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Seminars 2011-2012

Fall 2011

201       American Places: An Introduction to American Studies
Marta Tienda, Department of Sociology
An interdisciplinary introduction to American Studies designed to give students an appreciation of the meanings of America through the study of places, ranging from rural communities to global cities to amorphous physical configurations like the Border. Among the themes to be developed through comparisons of place are tensions between diversity and homogeneity; dimensions of inequality; cultural and social transformation; and the politics of identity. Students will critically evaluate the meaning of America, and its myriad spatial representations, through music, literature, history, and physical configuration.
303       The Making of Modern Baseball
Bill Gleason, Department of English
Scott Bradley, Department of Athletics
Modern baseball is a complex game, an international business, and a social and cultural touchstone. Combining a close study of the game’s past with a thorough analysis of its present, this seminar will examine the hows and whys of baseball’s evolution into the sport and industry it has become today. Central topics will include race and ethnicity (the breaking of the color line), labor and economics (the advent of free agency), globalization (the international game), geography (expansion and franchise relocation), architecture and public policy (stadium design and funding), as well as community and culture (journalism, statistical analysis).
307       The Art of Sustainability
Jenny Price, Department of History, Anschutz Distinguished Fellow in American Studies
This course explores the central role of the arts in the creation of sustainable communities, and asks students both to analyze art works and to create art projects of their own (no prior art experience required). We’ll examine three hotspots—urban nature writing, landscape painting/photography, and public art actions that involve the audience as participants. How do these artists envision sustainable places? How can artists enact communities in which we live in nature more equitably as well as with more ecological sense? And how can students use art to encourage sustainability on the campus where they live and work?
321 (AAS 323)   Diversity in Black America
Imani Perry, Center for African American Studies
As the demographics of Blacks in America change, we are compelled to rethink 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 State. Materials for the course will include scholarly writings as well as memoirs 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.
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.
351 (ENG 353) The Drama of Making America: Staging Race from the Revolution to the Civil War
Douglas Jones, Society of Fellows
This interdisciplinary course will explore the production, mediation, and circulation of racial knowledge from the American Revolution to the Civil War. During this most defining period, questions concerning the signification of race gripped the new republic as it began to make sense of itself as an independent nation: What is the relation between democracy and racial difference? Can race resolve conflicts of class and political disenfranchisement? How does multi-racialism foster American identity? In order to discover how these questions and others were addressed, we will study dramatic, theatrical and performance texts/practices from the period. Perhaps more than any other archive, these texts trace the widest range of public thinking from the period because early national and antebellum publics believed cultural performance was the mode of expressivity most amenable to democratic formations of ideology and social knowledge.
356 (AAS 356)   Migration, Urban Space, and African American Culture
Noliwe M. Rooks, Center for African American Studies
The period between 1900 and 1970 ushered in a tremendous growth in the numbers of African Americans in America’s urban cities. During that time, unprecedented numbers of African Americans migrated from rural to urban areas and most significantly, from southern to northern locales. This interdisciplinary course will focus on cultural geography, or more precisely how the resulting changes and realignment of place and space have and continue to shape American society and affect understandings of African American identity and culture.
377/ ART 377    Natural Histories in America, New World to Now
Rachael DeLue, Department of Art & Archaeology
This seminar examines how the concepts and methods of natural history have regularly manifested in American art and visual culture from the age of “discovery” to now. It considers works of art as well as scientific imagery and treats each as a strategy of knowing, with a shared investment in the observational and the taxonomic and deep roots in social and political concerns. Topics include early images of the New World; race science; natural history museums and the diorama; visualizations of the unseeable pre-historic past; the impact of evolutionary theory on 19th-century visual culture; and contemporary art and the post-natural.

