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Fall 2016

AMER 1002: Introduction to American Studies - "Race, Space, and Place in the American City", Shaw, MWF 2:10-3:00PM

This course explores American race relations in the 20th and 21st centuries. Specifically, this course is about race relations – not [this] racial group or [that] racial group, but the social structures, histories, ideas, spaces, places, and interactions that define each in terms of each other. ‘Race’ itself is best understood as a social construction; its meaning and its outcomes vary over time and between places. In the American context, racism has produced substantial and sustained inequality economically, socially, in terms of education, health, and life-chances generally. Thus, this is a course about racism in American society, a phenomenon that is both embedded in social institutions and endures beneath individual consciousness. Race forms a basic foundation of social life in the U.S.; it is a critical component of American Studies.

AMER 1002W : Introduction to American Studies - "Race, Space, and Place in the American City" , Shaw, MWF 11:10-12:00PM

This course explores American race relations in the 20th and 21st centuries. Specifically, this course is about race relations – not [this] racial group or [that] racial group, but the social structures, histories, ideas, spaces, places, and interactions that define each in terms of each other. ‘Race’ itself is best understood as a social construction; its meaning and its outcomes vary over time and between places. In the American context, racism has produced substantial and sustained inequality economically, socially, in terms of education, health, and life-chances generally. Thus, this is a course about racism in American society, a phenomenon that is both embedded in social institutions and endures beneath individual consciousness. Race forms a basic foundation of social life in the U.S.; it is a critical component of American Studies.

AMER 1002W : Introduction to American Studies - "American Social History Through Dance", Kevra, MWF 1:10-2:00PM

Social dance will be the focal point for our study of American history. Dance offers a  window into history and ways to understand issues related to race, gender, and class. Adopting a chronological approach, we will set about to answer a range of questions. For instance, how do specific dance crazes reveal responses to political and cultural events and anxieties? How do immigrants preserve their culture through dance? What does opposition to dance over the centuries say about religious beliefs and sexual mores? Because dance is best understood by dancing, we will have occasion in class to try out a number of  dances. Although you will not be graded on your dancing, you must attend these sessions and be willing to embrace the activity (and one another!)

AMER 1002W : Introduction to American Studies - "Why Argue about Politics?: An American Studies Approach to Deliberative Democracy" , Nelson, TR 11:00-12:15PM

This course will offer an historical and political background to the ideal—and practice—of deliberative democracy in the US. We will consider from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including cognitive psychology and neuroscience—about the work of deliberation and conversation across differences, assessing what the prospects for democracy are in the US as we watch for the outcome of an historic presidential election cycle, and think about what contributions we might ourselves make.

AMER 1111: First Year-Writing Seminar -"The French Experience in the Americas" Kevra, MWF 10:10-11:00AM

The French once colonized a huge expanse of the Americas from Canada to Brazil. Accounts from explorers and missionaries describe a land of exquisite beauty but fraught with great dangers, including brutal winters that wiped out colonies and hostile natives threatened by European encroachment. We will study a variety of documents, including travelogues, maps, letters from missionaries, as well as folktales, film, and fiction to understand the scope of the French experience in the Americas and its enduring presence in places like Louisiana, Haiti, New England and Quebec.

AMER 1200: Introduction to Southern Studies - "Memory, Culture, and Identity in the American South", Shaw, MWF 12:10-1:00PM

The South is a shifting concept and a moving target. It is a “geographical place,” an “imagined space,” and an “emotional idea.” The region represents a troubling side of American history, but it is also a source of identity, for better or for worse, and the region has produced cultural forms that have circulated the world. In this class we will examine the U.S. South from a variety of perspectives and texts. We will consider the history of the South in the 19th and 20th centuries, and we will consider various documents, literature, and culture that bring this history to life.

