AMERICAN STUDIES (AMS)
Office: 101 ten Hoor Hall
AMS 100-109 Special Topics. 1 hour.
Selected American topics for lower-division undergraduate students offered by American studies faculty members or supervised teaching assistants. Some examples include the following five-week, one-hour courses: Legendary John Lennon, American Organized Crime, Social History of Rock ’n‘ Roll, Wilderness and Mystery, Land of the Blues, From God to Gangsta Rap, Wild and Wicked Roaring ’20s, ’70s Soul Cinema, The Jamband Scene, Dystopian Science Fiction Movies, and Reading Sex and the City.
Exploration of the relation between the arts—popular, folk, and elite—and American culture in four selected periods: Victorian America, the ’20s and ’30s, World War II and the Postwar Era, and the ’60s. Class presentations and discussions revolve around novels, movies, art, music, artifacts, and readings about the periods. This course is team taught by all the members of the American studies faculty. Offered fall semester.
A broad survey of American culture formed by global, national, and regional influences. The first section, “World,” looks at the United States as a product and shaper of international movements, ideas, and cultures from 1500 to the present. The second section, “Nation,” examines the creation of a distinctly American identity between 1790 and 1890 that ultimately incorporated and reflected global issues. The third section, “Regions,” focuses on the South and other regions as contributors to and consequences of national and global interactions. Team taught by the entire AMS faculty, lectures will include topics on film, music, literature, art, sports, and other cultural artifacts. Offered spring semester.
AMS 200 Special Topics. 3 hours.
Selected American topics for lower-division undergraduate students offered by AMS faculty members or Americanists from related departments. Recent examples include The Asian-American Experience, The American Road, The Sporting Life, Baseball Since 1945, and Twilight Zone Culture. May be repeated for a maximum of 12 hours.
AMS 201 Introduction to African American Studies (same as AAST 201). 3 hours.
This course provides a basic outline of the diversity and complexity of the African American experience in the United States. It surveys the early academic and social concern of Black Studies advocates; the changes in the field’s objectives that arise from its connections to contemporary social movements for Black Power, women’s liberation, and multiculturalism; and its major theoretical and critical debates.
A cultural approach to African American lives, examining how the selected course texts express the formation of individual identity and how it is influenced by African American culture. The role of the individual, biography, and narrative in African American history and contemporary culture will be explored. The course draws upon a variety of texts, including historical and theoretical work, visual arts, music, literature, material culture, and documentary and feature films.
AMS 203 Southern Lives. 3 hours.
This discussion-based course examines representations of Southerners—figures who lived, are living, or live only imaginarily—to explore critically the characteristics attributed to “Southern lives.” An interdisciplinary methodological approach will be used to scrutinize the interplay between course materials (autobiographies, fictional texts, historical accounts, and films) and major political, cultural, and social forces influencing the region and the nation. Traversing epochs from before the Civil War until after the Civil Rights Movement, the class will analyze how portrayals of Southern lives change over time and in response to different authors’ aims and audiences’ expectations.
AMS 204 Western American Lives. 3 hours.
A lecture/discussion course utilizing a biographical approach to the salient themes, issues, and episodes of the American West. Some of these lives are real, some of them imagined, and others are a little of each. All of them, however, reveal much about both region and nation and how each has changed over time.
AMS 205 Working Lives. 3 hours.
This lecture/discussion course focuses on individual American lives in their working experiences as they are expressed in their personal forms of autobiographies, oral histories, diaries, and letters. What does work mean to Americans as they construct their lives and judge their personal success or failure? What is the role of work in construction of a “good life” in this culture? And do these views vary according to the individual’s position in the ethnic, gender, class, and regional richness and diversity of the American experience?
AMS 231 Contemporary America. 3 hours.
This course has two principal objectives. Students will analyze the changing nature of American cultural values for the period dating from the early 1970s to the present. By placing materials drawn from literature, film, the visual arts, music, and popular culture within broader social and historical contexts, students will examine key developments in the everyday life patterns and cultural expressions of Americans in contexts that range from the local to the international. In addition, the course will familiarize students with a sampling of the interdisciplinary methodologies applicable to work in the field of American studies (e.g., analysis of images and primary documents, oral history, and ethnography). Offered fall semester.