Spring 2012

302      American Noir
William Howarth, Department of English, Emeritus
Noir . . . is the long drop off the short pier and the wrong man and the wrong woman in perfect misalliance. It’s the nightmare of flawed souls with big dreams and the precise how and why of the all-time sure thing that goes bad – James Ellroy

 This seminar explores American crime fiction and film from 1930 to 1960, then examines contemporary uses of and critiques of this distinctive American cultural genre, from 1960 to 2000. We explore the origins of noir and hallmarks of its style, its political tensions, treatment of gender and sexuality, role in the “blacklist” era, and effects on postmodern fiction and journalism.
318/HIS 463    Writing and Rewriting the American Revolution
Barbara Oberg, Senior Research Historian and General Editor, Papers of Thomas Jefferson; Department of History
The era of the Revolution saw an explosion of correspondence. Some letters propound the ideals of the Revolution, others the stark reality of battlefront and home front. Readings include those of prominent individuals (Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Mercy Otis Warren), and also “ordinary” people who were captured at sea and sought release or who begged money for their destitute families. Students also read autobiographies and histories that were written to explain and justify for future generations what the Revolution was about.
332      Bob Dylan
Sean Wilentz, Department of History
Bob Dylan is one of the finest musical artists America has produced. Over a career that spans more than half a century, he has composed lyrics that estimable critics put on the same level as the work of Byron or even Shakespeare. His words and melodies have proved how art of the highest intelligence can also win wide commercial appeal. And his performances as well as his songs are deeply rooted in American experience and myth. This seminar will closely examine Dylan’s work, and assess the claims made about it, while tracing its many circuitous connections to American history and culture.
338/JDS 336/HIS 450 The Invention of the Promised Land: American Jewish History
Yaacob Dweck, Department of History
Over the past three and a half centuries, Jewish immigrants have described America both as “the promised land” and “the land of impurity.” This course examines these conflicting descriptions as it explores developments in Jewish life from the mid seventeenth century through the late twentieth century.
345      Women’s Leadership in Modern America
Karen Jackson-Weaver, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Diversity, Office of the Dean of the Graduate School
This course examines issues related to gender, race, and class as substructures which shape the leadership of women in modern America. One of the focuses of the course will be to critique meanings of leadership particularly as we study the meaning of freedom in American society within the context of the civil rights and women’s movements. Drawing upon a myriad of primary sources including speeches, autobiographic accounts, newspapers, television and film programs, we will highlight how several contemporary American historiographies situate women as activists versus leaders and the significance of this projection.
346 (AAS 345)            Black Politics in the Americas
Danielle P. Clealand, Center for African American Studies
This course provides an introduction to the study of black politics throughout the Americas. It will focus on the major paradigms associated with race and identity, both in the United States and Latin America, such as racial ideology, racial inequality, identity, black political behavior, affirmative action and black activism. The course will highlight the similarities and differences in black identity formation, state policy and ideology in the two regions.
363 (GSS 363)            Gender, Sexuality, and Contemporary U.S. Theatre and Performance
Jill Dolan, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Department of English, Lewis Center for the Arts
This course addresses contributions made by women, LGBT people, feminists, and people of color to contemporary U.S. theatre and performance. It analyses performance forms, contents, intents, contexts, and reception to ponder how people who straddle identity vectors influence American culture and help imagine our changing nation. It surveys significant U.S. human rights movements and the performance forms through which many were vitalized. It considers how some minority groups became central to theatre culture by the 21st century and whether or not forums like Broadway dilute the radical politics in which these struggles began.
365 (GSS 365 / ENG 365 / THR 369)  Isn't It Romantic? The Broadway Musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Sondheim
Stacy Wolf, Lewis Center for the Arts
Song. Dance. Man. Woman. These are the basic components of the Broadway musical theatre. How have musical theatre artists, composers, lyricists, librettists, directors, choreographers, and designers worked with these building blocks to create this quintessentially American form of art and entertainment? Why are musicals structured by love and romance? This course will explore conventional and resistant performances of gender and sexuality in the Broadway musical since the 1940s.
375/ART375   Defining Moments in American Culture
John Wilmerding, Department of Art & Archaeology, Emeritus
A focused look at three key turning points in American history: 1800, 1850, and 1900. The course will study selected expressions in art, politics, literature, and science or technology to see how they embody national aspirations or anxieties of each period. Two continuing themes will receive special attention: the consciousness of self and of nature in American culture.