political, economic, and cultural crisis, tracing the contradictory impulses of an era characterized at once by a flight into fancy and engagement with reality.

JDS 316/AMS 320/CHV 316    The Ten Commandments in Modern America
Jenna Weissman Joselit

In contemporary America, few issues are as hotly debated as religion, especially when it comes to the Ten Commandments. Drawing on literature and the media (both old and new), the arts and the law, this course contextualizes and historicizes the current debate, which has reached all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It explores the variety of ways in which this ancient text has left its mark on America of the 20th and 21st centuries.  

322/JDS322       American Legal Theory and Jewish Law
Suzanne Last Stone, Visiting Professor of Religion

This course investigates the relationship between Torah and Constitution. Early political and legal philosophers often drew on the Bible to develop their theories. More recently, American legal and political theorists have turned to the rabbinic tradition as an alternative model for law. Do these two systems of law share common principles, values, or methods of interpretation? The course will look at a variety of schools of legal thought, including various theories of constitutional, common law, and literary interpretation, feminist jurisprudence, naturalism, positivism, and legal realism.