This course uses music, and the culture around music, to analyze the changing nature of American values after the late 1960s. The class will draw connections between popular music in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s and the economic and political contexts of these decades. The class will consider the relationship between culture and society: how everyday life impacted, and was impacted by, creative expression. This course will also serve as an introduction to some of the interdisciplinary research methods used in the field of American studies.
AMS 251 American Folklore. 3 hours.
Survey and analysis of such genres of American vernacular expression as legends, ghost tales, humor, music, and sermons as they express and shape particular regional and/or ethnic American identities. Course materials include ethnographic writing, sound recordings, film, and folklore scholarship. Attention also given to the competing and sometimes contradictory definitions of “folk” culture from the 19th century to the present.
AMS 271 Film and American Culture. 3 hours.
Interdisciplinary investigation of American culture through motion pictures, film history, and relevant cultural/historical documents. Focus on the ways in which films have reflected and influenced prevailing American attitudes and values. Variable focus on a specified theme, genre, or representations of a particular American region.
After 1965, rock and roll became rock, representing the counterculture; rhythm and blues became soul, representing Black Power; and country music became the emotional voice of the post-Civil Rights white South. This class contrasts these three dominant American popular music genres, looking as well at a later generation of “alternative” rock, hip-hop, and “new country.”
Unless otherwise stated, the prerequisite for 300-level courses is 6 hours in American studies or permission of the instructor.
AMS 300 Special Topics. 3 hours.
Selected American topics for advanced undergraduate students, offered by American Studies faculty members or Americanists from related departments. Recent examples include American Hobo Subculture, World War II and Modern Memory, Women’s Liberation Movement, Justice and Civil Society, Southern Sexual Cultures, and Cultures of American Slavery. May be repeated for a maximum of 12 hours.
A survey of mainstream Christian expressions of black spirituality as well as other forms of sacred collective consciousness. Study of local churches and theology is encouraged.
A study of the “miseducation” of Africans in America. The course explores education for blacks from West Africa at the middle of the second millennium and early American society to the emergence of the separate school system of the 19th and 20th centuries.
AMS 306 Landscape of the South. 3 hours.
A study of environmental and cultural landscapes of the American South, as altered and used by successive waves of native peoples, explorers, immigrants, laborers, industrialists, and urban builders, addressing historical and contemporary environmental challenges.
Focuses on the history, society, and culture of people of Latin American descent in the U.S. Among other issues central to the Latino community, students will study migration patterns, cultural interaction, community and cultural formation, and racial formation.
Examines the history of workers—men and women, paid and unpaid, of different racial and ethnic groups, in different regions of the United States—from 1865 to the present.
This course examines the ability of film to successfully portray the history of labor in the U.S. and how present events and attitudes shape portrayals of past events.
AMS 319 P.T. Barnum’s Century. 3 hours.
Examines 19th-century American popular culture as epitomized by the famous showman P.T. Barnum (1810–91), by using Barnum as a prism to focus on how American culture offered spectacular possibilities for self-advancement and self-delusion.
AMS 321 African American Folk Art. 3 hours.
An examination of the objects created by African Americans variously classified as “folk,” “self-taught,” and “outsider” artists. Course material will address the African origins and American transformations of traditional arts and crafts (architecture, pottery, iron work, and quilting) as well as the work of selected 20th-century artists in such media as painting, sculpture, and assemblage. Key concerns will include not only analysis and cultural/historical contextualization of these artists and their works but also political and theoretical debates with respect to issues of collection, modes of exhibition, and use of the above-listed classifications.
Few things remained so central to the 19th American century experience as the West, a region to be explored, inhabited, and incorporated into an expanding urban-industrial society. From Lewis and Clark to Buffalo Bill, this lecture/discussion course examines the relationship between America and the West as it developed throughout the 19th century.
AMS 326 The Modern West. 3 hours.
This lecture/discussion course examines the growth of the American West during the 20th century as both the embodiment of modernity and, as mythic imagination, an escape from the very modernity it represents.
Recent scholarship has shifted popular music history from folk roots and rock rebellion to pop: commercial, accommodating, but no less fascinating amalgamations. This class will range from blackface minstrelsy in the 1800s to American Idol today, defining mainstreams rather than undergrounds. Pop music performed capitalism, but it also performed democracy. Sorting out that process will be the task.
