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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2005

T C 301 • America from the Outside-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
42560 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
CRD 007B

Course Description

We know from anthropology that it is often helpful, when studying a foreign culture, to attempt to think like the subjects you study, to adopt their perspective. But how does one study one's own culture? Here, our familiar categories of understanding, our habits of thought, our perspective, may actually inhibit understanding rather than advance it. We may take for granted some of the most important features of our social life, precisely because they are so familiar to us. To understand our own culture, we need to find a perspective from which familiar practices will appear interesting and strange. We need somehow to get outside of our polity to see it more clearly. One way to do this is to study the most intelligent "outside" observers of American life. Just as we have a perspective, so does an outsider. There is no single outside perspective free from the questions of some particular place; there is no philosopher's mountain from which to look down on American politics. But we can study and compare several outside perspectives in our effort to critically understand and appreciate our own. In this course we will closely examine three different kinds of outsider perspectives. First, we will revisit the perspective of foundersof people who made the polity before they could live within the polity. Our reading will include selected Federalist and Anti-federalist writings. Second, we will look at the perspective of an extraordinary foreign observer of the polity. We will study de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. Third, we will think about America from the perspective of citizens who do not feel fully included in the polity, for whom full membership is still a question, and who therefore feel like outsiders to the polity in which they live. We will read speeches and essays by African-American political thinkers, including Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Dubois, and James Baldwin. These three kinds of outsidersfounder, foreigner, and forgottonoffer us occasions to think through those aspects of American life that we most take for granted and therefore least understand.

About the Professor Professor Tulis's interests include constitutional theory, political philosophy, American political development, and the Presidency. His publications include The Presidency in the Constitutional Order (LSU Press) and The Rhetorical Presidency (Princeton). Recently, two books elaborating or criticizing Tulis's rhetorical presidency ideas were published with his rejoinders: Beyond the Rhetorical Presidency (Texas A&M Press) and Speaking to the People (UMass Press). Professor Tulis came to UT's government department in 1988, having taught for most of the previous decade at Princeton University. One of his favorite teaching assignments here is the GOV 312 honors course, "Constitutional Thinking," which he designed for Plan I and Plan II honors students. In 1996, He received UT's President's Associates Teaching Excellence Award. His own undergraduate years were spent at Bates College (in Maine) and he received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Grading Policy

This course contains a substantial writing component. Three analytical essays (6 pages each): 60% In-class test: 20% Class participation: 20%


The Federalist Papers Selected Anti-federalist writings Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America What Country Have I: Political Writings by Black Americans


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