AMER 4000: Junior Seminar - "Gentrification and Uneven Urban Development", Fraser, T 9:10-12:00

This course will explore the transformation of American cities from the mid-twentieth century to today through the lens of gentrification and uneven urban development. In public discourse gentrification is most widely known as a form of urban revitalization that entails the movement of affluent people into impoverished urban areas and the displacement of existing lower-income residents from their homes and neighborhoods. Some see this as a 'natural' evolution in cities that has positive consequences for neighborhood improvement. Alternatively, activists and others suggest that gentrification is not 'natural' pointing towards the role of public and private organizations in promoting neighborhood change that often has negative consequences associated with housing affordability and different forms of physical, political and cultural displacements. In addition, critical urban scholars suggest that gentrification is a global phenomenon that has resulted in the reproduction of socially segregated cities around the world. We will examine all of these issues with the goal of identifying alternative and more equitable forms of urban development that embody the slogan, "cities for people, not for profit."

Summer 2016

AMER 3200: "U.S. and Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movements Past & Present: People, Politics, Music, and Memory", Nwankwo, MTWRF 1:10-4:00PM

AMER 3890: "Baseball and American Life", Oppenheimer, MTWRF 9:10-12:00PM

Spring 2016

*Effective Fall 2015, Vanderbilt University has introduced a new course catalog numbering scheme. For assistance with the translation between old (3-digit) and new (4-digit) numbers, please consult the Course Renumbering Lookup Tool.

AMER 1002 and AMER 1002W: Introduction to American Studies - "Race, Space, and Place in the American City", Samuel Shaw, MWF 1:10-2:00PM and 10:10-11:00AM

This course surveys race and ethnic relations in 20th century American urban history. Race is a defining feature of the American city; our neighborhoods, suburbs, and highways take unique shape in the presence of racial inequality. Conversely, the American-built environment is itself a cause of continuing racial inequality. In this class we will think sociologically and historically about this dual process. Along the way we will learn about the difference between ethnic enclaves and racial segregation in the depression-era, surburbanization and the ideology of the American frontier in the postwar period, and gentrification and, ironically, the rebirth of the pioneer ethos in the postindustrial urban core. Students will gain an understanding of how the American city and race and ethnic relations are imprinted upon each other, paved and built into the real structures of everyday American life and culture.

AMER 1200: Memory, Culture, and Identity in the American South, Samuel Shaw, MWF 11:10-12:00PM

The South is a shifting concept. It is a "geographical place," an "imagined space," and an "emotional idea." It represents an ugly side of American history, but it is also a source of identity, and has for centuries produced cultural forms that have circulated the world. In this class we will examine the American South from a variety of perspectives and texts. We will consider the history of the South from 1619 to present, and we will consider various documents, literature, and culture that bring this history to life. Some recurring themes will guide our thinking in this course. First, the South's history of race relations – from slavery to Jim Crow to the civil rights movement to contemporary urban politics – is a key distinguishing social feature of the region, and this history represents a distinct characteristic of the U.S. as a whole. Second, the South will be understood in relation to the rest of the U.S., especially "The North," which it has historically been defined – and has defined itself – against, and around which a peculiar regional identity, culture, and memory emerge. Third, the sociology of that identity and those memories are particularly fascinating, and give us a lens to understand various aspects of Southern and U.S. culture.

AMER 3830: Serving and Learning, Marshall Eakin, TR 9:35-10:50AM

A service-learning course that explores the relationship between serving and learning focusing on the questions: What is service? Why serve? How does one serve well? Does service make a difference? Does service enhance learning? Who benefits from the serving and learning? The objective of the course is to have you ask yourself these questions, apply them to your own interests in service and learning, and to place those interests within the larger context of academic scholarship and research on community service. Each student will choose one sustained community service project to pursue throughout the semester. This project will become the principal focus of your reflections and the final paper. Consent of instructor required to enroll for course.

AMER4100: Undergraduate Seminar - "History, Memory, and National Identity", Teresa Goddu, TR 2:35-3:50PM

This course examines the representation of historical trauma through literature, film, and the built environment. It explores how specific historical events are re-membered—both resurrected and recontained—through different cultural forms. We will locate ourselves in historical sites that are crucial to the production of U.S. national identity: slavery, the Holocaust, 9/11 as well as the contemporary moment of climate change. In doing so, we will examine how cultural texts represent and reconstruct a traumatic past (or, in the case of climate change, an imagined future) in dialogue with the present needs of national identity. Our focus will be on the production of public memory and its central role in the formation of national identity.

