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Seminars

2005-2006

Fall

305/REL 305 Magic, Skepticism, Disenchantment
Leigh Schmidt, Department of Religion

Examines the long-standing convergence of magic and religious skepticism in American culture, including the “rational recreations” of the Enlightenment, the nineteenth-century showman’s delight in the exposure of “supernatural humbugs,” and the ongoing flourishing of the magician as debunker in the twentieth century.

321 History on Film
Sheila Curran Bernard, Anschutz Distinguished Fellow

An exploration of the ways in which U.S. history is presented on screen. What stories are told, by whom, and how? How does a film serve or distort the history it presents? How reliable is the information presented, whether visual or verbal? Through analysis of current films (most documentaries, but also some Hollywood features), students will explore the fundamentals of narrative storytelling and the merger of history and filmmaking. Over the semester, students will each research and write a treatment (on paper only) for a documentary on a historical subject.

340 The American Metropolis: New York City, 1880s - 1950s
Jenna Weissman Joselit, Visiting Professor of History

This seminar explores the history of New York City from the end of the 19th century through the postwar era. Focusing on its distinctive physical features, from the Brooklyn Bridge to the "Great White Way," and on its neighborhoods, from Greenwich Village to Harlem, the course looks at the people and places that make New York one of the most unusual cities.

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?

HIS 479/479 Society, Politics, and Ideas in 1980s America
Daniel T. Rodgers, Department of History

The 1980s was one of the critical decades in twentieth-century U.S. history and, even now, one of the most controversial. The seminar is designed to explore the key shifts in economy, politics, society, and ideas that marked the decade, from the stagflation crisis of the late 1970s to the collapse of the cold war and emergence of a “culture” war “at home. Using a mix of primary documents and analytical readings, our task will be to treat this period as history: to map the actual contours of change, to sort through competing explanations for the era’s transformations, and to think critically about its legacy.

Spring

309 The Christian Right and the Open Society
Chris Hedges, Anschutz Distinguished Fellow

The Christian Right and the Open Society will explore the role of the radical Christian Right in American society, how it
functions as a political and religious movement and what its possible ramifications will be for the United States.
Students will be expected to do some field research on the Christian Right and report on their findings.

316 History and Philosophy of Media
Thorin Tritter, Department of History

A seminar on the history of American journalism and mass media. The main theme is the role of public communication in the community life of America, from 1630 to the 1920s. The course deals with a variety of community types--colonial towns, revolutionary coalitions, political parties, voluntary associations, cities, consumer communities, and even "the nation" as a whole. It explores a variety of communications media -- sermons, tracts, lectures, books, magazines, newspapers, and radio. In general, the aim is to seek the place of mediated communication, mainly journalism, in the political, social, and cultural life of the American people.

319 Thomas Jefferson’s America
Sean Wilentz, Department of History
Director, Program in American Studies

This course is devoted to exploring the life and thought of Thomas Jefferson, within the context of the revolutionary republic and early republic he did so much to shape. We will look at the many different fields to which Jefferson contributed in order to move beyond the current controversies that surround him and to understand the complex and demanding figure who, more than any other, set the terms for the rise of American democracy.

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.

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.

376/ART 376 American Art and Culture: the 1960’s
John Wilmerding, Department of Art and Archaeology

An examination of the dominant art movement of the 1960’s, Pop Art, through its major figures (Warhol, Lichtenstein, Oldenberg, Wesselman, Indiana, and Segal), and the interrelationships with contemporary advertising, e.g., imagery of sex, automobile culture, cigarettes and food, art and signs. The course will look at parallels in other cultural expressions, such as fiction, journalism, rock music, and film, to explore some of the defining social and artistic concerns of a very turbulent decade.