AMS 311s • From Gettysburg to Graceland: Sacred Places and American Culture-W
1:00 PM-2:00 PM
What is a sacred place? Churches, synagogues, and mosques are places easily categorized as sacred because of their association with organized religion. In a nation founded on the division between church and state, however, what counts as sacred is broadly defined. Americans visit not only sites associated with religion, but also the homes of politicians and celebrities, cemeteries, battlefields, and natural wonders in hopes that they will have an otherworldly experience. Further, sacred places are often contested, holding different meanings for different groups of people. Today, places such as the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, Gettysburg National Military Park, the Vietnam War Memorial, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Elvis Presley's Graceland, and the World Trade Center Memorial demonstrate that patriotism, popular culture, and national, racial, and ethnic identities play a role in determining if and why we categorize a place as sacred.
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to engage in thoughtful discussions about the following questions. What makes a place sacred; its location, the artifacts it contains, or its function? How do places that are designated as sacred by the state differ from those that are labeled so by private citizens? What role has capitalism played in both constructing and destroying sacred places? How do sacred places both reflect and challenge such basic themes in American culture as race, class, gender, and nation? We will answer these questions through critical reading and writing and by engaging with texts using an interdisciplinary approach. This class will consist of lecture and discussion.
Linenthal, Edward T. Sacred Ground: Americans and their Battlefields. Urbana: University of Illinois Presss, 1991. Linenthal, Edward T. Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America's Holocaust Museum. New York: Viking, 1995. Marling, Karal. Graceland: Going Home with Elvis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996. Spence, Mark David. Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.