AMER4960: Senior Project, Ifeoma Nwankwo, TR 1:10-2:25PM

A project conceived, developed, and completed under supervision of the American Studies faculty. Normally open only to senior American Studies majors.

AMER8000: Graduate Seminar - "Social Justice and the City", James Fraser, T 10:00-1:00PM

This course examines the production of urban space (processes of urbanization), the ways that different groups experience the city, and how both of these are articulated with issues of social justice. Central to this task is developing an understanding of how space and place are dynamically constituted by, and affect, spatial (political-economic and cultural) projects of different coalitions of actors that are comprised of globally 'stretched out social relations' (Doreen Massey). In addition to developing theoretical approaches to the city, the course will provide multiple opportunities for application of the material by examining the significance of different places in Nashville for issues of social and environmental justice. Class participants will have an opportunity to develop publishable entries for "A People's Guide To Nashville" a book project that will identify, analyze, and bring to light the importance of space and place for creating a better world. Through both theoretical and applied class activities the course concludes with a section on putting forth more just futures for the city and examines the role of utopian thought for guiding these visions.

Fall 2015

AMER 1002 and AMER 1002W: Introduction to American Studies - "Race, Space, and Place in the American City"
Shaw, S.

This course surveys race and ethnic relations in 20th century American urban history. Race is a defining feature of the American city; our neighborhoods, suburbs, and highways take unique shape in the presence of racial inequality. Conversely, the American-built environment is itself a cause of continuing racial inequality. In this class we will think sociologically and historically about this dual process. Along the way we will learn about the difference between ethnic enclaves and racial segregation in the depression-era, surburbanization and the ideology of the American frontier in the postwar period, and gentrification and, ironically, the rebirth of the pioneer ethos in the postindustrial urban core. Students will gain an understanding of how the American city and race and ethnic relations are imprinted upon each other, paved and built into the real structures of everyday American life and culture.

AMER 1002W: Introduction to American Studies - "Why Argue About Global Warming?"
Nelson, D.

Wikipedia reports that "Global warming is the unequivocal and continuing rise in the average temperature of Earth's climate system.”  "Sorry Global Warming Alarmists, The Earth Is Cooling," rebuts a Forbes headline.  It's the surface temperature, it's the atmosphere, linear reactions, adjusted data.  The climate is warming; the rate of warming has slowed; it's over. There's a strong scientific consensus. . . or there isn’t.  The issue has become deeply politicized, and the economic and social stakes are high.

This course will study debates about climate change in a specifically American context, with broadly interdisciplinary interests.  We'll examine science as well as cultural inputs both to the science and the popular interpretation of the science of global warming in the United States.  Our goal will be to understand global warming as it is currently broadly construed: the science, various popular and policy responses to the science, and the main lines of resistance to arguments about “climate change.” We will approach these subjects in ways that respect the many possible positions in these debates. 

Centrally we will contemplate the art of persuasion in the light of what we learn. Why argue about global warming?  Because we live in a democracy.  Democracy depends on deliberation AND persuasion.  Arguing to persuade is at the heart of our political process in its best version, and successful argument depends on a level of respect for difference of opinion and priority that has roughly drained out of these debates.  We’re going to find ways to put it back!

Requirements will include:  reading, discussion, short independent research papers, longer research project, and team reports.

AMER 1200: Introduction to Southern Studies
Shaw, S.

An interdisciplinary approach to southern American culture, character, and life approached from the interrelated perspectives of history and culture (literature, music, religion, images, rituals, material culture).

AMER 3890: Topics in American Studies - "Art of Social Justice"
Lowe, M.

The Art of Social Justice will explore connections between the arts and social issues in twentieth and twenty first century America. Students will investigate Dorothea Lange’s photography for the Farm Security Administration along with the work of the Federal Theater Project to gain an understanding of how different artists engaged with the economic devastation of the Great Depression. A unit on music and the Civil Rights era will consider ways in which traditional spirituals, folk songs, and popular music served the movement and helped build its audience. An examination of Teatro Campesino’s work, beginning in the 1960s with Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers campaign and continuing to the present, will enable students to examine how an artistic entity changes as it serves its community over time. The course will explore the work of contemporary artists such as Kara Walker, whose provocative visual and installation work examines America’s troubled racial history; Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Roberto Sifuentes who explore immigration and Chicano identity through performance; and Rev. Billy Talen and the Church of Stop Shopping who provide critiques of materialism, gentrification, and Big Agriculture utilizing a gospel choir. May be repeated for credit more than once if there is no duplication in topic. Students may enroll in more than one section of this course each semester.

