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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jill S. Dolan, Department of English; Program in Theater and Dance
Linda Colley, Department of History
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.
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.