AMS 393 • Bibliography and Methods
10:00 AM-1:00 PM
This reading seminar introduces students to the history and current discourse of the interdisciplinary field of American Studies. Arising out of Depression-era concerns about the viability of American identity and experience, and institutionalized as a semi-politicized expression of cultural nationalism during the Second World War and the subsequent Cold War, the American Studies movement has undergone an extraordinary series of transformations in the past four decades. The seminar will first explore the history of this academic movement by considering a few classic texts that are now often dismissed for their consensus models and their various claims for American exceptionalism. We will then discuss more recent texts that refocus American Studies around race, gender, class, material culture, popular culture, and the issue of globalization. Finally we will use Janice Radway's controversial 1998 presidential address to the American Studies Association as an occasion for considering future agendas. Each week the seminar confronts a single book-length text, analyzing it as a discrete entity, placing it in historiographic, historical, and cultural contexts, and evaluating it as an example or model. The course's purpose is not to define American Studies but to survey a series of often conflicting definitions, theories, and methods, and thereby to consider a series of questions and problems that current practitioners might profitably address.
David M. Potter, People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character (1954) Sacvan Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad (1978) Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (1964) Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction (1985) Katherine C. Grier, Culture & Comfort: Parlor Making and Middle-Class Identity (1988) Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (1995) Joel Dinerstein, Swinging the Machine: Modernity, Technology, and African American Culture (2003) Karal Ann Marling, As Seen on TV: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950s (1998) Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (1989) Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (1998) Naomi Klein, No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs (2000) Articles and essays available in two course packets