Skip Navigation
UT wordmark
College of Liberal Arts wordmark
ams masthead
Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Steven D Hoelscher

Professor Ph.D., Geography, 1995, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Department Chair, Professor, Academic Curator for Photography, Harry Ransom Center
Steven D Hoelscher



Born and raised in the Upper Midwest, Professor Hoelscher got to Texas as soon as he could. He joined the Department of American Studies in 2000, after first teaching at LSU and, before that, completing his Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Wisconsin. During 2003-2004, he was Senior Fulbright Professor in the North American Studies Program at the University of Bonn.



Research Interests

Professor Hoelscher’s research interests include: the history of photography; North American and European urbanism; social constructions of space and place, landscape and region; ethnicity and race; and cultural memory. His books include Reading Magnum:(recognized as 2013 Photo Book of the Year by American Photo Magazine), Picturing Indians (winner of the 2009 Wisconsin Historical Society Book Award of Merit), Heritage on Stage, and Textures of Place (co-edited with Karen Till and Paul Adams), and he has published more than 40 book chapters and articles in such journals as American Indian Culture and Research Journal, American Quarterly, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Ecumene (now, Cultural Geographies), Geographical Review, GeoJournal, History of Photography, Journal of Historical Geography, Public Historian, and Social and Cultural Geography

Courses Taught

Professor Hoelscher teaches across the fields of American Studies, Geography, and History, and regularly offers the following courses: Introduction to American Studies, The Cultures of Cities, Memory and Place, American Space and Place, The Geography of Tourism, Constructing the American Landscape, and the History of American Photography. During the past few summers, he has taught a study abroad course in Vienna, Austria, and, in 2005, Dr. Hoelscher received the University of Texas President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award.

Maymester in Vienna

Click here to watch a fantastic video made by a student of Prof. Hoelscher's comparative urban studies class in Vienna, Austria. 


Photography, Cultural and Historical Geography; Urban Studies; Memory; Ethnicity and Race

AMS 310 • Intro To American Studies

31055 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm JGB 2.324
(also listed as HIS 315G )
show description

AMS 310 is designed to introduce you to some of the major themes and trends of American history, as well as to familiarize you with some of the methods and materials that are used in the interdisciplinary study of American culture. As a way to focus our discussion, this section of AMS 310 takes as its starting point an apparent paradox embedded in the heart of contemporary globalization: at exactly the same time that the very political-economic processes that would seem to homogenize geography—to render the globe "placeless"—in fact increase its importance. Place-bound identities have become more, rather than less, important in a world of diminishing spatial barriers to exchange, movement, and communication. Thus, globalized flows of capital, population, goods, and terrorism not only bring the world together, but they tear it apart. At the center of this irony is the history of United States itself: a space created with an ideal of liberty, equality, individual opportunity, and social improvement, but set in a place of profoundly uneven patterns of wealth, crime, and pollution. We will address this historical contradiction from a variety of disciplinary perspectives by examining a wide range of primary source materials that range from novels, movies, and investigative journalism to travelogues, oral histories, and photography.


Possible Texts

Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream

Robert Frank, The Americans

Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic

Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

Luis Alberto Urrea, The Devil’s Highway: A True Story


“The Unforeseen”

“Smoke Signals”


Partially fulfills legislative requirement in American History.

Flag(s): Cultural Diversity

AMS 390 • American Photography

30900 • Fall 2013
Meets T 200pm-500pm HRC 2.202F
(also listed as HIS 392 )
show description

Consent from Instructor Required

This graduate reading seminar will investigate the history of photography in the United States in relationship to changing currents in America society and culture. Taking as its starting point, the course will follow three distinct, but related, strands of that culture: the history of the medium, from daguerreotypes to digital imaging; the relationship between photography and American history, especially urbanization, the rise of commercial culture, and identity formation; and finally a history of the theory of photography, in particular how photography has been understood as a medium expressive of visual culture. Specific themes that this seminar will address include: art; nature; nation building; ethnicity and race; war; landscapes; urbanization and industrialization; advertising and fashion; documentary expression; photojournalism and picture magazines; postmodernism; and the practice of reading and writing about photographs.

