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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Fall 2007

AMS 385 • Cultural History of the U.S. to 1865

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
30510 M
9:00 AM-12:00 PM
BUR 436B

Course Description

This graduate seminar will introduce students to a range of primary literature and scholarly debates relevant to the cultural history of the United States from the colonial period through the Civil War. In addition to our own weekly seminar, students will attend the lectures given in the corresponding undergraduate course, "Main Currents of American Culture" which explores the theme: "America in Crisis." In recent years, we Americans have increasingly defined ourselves in terms of our actions and reactions in particular moments of crisis. Events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina have provoked debates about the substance of our national identity and character and have revealed deep fault lines in the bedrock of our society. Each week we will take as our starting point a particular moment of crisis, paying attention to the political, social and cultural forces that gave rise to the crisis as well as the dispersal, transformation and/or entrenchment of these forces in its aftermath. The critical moments we will focus on will include the Salem Witch Trials; the Election of 1800; the "American Renaissance"; and John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry among others. Our semester will culminate, of course, in the crisis of disunion and the Civil War.

In this course, we will examine the British, (and to a lesser extent the Spanish and French) colonial legacies in the United States and social formations among the diverse groups of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans both within and on the borders of these colonies. We will consider many dimensions of American national identity: What is the proper relationship among the nation, the states, and individuals? How have Americans negotiated the tension between republicanism and democracy or between religious and secular world views? What would it mean to recognize slavery as one of the founding institutions of the United States? We will study the formation of American identity around differences of race, class, gender, religion, and region. We will study these developing identities through literature, political documents, painting, music, newspapers and other media.


Texts may include: Mary Rowlandson, Sovereignty and Goodness of God; Jill Lepore, The Name of War; Mark M. Smith, Stono; Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia; Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer; Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife's Tale; James Fennimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans; Tiya Miles, Ties that Bind Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of; Nancy Cott, Bonds of Womanhood (2nd ed.) Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin; Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass; And a course packet of shorter readings


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