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Seminars

2004-2005

Fall

347 Autobiography and Criticism
Wendy Lesser, Anschutz Distinguished Fellow

The course will focus on the reading and writing of a peculiarly American prose genre: the story about the self that is also a description or interpretation or evaluation of something outside the self. Students will mainly read works by contemporary writers, including André Aciman, Rachel Cohen, Lars Eighner, Dagoberto Gilb, Janet Malcolm, Cynthia Ozick, Vijay Seshadri, and Tobias Wolff, though there will also be background reading by earlier writers such as James Baldwin and Leonard Michaels.

348 The American Suburb
Jenna Weissman Joselit, Visiting Professor of History

This course explores the history and culture of the postwar American suburb. It examines the impact of suburbia and its representative institutions—the car, the ranch house and the television set—on how Americans of the 1950s and 1960s experienced daily life, raised their families, practiced religion, and celebrated America.

362/REL 366 American Spirituality from Transcendentalism to the New Age
Leigh Schmidt, Department of Religion

A history of the formation of spirituality in American culture from the Transcendentalist world of Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman to Theosophy and New Thought on through contemporary expressions. Topics to be emphasized: mysticism, nature and solitude, meditation, eclecticism, cosmopolitanism, and individualism. Is the "new spirituality" really new? Is it a subversion of authentic Christianity? Is it dangerously self-absorbed? Is it a model for a religiously plural and democratic society?

ART 368/368 American Museums: History, Theory and Practice
Anne McCauley, Department of Art and Archaeology

This course is an introduction to American museums as modern institutions and to the challenges that they currently face. Through readings, field trips, meetings with museum staff, and practical exercises, students will explore how museums use objects to construct narratives; how they grapple with changing audiences and funding sources; and how they are touchstones for debates over societal values and collective memories. Although the focus will be on art museums, we will examine museums of natural history, material culture, and ethnography to better understand the collecting practices and displays of art museums.

HIS 460/460 Families and Family Members in American History
Hendrik Hartog, Department of History

This seminar will use the legal history of the family as a way to explore aspects of the history of personal identity and responsibility. What roles have legal institutions and legal discourses played in defining and interpreting intimate experiences and private life? To what extent have people been transformed by their legal identities, so that, for example, a woman became a new person when she became a wife? How, if at all, have changing legal definitions and understandings affected the ways parents and children and husbands and wives interacted?

Spring

ENG 366/315 The Age of Emerson
Eduardo Cadava, Department of English

Examines the relation between the writings of Emerson and the governing cultural rhetorics through which Americans of his day thought about such issues as education, revolution, slavery, race, women’s rights, and westward expansion. Although most of our time will be devoted to close readings of Emerson’s writings, we also will be reading texts by Thomas Paine, Daniel Webster, Frederick Douglass, and others, in order to explore the relations among literature, history, and politics.

JDS 325/325 Culture Mavens: American Jews and the Arts
Jenna Weissman Joselit, Visiting Professor of History

This seminar explores the relationship between marginality and creativity by focusing on the way America’s Jews of the 20th century drew on the literary, visual and performing arts as well as on film, radio and television to express their identity as citizens of the New World. Venturing behind the scenes, it considers the roles Jews played both as cultural impresarios and performers while also closely examining the cultural forms they championed -- and why. Readings include a selection of novels and plays drawn from the Milberg Collection, a sampling of performers’ biographies and autobiographies, memoir, exhibition catalogues, production notes and reviews. These will be supplemented, in turn, by film and television screenings and a field trip to the Performing Arts Library of the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center. Appearances by guest lecturers drawn from the arts will be regularly scheduled as well.

WWS 325/350 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.

349 History of Minorities in America
Thorin Tritter, Department of History

This course examines American minorities from a historical perspective. It looks at ethnic and racial minorities, and expands the definition of “minority” to explore minorities based on gender, religion, age, sexual preference and physical characteristics. The goal of the class is to create greater understanding of minority groups in this country’s history and draw connections between the experiences of minorities today and those of earlier minorities.

354 The Conservative in American Politics - CANCELLED
Mickey Edwards, Woodrow Wilson School

For much of the recent past, conservatives have been a dominant force in American politics. But what does that mean? Who are the conservatives? What do they believe? This course will examine the main streams of conservative thought in contemporary American politics as well as the history of the modern conservative movement as it has grown in political power over the past 50 years.

AAS 356/356 Migration, Urban Space, and African-American Culture
Noliwe Rooks, 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.

358/AAS 358 The Caribbean in the American Imagination
Frank Romagosa, Department of Anthropology

This course will explore the place of the Caribbean in the American scholarly, literary, and political imagination. Its chief aim will be to examine how deeply the Caribbean has affected our larger understanding of cultural origins and development. Topics will include the foundation of African-American anthropology in the early twentieth century, and the enduring importance of the image of the plantation as a bridge between cultural understandings in the Caribbean and the United States. We will draw on history and anthropology, the arts, and literature, to examine what is lost and what is gained in the search for cultural origins.

375/ART 375 Defining Moments in American Culture
John Wilmerding, Department of Art and Archaeology

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 of 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.