What insights into American experience are afforded by reading nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts in which Southern women engage questions of gender, class, race, labor, and region? This class will explore fictional and nonfictional prose by and about Southern women in order to examine how historical, cultural, and sociopolitical factors have shaped the lives and writings of women in the South.
An examination of the work of formally trained 20th century African American painters, sculptors, and photographers in relation to broader currents in the social and cultural history of the United States. Examines ways in which African American art has alternately reflected, shaped, and challenged such important historical events and currents as the Harlem Renaissance, the Great Depression, the Cold War, the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, the Women’s Movement, and contemporary identity politics. Also evaluates the contributions of selected artists in relation to such key art movements as Modernism, Social Realism, and Postmodernism.
AMS 350 The American Fifties. 3 hours.
An interdisciplinary investigation of American culture in a period framed by the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 to the election of President John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Provides a review of the historical genres, circumstances, people, and catalogue of material that developed the American musical theatre from its minstrel beginnings to the multi-million dollar spectacles of today.
AMS 364 The Beatles Era. 3 hours.
Interdisciplinary investigation of American culture from the Kennedy assassination in 1963 to the Kent State University massacre in 1970 using the popular cultural explosion of the Beatles as a prism that informs the whole.
AMS 367 The American Game. 3 hours.
Lecture topics, readings, and classroom discussions will pursue major connections between baseball and American society from 1880 to the present: (1) the modernization of America and the rise of an urban, industrial game; (2) baseball and race; and (3) postwar America and baseball.
AMS 390 Gender and Culture. 3 hours.
This course explores “gender” and “culture” as categories of critical and historical analysis. Engaging a range of theoretical and methodological approaches, students will examine how these categories are produced and contested over time while paying particular attention to the intersections of gender constructions and identities with race, sexuality, class, region, and nation. Students will analyze a variety of modes of representation, including documentary and feature film, literature, material culture, visual cultures, and historical, and theoretical works.
Prerequisite for 400-level courses: 9 hours in the department or permission of the instructor.
AMS 400 Internship. 1 to 3 hours, pass/fail.
Prerequisite: Permission of the departmental chairperson.
An internship opportunity that combines independent study and practical fieldwork experience focusing on a particular problem or topic related to American culture and experience. Examples are internships in archival fieldwork, material culture fieldwork, museum management, and sound recordings. Credits earned in this course are applicable to the major and minor in American studies but are not counted in 400-level requirement. May be repeated for a maximum of 6 hours.
An interdisciplinary investigation of the complexities of the African American experience in American culture, ranging from emergence of the Atlantic world and the slave trade to critical issues of the early 21st century. Topics may include the influence of African traditions on American culture; chattel slavery and its historical legacy; the role of religion in the social history of African Americans; the contributions of African Americans to the creative arts; and the critical role played by African Americans in American freedom struggles. To address such topics—and the intersection of these topics with one another—the course will explore insights from various scholarly disciplines and examine several kinds of cultural artifacts such as autobiography, oral history, film, literature, music, and the visual arts.
AMS 402 Special Topics in African American Studies (same as AAST 402). 3 hours.
Selected African American topics for advanced undergraduate students. May be repeated for a maximum of 12 hours.
AMS 403 Honors Research: American Studies and American Culture. 3 hours.
Prerequisite: Sponsorship of a faculty member and 3.3 overall GPA or membership in the University Honors Program.
Internship opportunity that combines guided and independent study with on- or off-campus research experience involving a particular methodological approach to American culture and experience. Examples are social science methods, oral history, original manuscript research, and technology.
AMS 405 Directed Study. 1 to 3 hours each semester.
Prerequisite: Sponsorship of a faculty member.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 hours.
This course will examine the immigrant journey and immigrant life in the American South. Through lectures, class discussions, readings, films, outside speakers, and a community-based service learning project, the course will help students better understand the historical and contemporary issues that confront immigrants and their receiving communities. Students will interact with members of local immigrant communities by being placed with appropriate organizations or agencies that assist immigrants in the community.
An examination of the changing social and cultural background of American writers and artists during the 19th and 20th centuries. Topics will include the definition of the developing role of the artist in American culture, an assessment of the American and European influences on artists, and an appraisal of the influence of artists on American culture. Painting, literature, music, photography, and architecture are among the arts dealt with.