This course will be conducted as seminar with open discussion of the assigned readings and other visual materials. We will meet in the Harry Ransom Center in order to make use of that archive’s superb photography collection. Work requirements include weekly critical essays, an archival presentation, an essay of photographic criticism, and the creation of a photographic exhibit.


Sarah Greenough, Looking in: Robert Frank’s The Americans

Linda Gordon, Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography

Fred Ritchin, After Photography

Miles Orvell, American Photography

Brigitte Lardinois, Magnum Magnum

Stephen Shore, The Nature of Photographs: A Primer

Laura Wexler, Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in the Age of U.S. Imperialism

Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites, No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy

Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others 

AMS 370 • Vienna: Memory/The City-Aut

30810 • Spring 2013
(also listed as GRG 356T, HIS 362G, URB 354 )
show description

The purpose of this course is to explore the ways in which cultural memory has shaped, and continues to shape, urban life in one specific place: Vienna, Austria. For individuals and groups alike, memory forms an essential component of social identity. Cultural memory is produced in various forms—from memorials, public art, and commodities to popular culture, rituals, and museums. Yet, in many cases, the very symbols meant to preserve memory are, in fact, equally successful in helping people forget the past.


Course is restricted to students in the Maymester Abroad Program.

AMS 310 • Intro To American Studies

30580 • Fall 2012
Meets TTH 200pm-330pm WEL 2.246
(also listed as HIS 315G )
show description

AMS 310 is designed to introduce you to some of the major themes and ideas in American history and culture, as well as to familiarize you with some of the methods and materials that are used in the interdisciplinary study of American society. As a way to focus our discussion, this section of AMS 310 examines the twin concepts of place and region as they impinge on the historical development of American culture and society. Utilizing both historical and contemporary perspectives, and drawing from a wide range of approaches, we will take as our central motif the escalating importance of regional and local identity in a world of globalization and modernization.  Specific themes will include: the historical development of American regional diversity; the role of place image and representation in the social construction of region; the relationship of regional culture to national culture; the way in which perceptions and conflicting communities influence the creation of regions; the importance of the regional concept in contemporary urban planning and landscape design; and the role of art, literature, and poetry in regional renewal.


Possible Texts

Luis Alberto Urrea, The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

Claude Brown, Manchild in the Promised Land

Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream

Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic



“The Unforeseen”

“Smoke Signals”


Partially fulfills legislative requirement in American History.

Flag(s): Cultural Diversity

AMS 315 • Vienna: Memory & The City-Aut

30815 • Spring 2011
(also listed as EUS 306, GRC 311, HIS 306N, URB 305 )
show description

Among the world’s major cities, Vienna, Austria, stands out as a place where the past remains a uniquely powerful shaper of collective identity—an identity that is also shaped by equally powerful forces to forget that very past. The urban landscapes of Vienna have long been inscribed by layers of collective remembering and forgetting: the city’s famous nineteenth-century Ringstraße, with its monumental government, educational, religious, and cultural institutions was constructed with memories of older building traditions clearly in mind; while avant-garde architects and artists who followed explicitly rejected connections to the past. From Sigmund Freud’s influential theories of the psychological unconscious to Ludwig Wittgenstein’s efforts to create a distinctly ahistorical philosophical system, Viennese thinkers have been at the vanguard of debates about the power of memory. And the profound upheavals of the Second World War and the Holocaust further fractured collective remembering, leading to Vienna’s deep ambivalence to recent history. Today’s Vienna, fully immersed in a global political-economy, bears witness to the deep impress of the past in the contemporary world.

The purpose of this course is to study the ways in which cultural memory has shaped, and continues to shape, urban life in one specific place: Vienna, Austria. For individuals and groups alike, memory forms an essential component of their social identity; by definition, it involves sharing, discussion, negotiation, and conflict. Cultural memory is produced in various forms—from memorials, public art, and commodities to popular culture, rituals, and museums—and is inevitably anchored in cities. Museums and memorials, for example, have been historically built as official places of memory in prominent cities to communicate a sense of national history and citizenship. Yet, due to the distinct interests of diverse social groups, these urban pasts are open to multiple interpretations that, in many cases, lead to willful and organized forgetting.