AMER 4000: The American Studies Workshop - Blue Gold: Water Rights and Wrongs
Tichi, C

“Earth has aptly been called the ‘water planet.’ It is, like ourselves, 70 percent water…. [and] Earth’s only self-renewing vital resource…. [although] only 2.5 percent of the Earth’s water is fresh….  Repeatedly, leading civilizations have been those that transcended their water obstacles to unlock and leverage the often hidden benefits of the planet’s most indispensible resource.” Steven Solomon, Water, 2010
     Water may be said to hide in plain sight. We Americans turn on the tap without much thought and enjoy recreation in pools, lakes, rivers, creeks, and the coastal seashore. When thirsty, we may easily buy a bottle of water at any convenience store or market. We may think it quaint to know that in ancient times water was considered to be one of four elements (the other three being earth, air and fire).  Perhaps we can name a painting or movie or literary text that features water—such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which is included in the readings for the seminar).
     Water, as we know, comes to public attention intermittently, as when hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf coast and when the British Petroleum (BP) drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded and sank, killing eleven crew members and releasing volcanic volumes of crude oil and methane gas into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico throughout the summer of 2010. Americans, in addition, regularly learn of damaging floods, as Nashville itself experienced in May, 2010, when homes excluded from  city floodplane maps nonetheless  were destroyed (including those of Vanderbilt University employees), while the city’s main convention site, the Opryland Hotel, was flooded and closed for months of extensive repair. From time to time, Americans also are made aware of deadly water emergencies elsewhere in the world, as in August, 2011, when torrential, deadly rains flooded Pittsburgh, PA and Thailand. Meanwhile, drought in Texas cost $billions in lost crops and livestock, and the continuing draught in the West causes concern, if not alarm—and hastens planning for a future of greater water conservation.
     In 2010, the United Nations debated the question of whether water ought to be considered a human right (the UN decided in favor after considerable debate).Meanwhile, debates about water have arisen in America on such topics as the purity of commercial bottled water, the treatment of water for drinking, cooking and bathing, the conservation of an ever-scarcer resource as agriculture and industry claim great quantities, the population increases, and so on. Some political scientists and journalists warn that global conflicts in the twenty-first century will focus on water, not oil. It is thus well worth our time in American Studies to spend one semester engaging the complex topic of water.

 

Summer 2015

First Session

AMER 100W: Introduction to American Studies - "Food for Thought: American Foodways"
Kevra, S.

This course will cover a range of topics, including accounts of New World foods, the development of regional food customs, the industrialization of food production, and instances of excess and lack of food in American history. It will be organized chronologically and include topics in literature, folklore, film, popular culture, and women's studies. As a means to understanding American identity, students will learn how food marks social, racial, and gender differences.

 

Maymester

AMER 202: Civil Rights in Northern Ireland and the Southern United States, 1950-1970
Beasley, V. and Cornfield, D.

This interdisciplinary course, taught by scholars representing four disciplines, offers a comparative study of the Civil Rights movements in Northern Ireland and the American South, principally in the 1950s and 1960s. The course will identify the historical origins and contexts of the campaigns for political and legal equality for African-Americans in the United States (principally in the southern states), and Catholics in Northern Ireland; the role of gender, religion, nationalism, historical consciousness and political leadership in shaping each campaign; the nature and dynamics of 'civil rights' as a political concept; the relationship between political and socio-economic agendas; the tensions between non-violent and revolutionary elements; and the response of states and majority communities to the civil rights campaigns.  It will address parallels, influences and discontinuities between the case studies, encouraging students to assess the nature and outcomes of both through a transnational perspective.  Students will also be encouraged to engage with issues of representation and interpretation of the memory of the civil rights campaigns through study of relevant museum and heritage exhibitions, media representations, and oral history projects.
For more information, click here

AMER 240: Topics in American Studies - "Baseball American Life"
Oppenheimer, B.