AMS 422 Popular Culture in America. 3 hours.
A selective survey and analysis of 20th century U.S. popular culture—particularly, comic books, fan culture, television, music, advertising, and sports. Examines ways in which popular culture has reflected and shaped aspects of American society such as gender ideologies, economics, race, class, and regional identity.
AMS 429 America between the Wars. 3 hours.
Explores the first two decades of America’s “Modern Times” (1919–41), when Americans redefined themselves and their society, embracing and debating (sometimes hotly) old beliefs, new conceptions, and the implications of a machine-driven, modern-mass society.
AMS 430 Special Topics. 1 to 3 hours.
Selected American topics for advanced undergraduate majors in American studies, offered by American Studies faculty members or Americanists from related departments. May be repeated for a maximum of 6 hours.
AMS 445 The “Good War.” 3 hours.
Examination of selected topics from the American experience during the Second World War. Topics include the Homefront, the Holocaust, race relations, the emergence of American air power, and the impact of the war on American memory and postwar American society.
AMS 450 Women in America. 3 hours.
A lecture/discussion course on the role of women in American culture that concentrates on the major social and cultural contributions of women from all backgrounds and walks of life. Key questions involve the historic roles of women in America and how their status reflects the structure of society as a whole. Most of the readings focus on the 20th century and the relationships between individual women and the cultural networks in which they participate and help create.
This course is designed to familiarize students with the important topics, themes and methodologies in the study of race and ethnicity in U.S. labor. Throughout the semester, the class will examine the lives of working women and men and their roles in the social, political, and economic development of the United States. The class will analyze the roll of gender, race, and ethnicity at home and in the workplace and examine how scholars have studied the people, events and institutions in this field.
An examination of American literature and culture from before the Civil War until after the Civil Rights Movement. Representations of American experience in essays, novels, poems, short stories, social reformist tracts, and the visual arts will be studied in the context of social and political debates over slavery, national identity, women’s roles, immigration and assimilation, social mobility, urbanization, sexual mores, consumer culture, and race relations.
This course will focus on the complex and intertwined relationships between Native Americans and white peoples: how each challenged, adapted to, and retreated from the other up to 1830. The class will assess: colonial encounters among Native Americans, Spanish, French, and English; the meanings of white captives among the Indians; crossing over into different cultures and transforming identities in the new nation; and the impact of forced removal of Indians.
From the Declaration of Independence to the Civil War, Americans have continually tried to provide narrative shape and cultural significance to their national origins. Through the analysis of primary and secondary sources (political tracts, art works, histories, biographies, fiction, and other artifacts), this course will explore the relationship between the eighteenth-century revolutionaries’ and their nineteenth-century heirs’ cultural construction of the Revolution. Simply put, this course is about how people in the past have thought about their own past.
AMS 480 Democracy in America. 3 hours.
Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, Americans prided themselves on their democratic politics, industrial progress, science and technology, religious faiths, capitalist tendencies, and control over nature. No other person captured the essence of American society and manners more than the French aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville, who traveled to the United States in the 1830s and published his famous work, Democracy in America. Using Tocqueville’s observations as well as fiction, autobiography, painting, politics, and more, this course explores how ordinary Americans presented themselves as a democratic people from 1800 to 1865.
AMS 491 American Period Seminar. 3 hours.
In-depth study of a particular period or era in American historical experience. Recent examples include the Ragtime Era, the Jazz Age, the Great Depression, the Season of 1954–55, the ’60s, Contemporary America, the Romantic Revolutionaries (1905–14), the Postwar Era, American Avant Garde, the South and ’30s Expression, the Civil Rights Movement, the American ’20s, the ’50s, America between the Wars, the Colonial Period, the Aspirin Age, Postmodern America, Contemporary America, and Writing West.
AMS 492 American Topic Seminar. 3 hours.
Study of special topics within the American cultural experience. Recent examples include American Thought, Sports in American Life, American Perspectives on the Environment, the Civil Rights Movement, the Picture Press, Music and Ethnicity, the Politics of Culture, Regionalism, Homelessness in America, American Autobiography, American Monuments, Southern Popular Culture, Politics and Culture, Historical Memory, America by Design, Women in America, Race in America, 19th-Century Popular Culture, and Disasters in America.