Our study of cultural memory in Vienna will explore the city’s changing cultural landscapes during four important periods during its modern development. We will see, for example, how the different layers of Austria’s history have literally become part of the Viennese built environment. We will also visit the many museums that house the artifacts and visual culture so important to Vienna’s collective memory, and we will attend opera and theater performances that call forth the city’s unique heritage.  This kind of direct exploration, and the course requirement of daily reflections on these structures and spaces, can only be done on-location, where students have the opportunity to explore the terrain of memory. With Vienna as our laboratory, students will examine theoretical discussions of memory and the city in a provocative geographical setting.



Inge Lehne and Lonnie Johnson, Vienna: The Past in the Present

Course Reader



25%     Place Notes: A Daily Fieldwork Journal

25%     One 30-minute guided commentary for the entire class of one site, structure, museum, etc

10%     One 1-hour exam

40%      Participation in all city tours and class discussions

AMS 390 • Constructing Amer Landscape

29880 • Spring 2010
Meets T 200pm-500pm BUR 436B
(also listed as GRG 396T )
show description

American Studies/Geography



Spring 2010                                            Prof. Steven Hoelscher

AMS 390/GRG 396T                               Office: BUR 430, Th 2-5 pm

T, 2-5 pm                                                Phone: 232-2567

BUR 436B                                                                                                                  


Few concepts offer more insight into the construction of, and frequent conflict over, group and personal identity than landscape.  More than simply a pleasing view of scenery, landscape denotes the interaction of people and place—a social group and its spaces, particularly the spaces to which the group belongs and from which its members derive some part of their shared identity and meaning. In this graduate seminar, we will unpack the variety of meanings of landscape from two distinct, but mutually reinforcing, perspectives: the landscape that we usually associate with environment; and the idea or representation of landscape.  People, working in different places and influenced by social class, race, gender, and political ideology, create distinctive landscapes that reflect these social divisions.  Likewise, and often for rather different reasons, people choose to produce representations of those landscapes in art and literature, and at historic sites and monuments.  Specific themes, among others, include: racialized and gendered landscapes; environmental preservation; landscape photography; landscapes of violence and tragedy; historical memory; and the writerly art of landscape description.



This course will be conducted as seminar with open discussion of the assigned readings and other course materials. I expect that students will come to class well prepared to present and respond to discussion questions and ideas about the readings. 



John Brinkerhoff Jackson, Landscape in Sight: Looking at America

Daphne Spain, How Women Saved the City

Owen Dwyer and Derek Alderman, Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory

Richard Walker, The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area

Anne Whiston Spirn, Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field



Don Mitchell, The Lie of the Land: Migrant Workers and the California Landscape

Denis Cosgrove, Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape


Please note that both sets of books are available at Co-Op Bookstore.  Finally, several articles will also be required, and are indicated below as *. I have placed these in the Course Documents section of our class Blackboard site so that you will be able to download them wherever you find convenient, and at minimal or no cost.



Percent                         Task Description

30                                6 weekly critical essays (no more than 1 page in length)

10                                landscape description/interpretation (roughly 5 pages)

20                                seminar participation and facilitation of discussion

40                                term paper and presentation (roughly 15-20 pages)


Weekly critical essays: The first component of your grade will be based on weekly essays that you will turn in each Tuesday.  The critical essays (or précis) should be short, concise summaries of the articles and your reflections on them.  This means not simply summary, but also some thoughtful response and intellectual reflections to the readings. As the semester progresses, I hope that you might start making comparisons to earlier readings, and to note differences or similarities in perspectives. What’s important to each author, and why? What theoretical perspectives, political viewpoints, and methodological tools did the author rely on? What do you think of the author’s points, and why?

Over the course of the semester, I ask that you write six of these short essays. While there are seven discussion weeks, you will need to write essays on only six of them.

