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

Spring 2008

AMS 355 • Main Currents of American Culture to 1865

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
29845 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
BUR 216

Course Description

"Who is this new man, this American?" Hector St. John de Crevecoeur In many ways, what we now call the United States began as a national entity as a blank slate. As late as two hundred years ago, there was no conception of what it meant to be American. Yet, within seventy-five years, this entity would fight its most bloody and vicious war ever over insistence upon this very identity.

This course traces the concept of the American identity in cultural terms from the time of first settlements up until the Civil War. We will study not politics per se but political ideas and institutions as well as such subjects as religion, work, gender roles, race, painting, literature, philosophy, the law, and social reform. Throughout the course and especially in the assigned reading the emphasis will be upon the interaction of the lives of ordinary people including women, Native Americans, ethnic immigrants, and African Americans and the newly developing ideas and institutions that helped create this new American identity. The books, indeed, will all be about very specific ordinary peopleexcept for the very extraordinary Frederick Douglassand the impact of a rapidly changing society upon their lives.

Grading Policy

There will three exams with the first counting slightly less than the final two. Both will consist of identification and essay questions.


Nathaniel Philbrick Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and Law Jill Lepore New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth Century Manhattan Scott Liell 46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense and the Turning Point to Independence Laurel Ulrich A Midwife's Tale Carol Sheriff The Artificial River Frederick Douglass Narrative of the Life of Paul Finkelman (ed.) Defending Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Old South


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