 

Spring 2015

AMER 100: Introduction to American Studies - "Race, Space, and Place in the American City"
Shaw, S.

This course surveys race and ethnic relations in 20th century American urban history. Race is a defining feature of the American city; our neighborhoods, suburbs, and highways take unique shape in the presence of racial inequality. Conversely, the American-built environment is itself a cause of continuing racial inequality. In this class we will think sociologically and historically about this dual process. Along the way we will learn about the difference between ethnic enclaves and racial segregation in the depression-era, surburbanization and the ideology of the American frontier in the postwar period, and gentrification and, ironically, the rebirth of the pioneer ethos in the postindustrial urban core. Students will gain an understanding of how the American city and race and ethnic relations are imprinted upon each other, paved and built into the real structures of everyday American life and culture.

AMER 100W: Introduction to American Studies -  "Race, Space, and Place in the American City"
Shaw, S.

This course surveys race and ethnic relations in 20th century American urban history. Race is a defining feature of the American city; our neighborhoods, suburbs, and highways take unique shape in the presence of racial inequality. Conversely, the American-built environment is itself a cause of continuing racial inequality. In this class we will think sociologically and historically about this dual process. Along the way we will learn about the difference between ethnic enclaves and racial segregation in the depression-era, surburbanization and the ideology of the American frontier in the postwar period, and gentrification and, ironically, the rebirth of the pioneer ethos in the postindustrial urban core. Students will gain an understanding of how the American city and race and ethnic relations are imprinted upon each other, paved and built into the real structures of everyday American life and culture.

AMER 100W: Introduction to American Studies - "Food for Thought: American Foodways"
Kevra, S.

This course will cover a range of topics, including accounts of New World foods, the development of regional food customs, the industrialization of food production, and instances of excess and lack of food in American history. It will be organized chronologically and include topics in literature, folklore, film, popular culture, and women's studies. As a means to understanding American identity, students will learn how food marks social, racial, and gender differences.

AMER 101: Introduction to Southern Studies - "History, Culture, and Identity in the American South"
Shaw, S.

An interdisciplinary approach to southern American culture, character, and life approached from the interrelated perspectives of history and culture (literature, music, religion, images, rituals, material culture).

AMER 201: Serving and Learning
Bandy, J.

Meanings of and motives behind community service in the United States. The process of engagement in meaningful service. Challenges in integrating service with academic coursework. A service-learning course.

AMER 240: Topics in American Studies - "Economics of Women's Work Choices"
Hersch, J.

College graduates have numerous choices over how to achieve work-life balance, including the choice to opt out of the workforce entirely for periods of time. This course examines the roles of family status, potential earnings, workplace flexibility, and family-friendly laws in influencing women’s work choices, and the consequence of choices for achieving gender workplace equity. Specific topics include evidence that women with elite education are opting out of employment; the relationships between marriage, children, and earnings; preferential hiring of elite graduates and the consequences of opting out of elite graduates for women’s professional advancement; and employment prospects of returning to the workplace after opting out.

AMER 295: Undergraduate Seminar in American Studies - "Global Warming: Science, Politics, Economy & Culture"
Nelson, D.

Wikipedia reports that “Global warming is the unequivocal and continuing rise in the average temperature of Earth's climate system." "Sorry Global Warming Alarmists, The Earth Is Cooling,” rebuts a Forbes headline. It’s the surface temperature, it’s the atmosphere, linear reactions, adjusted data. The climate is warming; the rate of warming has slowed; it’s over.
There’s a strong scientific consensus. . . or there isn’t. The issue has become deeply politicized, and the economic and social stakes are high.
 
This course will examine the science as well as cultural inputs both to the science and the popular interpretation of the science of global warming in the United States. Our goal will be to understand both the quality of the science, various popular and policy responses to the science, and the main lines of resistance to that science. We will think broadly about evidence for global warming, drawing on class research and your own independent and team research, and will narrow our focus to one or two particular policy issues toward the end of the class. As we go, we will consider carefully the art of persuasion in the light of what we learn.  
 
All viewpoints on this subject welcome in this class. Requirements will include:  reading, discussion, short independent research papers, longer research project, and team reports.

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