Professor James M. Salem, Chairperson
Office: 101 ten Hoor Hall
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, Manhood in America, Social History of Rock 'n' Roll, Wilderness and Mystery, Land of the Blues, From God to Gangsta Rap, Women and the Roaring '20s, '70s Soul Cinema, Jamband Scene, and Analyzing Hip Hop Videos.
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, slides, music, artifacts, and readings about the periods. This course, team-taught by all the members of the American studies faculty, is generally offered in the fall semester only.
A broad survey of American culture formed by global, national, and regional influences. Team-taught by the entire AMS faculty, lectures will include topics on film, music, literature, art, sports, and other cultural artifacts. Offered spring semester.
Selected American topics for lower-division undergraduate students offered by AMS faculty members or supervised teaching assistants. Recent examples include The Asian-American Experience, The American Road, The Sporting Life, The Wizard of Oz Mythos, Multimedia, and Baseball Since 1945.
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. Also covered is the role of the individual biography and narrative in African-American history and contemporary culture. The course draws upon a variety of texts, including historical and theoretical work, visual arts, music, literature, material culture, and documentary and feature films.
An examination of the lives of individual southern figures-who lived, are living, or live only in our imaginations-to explore critically the characteristics that constitute a "southern life," the history and popular understandings of the South, and the role of the individual, biography, and narrative in history and contemporary culture.
A biographical approach to the salient themes, issues, and episodes of the American West that reveal much about both region and nation and how each has changed over time.
A focus on individual American lives in their working experiences as they are expressed in their personal forms of autobiographies, oral histories, diaries, and letters.
A lecture/discussion course concerned with the question of an American national character. What are Americans like? Are there attitudes and values that are held in common? Major topics include individualism and the community, mobility and change, materialism and the American Dream. Texts are drawn from classic American literature.
An analysis of the changing nature of American cultural values from the early 1970s to the present and 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.
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.
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, a genre, or representations of a particular American region.
An interdisciplinary investigation of the American popular music tradition in its commercial rhythm and blues and rock and roll idioms. Emphasis is on the relationship between these unique forms of expression and American culture and character. Technical musical skills and training are not required.
Prerequisite for 300-level courses: 6 hours in the department or permission of the instructor.
Selected American topics for advanced undergraduate students, offered by Department of 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, Gender and Culture, African-American Art, and Cultures of American Slavery.
A study of the North American landscape as altered and used by successive waves of native peoples, explorers, immigrants, westering pioneers, and industrial/urban builders.
An interdisciplinary investigation of postwar America focusing on American youth of the '50s. Said to be apathetic, these were the youths who demanded black music, rejected traditional mainstream culture, invented rock and roll, established a national, commercialized, adolescent, peer Youth Culture, and revealed the hypocrisy between what American society professed and how it actually operated. The primary focus is the cultural season of 1954–55, when white American youths begin to adapt, adopt, and appropriate aspects of minority culture as their own.
Examines 19th-century American popular culture, as epitomized by the famous showman P. T. Barnum (1810–1891), by using Barnum as a prism to focus on how American culture offered spectacular possibilities for self-advancement and self-delusion.
An examination of the objects created by African-Americans variously classified as "folk," "self-taught," and "outsider" artists, the cultural/historical contextualization of these artists and their works, and the political and theoretical debates on issues of collection, modes of exhibition, and use of the above listed classifications.
An examination of the 19th-century American West as a region to be explored, inhabited, and incorporated into an expanding urban-industrial society. From Lewis and Clark to Buffalo Bill, the lecture/discussion course investigates the relationship between America and the West as it developed throughout the 19th century.
An examination of 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.
Explores the first two decades of America's "Modern Times" (1919 to 1941, 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.
Interdisciplinary exploration of key movements in 20th-century American literature and visual arts. Course materials will include selected works of literature (fiction, drama, poetry) and visual art (painting, sculpture, performance art), as well as position statements by writers, artists, and critics. Objectives include a better understanding of points of commonality and difference between artistic and literary treatments of similar themes, as well as the factors leading to transitions between distinctive cultural movements.
The evolution of American popular culture since the late 18th century, considering the subject in its broad historical overview, defining and examining the origins of terms (popular culture, mass culture, elite culture, consumer society, culture producers, and culture consumers) and focusing in depth on historical examples that illuminate the content, forms, and functions of the popular culture of specific class, age, gender, and ethnic groups. Various media (theatre, movies, magazines, radio, television) and popular phenomena (manners, fashion, advertising, sport) are analyzed.
Examination of the cultural concepts, myths, and experiences of black and white Southern women from a variety of economic and social backgrounds. Special attention is given to the interaction of race, class, and gender in Southern women's lives. Texts include historical studies, autobiographies, biographies, oral histories, and novels written by and about women in the 19th- and 20th-century South.
Examination of selected topics from the American experience during the Second World War. Topics include the home front, the Holocaust, race relations, the emergence of American air power, and the impact of the war on American memory and postwar American society.
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.
Lecture topics, readings, and classroom discussions pursue major connections between baseball and American society from 1880 to the present: 1) modernization of America and the rise of an urban, industrial game; 2) baseball and race; and 3) postwar America and baseball.
Prerequisite for 400-level courses: 12 hours in the department or permission of the instructor.
Prerequisite: Permission of the departmental chairperson.
Offered pass/fail. 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 not applicable to the major or minor in American studies. Pass/fail.
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 twenty-first 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.
Selected African-American topics for advanced undergraduate students.
Prerequisite: Sponsorship of a faculty member.
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.
Prerequisite: Sponsorship of a faculty member.
Selected American topics for advanced undergraduate majors in American Studies, offered by AMS faculty members or Americanists from related departments.
An examination of sexuality as a category of historical and cultural analysis. With an interdisciplinary focus of representation in film, science, visual culture, literature, and politics, the course incorporates a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of sexuality, including cultural studies, history, and critical theory.
A lecture/discussion course on the role of women in American culture focusing on some of the major social and cultural contributions of women from all backgrounds and walks of life. The class will question the historic roles of women in America and discuss how the status of women reflects on society as a whole. Most of the readings center on the 20th century and the relationships between individual women and the cultural networks in which they participate and which they help create.
An exploration of the formative years of the American cultural experience, from early European encounters with the New World to the attainment of continental nationhood. Topics covered include the growth of colonial societies; the Revolutionary movement and the political foundations of the American republic; the Market Revolution and the rise of middle-class culture; the antebellum South and the emerging West; and the origins and evolution of American cultural diversity. Offered fall semester.
An exploration of the development of American cultural experience since 1865, focusing on the major material forces and intellectual currents that helped to shape American attitudes, assumptions, institutions, behavior, and values. Topic covered include the relationship between nature and the city, the industrial revolution and changes in the workplace, immigration, changing class and gender relationships, the rise of leisure, and the development and triumph of modern corporate/consumer culture. Offered spring semester.
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 '50s, the American '20s, America between the Wars, the Colonial Period, the Aspirin Age, Postmodern America, Contemporary America, and Writing West.
Study of special topics within the American cultural experience. Recent examples include American Thought, Sports in American Life, American Perspectives on the Environment, Women in America, the Civil Rights Movement, the Picture Press, Music and Ethnicity, the Politics of Culture, Regionalism, the Changing American Family, Homelessness in America, American Autobiography, American Monuments, Southern Popular Culture, Politics and Culture, Historical Memory, America by Design, The Other in America, Women in America, Race in America, and 19th-Century Popular Culture.