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Seminars 2009-2010

Fall 2009

201        American Places: An Introduction to American Studies
William Gleason, Department of English
Ricardo Montez, Society of Fellows, Department of English

An interdisciplinary introduction to the materials and methods of American Studies, focusing on the significance of place in U.S. history, society, and culture. We will look at place through several interpretive lenses, including social history, environmental studies, and cultural studies. For Fall 2009, the course will focus on four iconic cities: Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, and San Antonio. Specific topics may include: colonial contact zones; race and the built environment; migration and labor; music and citizenship. Texts and contexts will be equally wide-ranging, drawing on film, photography, architecture, history, music, and fiction.

301      Listening In: Sound, Music, Noise, and Technology In American History
Emily Thompson, Department of History

This American Studies seminar explores the historical meaning of sound, music, and noise in American culture, and examines how new sonic technologies shape, and are shaped by, the values of the cultures that produce them. Topics range from the sonic characterization of Native Americans by European colonists, to the transformation of musical culture through digital technologies like the iPod. We will consider sound on slave plantations, in modern cities, in cinemas and shopping malls. We will examine how -- in all these places -- people’s lives were shaped by what they heard.
323/JDS 323/ REL 394    America in Judaism
Rabbi Lance Sussman, Visiting Professor, Department of Religion

Although the idea of an “American Judaism” emerged in the early decades of the nineteenth century,  scholars have yet to define this concept in precise terms and explain how it differs from a simpler historical understanding of “Judaism in America.”   Our seminar will examine the Americanization of Judaism beginning with earliest transplanted Iberian concepts of Judaism in the “new world”  to the transformation of Jewish religious life in the United States.  Special attention will be paid to Jewish theology,  the rabbinate,  gender, denominationalism and the polity of the American synagogue. 
324      American Trials, American Stories
Clayton Marsh, Office of the General Counsel, Department of English
This seminar will examine how high-profile trials produce competing “stories” in the courtroom (and beyond) that reveal and shape fundamental conflicts and aspirations in American culture. We will study, for example, the Boston “massacre” trials (1770), the trial of John Brown (1859), the Scopes “monkey” trial (1925), the Rosenberg espionage trial (1951) and the O.J. Simpson murder trial (1995) as highly charged spectacles that divided Americans along socio-economic, religious, political and racial lines. Readings will include trial transcripts and historical materials as well as literary and other artistic responses to these events. Particular attention will be given to the narrative strategies and theatrical arts of trial advocacy.     
350 (WWS 325)       Civil Society and Public Policy
Stanley N. Katz, Woodrow Wilson School

Civil society is the arena of voluntary organizations (churches, social welfare organizations, sporting clubs) and communal activity. Scholars now tell us that such voluntary and cooperative activities create “social capital” – a stock of mutual trust that forms the glue that holds society together. The course will be devoted to the study of the history of these concepts, and to the analysis of their application to the United States and other societies. This will be an interdisciplinary effort, embracing history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology and other disciplines. 
356 (AAS 356)          Migration, Urban Space, and African-American Culture
Noliwe Rooks, Center for African American Studies

Between 1910 and 1940, African Americans migrated from rural to urban areas. This interdisciplinary course will focus on cultural geography, or how the resulting changes and realignments of place and space shaped American culture and continue to affect understandings of African American identity and culture.
408 (ENG 408)     Women in American Theater:  Doing Gender, Race, Sexuality-- Onstage and Off                      
Jill S. Dolan, Department of English; Program in Theater and Dance
This course addresses the history and theory, practice and polemics, of women working in American theater and performance. We’ll concentrate on contemporary examples, but will look at theater’s role in the struggle for women’s visibility advanced by American feminism of the 1960s and ’70s. We’ll study women playwrights, solo performers, collective theatre companies; delve into feminist, queer, critical race, and performance theory; and host many guests currently practicing in the field. Our conversations will be polemic and forward-thinking: What is the future of women’s work in this field?
462 (HIS 462)     Life Writing, Writing Lives: Biography, Autobiography and Memoir in Britain and America, c.1700-c.2000                              
Linda Colley, Department of History
Nicholas Dawidoff, Visiting Professor, Department of English

This course, taught by a historian and a writer, will study signal autobiographical writing in trans-Atlantic comparison, from the master diarist Samuel Pepys, through lives bogus (Robinson Crusoe), stoically female (a Maine midwife), and boyishly on the make (Boswell, Franklin). We will encounter self-consciously marginal Irishmen (Yeats, Joyce) and Southerners (Agee, Welty), the nervous splendor of Bloomsbury (Woolf), the distant battlefields of Vietnam (Herr) and the nearer trenches of family dysfunction (Gosse, Franzen.) Themes include attitudes towards place, faith, work, privacy, intimacy, gender, fame, confession, and self-fashioning. 

Spring 2010

311/ENG 357        Uncreative Writing
Kenneth Goldsmith

It's clear that long-cherished notions of creativity are under attack, eroded by file-sharing, media culture, widespread sampling, and digital replication. How does writing respond to this new environment?  This workshop will rise to that challenge by employing strategies of appropriation, replication, plagiarism, piracy, sampling, plundering, as compositional methods.  Along the way, we'll trace the rich history of forgery, frauds, hoaxes, avatars, and impersonations spanning the arts, with a particular emphasis on how they employ language.  We'll see how the modernist notions of chance, procedure, repetition, and the aesthetics of boredom dovetail with popular culture to usurp conventional notions of time, place, and identity, all as expressed linguistically. 
321 (AAS 323)     The Black Melting Pot: Interrogating Race, Difference, and Identity
Imani Perry, Center for African American Studies
As the demographics of Blacks in America change, we are compelled to re-think the dominant stories of who African Americans are, and from whence they come. In this seminar, we will explore the deep cultural, genealogical, national origin, regional, and class-based diversity of people of African descent in the United States. Materials for the course will include scholarly writings as well as memoir and fiction. In addition to reading assignments, students will be expected to complete an ethnographic or oral history project based upon research conducted within a Black community in the U.S., and a music or visual art based presentation of work.
332 (THR 331) Performance and Politics in the 1960s (Special Topics in Performance History and Theory)
Stacy Wolf, Program in Theater
This course will explore performance of the 1960s U.S. – from mainstream, Broadway theatres to the avant-garde to political theatres – in the context of the social, cultural, and intellectual politics of the decade. We’ll consider production practices and intentions, “texts” both scripted and unscripted, and reception, both critical and popular. Our goal will be to construct a complex and nuanced “thick description” of performance and politics of this volatile period, while also questioning the value and limitations of decade-oriented historiography. 
336/AAS 344         Global Asian America
J. Emmanuel Raymundo,  African American Studies
This course explores the multiple ways Asian descended identity is embodied and lived inside and outside of America.   Emphasis is placed on the cultural, historical and legal production of Asian identity through the intersection of race, class, nation and sexuality.   Key concepts such as migration, empire and diaspora are investigated. Through what regional, national and global registers can we understand “Asian” and “Asian American” identity?
344       Suburban Nation: The Rise and Sprawl of Modern American Suburbs
Kevin Kruse, Department of History
This seminar will explore the many meanings of suburbia in modern American history. First, we will examine the onset of the urban crisis and the attendant rise of suburbia as an attractive alternative for many. We will then focus on the ways in which the movement to suburbs intersected with the civil rights movement. Finally, we will examine how a diverse array of social and political movements of the postwar era – from liberal causes like feminism and environmentalism to the mobilization of modern conservatism – sprang from suburbia.