Landscape Interpretation: For week 8 (March 9) I would like you to describe a landscape here in Texas.  The essay should not be especially long – something on the order of five typed pages – but it should be grounded in empirical investigation, critical thought, and evocative writing.

Participation and leading a class discussion: You will be asked to prepare and lead a discussion during the semester, which will draw on our reading.  I ask that you prepare discussion questions to be distributed before our class meeting, and help facilitate the actual discussion.

Term paper and presentation: The fourth component of the course evaluation is the completion and presentation of a research paper.  The paper should engage a number of the theoretical perspectives and empirical problems that have formed the foundation for this class. Ideally, your term paper should connect to your dissertation or thesis research; if you have not yet decided on a topic, perhaps this paper could be an exploratory essay. Either way, I want it to be relevant for your graduate work. During one of the last two class meetings (April 27 and May 4) you will make a brief presentation on the results of your research/writing efforts.  All term papers are due no later than Tuesday, May 4.



Week 2, January 26: Introduction to the Course

* Lewis, Peirce F. “Axioms for Reading the Landscape: Some Guides to the American Scene.” In The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes, edited by D.W. Meinig, 11-32. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.


Week 3, February 2:  Foundations: Definitions, Traditions, and the Evolution of the Landscape Idea

Jackson, J.B. “The Word Itself.” In Landscape in Sight: Looking at America, edited by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, 299-306. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.

* Sauer, Carl. “The Morphology of Landscape.” In Land and Life: A Selection of Writings of Carl Ortwin Sauer, edited by John Leighly, 315-350. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963 [1925].

*Mitchell, Don. “California: The Beautiful and the Damned.” In The Lie of the Land: Migrant Workers and the California Landscape, 13-35. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996

* Cosgrove, Denis. "Prospect, Perspective, and the Evolution of the Landscape Idea." Transactions, Institute of British Geographers N.S. 10 (1985): 45-62.


Week 4, February 9:  J.B. Jackson and the Invention of an American Landscape Tradition

Jackson, John Brinkerhoff. Landscape in Sight: Looking at America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.  Be sure to read Horowitz’s introduction: “J.B. Jackson and the Discovery of the American Landscape,” ix-xxxiv.


Week 5, February 16: Protecting Landscape

Walker, Richard. The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008.


Week 6, February 23: Visualizing Landscape

Spirn, Anne Whiston. Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.


Week 7, March 2: No Class/Writing Week


Week 8, March 9: Writing Landscape, 1: Seeing, Thinking, Describing Landscapes

(Landscape interpretations due.  Do not write a review essay)

* Relph, Edward. “Seeing, Thinking, Describing Landscapes.” In Environmental Perception and Behavior: An Inventory and Prospect, edited by Thomas Saarinen, et al, 209-224. Chicago: The University of Chicago Dept. of Geography, Research Paper No. 209, 1984.

* Lessard, Suzannah. "The Split: An Intersection Where Opposite Worlds Collide." The New Yorker, 8 December 1997, 72+.

*Sinclair, Iain. Selection from London Orbit. A Walk Around the M25. London: Granta 2002.


Week 9, March 16: Spring Break


Week 10, March 23: Landscape and Gender

Spain, Daphne. How Women Saved the City. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001.


Week 11, March 30: Landscape and Race

Dwyer, Owen J. and Derek H. Alderman. Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory. Chicago: Center for American Places, 2008


Week 12, April 8 (Thursday): Writing Landscape, 2: a lunch with Iain Sinclair

Please note that class will not meet on Tuesday of this week, but instead we will have a lunch meeting at the HRC with noted psychogeographer and landscape sleuth, Iain Sinclair.


Week 12, April 10 (Saturday): Landscape and Memory: Field Trip to the Alamo

Half day Field Trip to San Antonio. Details TBA

*Miguel De Oliver. “Historical Preservation and Identity: The Alamo and the Production of a Consumer Landscape.” Antipode 28, no. 1 (1996): 1-23.


Week 13, April 13: No Class/Writing Week

Week 14, April 20: No Class/Writing Week

Week 15, April 27: Research Presentations

Week 16, May 4: Research Presentations/Final Papers Due






Reading Magnum: A Visual Archive of the Modern World (University of Texas Press, 2013).

Picturing Indians: Photographic Encounters and Tourist Fantasies in H.H. Bennett’s Wisconsin Dells (University of Wisconsin Press, Studies in American Thought and Culture Series, September 2008). Winner of the 2009 Wisconsin Historical Society Book Award of Merit.

Textures of Place: Exploring Humanist Geographies (University of Minnesota Press, 2001). Co-edited with Paul Adams and Karen Till.

Heritage on Stage: The Invention of Ethnic Place in America’s Little Switzerland (University of Wisconsin Press, 1998.

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles and Book Chapters

"Photography," in The Ashgate Research Companion to Media Geography, edited by Paul C. Adams, Jim Craine, and Jason Dittmer (Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing, 2014), 17-38.

"Place," in The Blackwell Companion to Human Geography, edited by John A. Agnew and James S. Duncan (London: Blackwell Publishing, 2011), 245-259.
Methods: Landscape Iconography,” in International Encyclopedia of Human Geography, edited by Rob Kitchin and Nigel Thrift (London: Elsevier Publishing, 2009).
Angels of Memory: Photography and Haunting in Guatemala City,” GeoJournal 73, no.4. (2008): 195-217.
Viewing the Gilded Age River: Photography and Tourism along the Wisconsin Dells,” in Rivers in History: Perspectives on Waterways in Europe and North America, edited by Christof Mauch and Thomas Zeller(University of Pittsburgh  Press, 2008), 149-171.
The White-Pillared Past: Landscapes of Memory and Race in the American South,” in Richard Schein (ed) Race and Landscape in America (Routledge 2006), 39-72.
Heritage,” in Sharon MacDonald (ed) The Blackwell Companion of Museum Studies (Blackwell Publishers, 2006), 198-218.
"Cultural Landscape," in Barney Warf (ed) The Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Sage Publications 2006), 75-78.
Historical Geography,” in Barney Warf (ed) The Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Sage Publications 2006), 210-216.
"Memory, Heritage, and Tradition in the Construction of Regional Memory: A View from Geography," in Lothar Honnighasen (ed) Regionalism in the Age of Globalism (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005) 27-44.
Memory and Place: Geographies of a Critical Relationship,” Social and Cultural Geography 5, no. 3 (September 2004): 347-355. Co-authored with Derek Alderman.
Visualizing Stories of Time and Place,” American Quarterly 56, no. 1 (March 2004): 201-211.
Making Place, Making Race: Performances of Whiteness in the Jim Crow South,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 93 no. 3 (September 2003): 657-686.
"Viewing Indians: Native Encounters with Power, Tourism, and the Camera," American Indian Culture and Research Journal 27, no. 4 (2003): 1-51.
‘Where the Old South Still Lives’: Displaying Heritage in Natchez, Mississippi,” in Celeste Ray (ed), Southern Heritage on Display: Public Ritual and Ethnic Diversity within Southern Regionalism (University of Alabama Press, 2003), 218-250.
America the Exotic,” American Quarterly, 52, no. 1 (March 2000): 168-178.
From Sedition to Patriotism: Cultural Performance and the Reinterpretation of American Ethnic Identity,” Journal of Historical Geography, 25, no. 4 (Fall 1999): 1-25.
The Photographic Construction of Tourist Space in Victorian America,” The Geographical Review, 88, no. 4 (October 1998 [1999]): 548-570.
Tourism, Ethnic Memory, and the Other-Directed Place,” Ecumene 5 (Fall 1998): 373-402.
"Dinseyland: It's Place in World Culture," in Karal Ann Marling (ed) Designing Disney's Theme Parks: The Architecture of Reassurance (Flammarion, 1997), 191-200. Second author with Yi-Fu Tuan.

Exhibition Catalogues

Elliot Erwitt's Art of Observation: Photographs from the Collection of Richard Coplan and Marting R. Mallinger (Boca Raton Museum of Art, 2014).

bottom border