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Maymester 2014

AMER 100W: Food for Thought: American Foodways

Kevra, S.

To paraphrase Brillat-Savarin, "you are what you eat." In this course, food will be the focal point of our study of America. We will examine food and eating practices in America to gain an understanding of American history and values through our complicated relationship with food. Our studies will involve not only  historical works, but literature and film, and contemporary and local issues, right here in Nashville.

The course will begin with a brief appetizer, during which we'll read what great Amerian writers have to say about their relationship to food and how it defines us as Americans. We will move on to look at the role of food in early American history, how the Americas lured Europeans, as a kind of New World paradise, one with promises of plenty, but also nightmarish visions of cannibals. Films like Chaplin's "The Gold Rush" will allow us to consider food scarcity whilst works of fiction will provide insights into food and its relationship to gender, class and race. We will also examine contemporary food challenges in the US, drawing extensively from Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Kinsolver's Animal, Miracle, Vegetable. Students will prepare a meal together made of locally available produce and we will visit a Nashville CSA. And the course will conclude with a Symposium on American Foodways, during which students will present research on a topic of their choosing.

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Fall 2014

AMER 100: American Nationalism:  Race, Ethnicity, and Citizenship

Villanueva Jr., N.

This course explores interdisciplinary literature on how nations form, how patriotism and nationalism shape national identity, and the unique identity of the United States grounded in race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and regionalism.  We will examine literature on the history of nations and nationalism in Latin America, Europe, and Asia.  However, our focus will be on the construction of nationhood in the United States through laws defining citizenship, cultural characteristics that unite and divide Americans, and the rise of multiculturalism.

AMER 100W: American Nationalism:  Race, Ethnicity, and Citizenship
Villanueva Jr., N.

This course explores interdisciplinary literature on how nations form, how patriotism and nationalism shape national identity, and the unique identity of the United States grounded in race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and regionalism.  We will examine literature on the history of nations and nationalism in Latin America, Europe, and Asia.  However, our focus will be on the construction of nationhood in the United States through laws defining citizenship, cultural characteristics that unite and divide Americans, and the rise of multiculturalism.

AMER 100W: The Harlem Renaissance
Briggs, G.

This course examines the depth and breadth of the cultural phenomenon known as the Harlem Renaissance. However, rather than view this episode as an isolated period of African-American expression, we will see how Renaissance era artistry extended an earlier "New Negro" tradition, and how it encapsulated African-American cultural responses to early twentieth-century social, political, and economic stimuli. As such, students will work toward developing strategies for positioning authors and texts within specific cultural, historical, and theoretical contexts. Within this diverse landscape we will investigate artists, essayists, poets, musicians, and novelists that include: Aaron Douglass, Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, Countee Cullen, Louis Armstrong, Claude McKay, Nella Larsen, Rudolph Fisher, Wallace Thurman and George Schuyler.

AMER 294: American Studies Workshop: What Was Privacy?
Kreyling, M.

In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), W. E. B. Du Bois predicted: "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line . . . ". This far into the twenty-first century, the problem seems to be the privacy-line. The U.S. Constitution seems to guarantee the right to privacy in the III, IV, and XIV amendments, but the III and IV were written in the 18th century, and the XIV says that the government shall not deprive its citizens of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. But what of the reasoning that, by virtue of clicking on "agree" to the "Terms and Conditions" of any social media service we voluntarily enter a public sphere in which there is no such thing as "privacy." Anyway, we can always tell ourselves we have noting to hide. The color-line weaves through legal, literary, film, and a myriad of other social and cultural discourses. The premise of this course is that the privacy-line does likewise. We will read, view, and interrogate such "texts" as: the character of the leaker (Snowden, Assange, Manning), the new media captain (Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg), legal decisions affirming the right to privacy or limiting it, presidential speeches, novels like Dave Eggers's The Circle, films like The Conversation and Her. My roots in American Studies as a field are potted in intellectual history, so reading, writing, and discussion will predominate in the seminar room and in the work you will do for the inevitable grade.

 

Spring 2014

AMER 100: Immigration and Ethnicity in North America
Villanueva, Nicholas

The immigrant experience in North America from 1776 to the present. An examination of the journeys of Irish, Jews, Asians, and Latinos, among others. Social, political, and cultural constructions of belonging, and the role of race in that process; immigration and anti-immigrant sentiment in the making of a national identity.

AMER 100: The Athlete as a National Symbol
Villanueva, Nicholas

This course explores the athlete in global context. The course will not be an exercise in sport history. Rather this course will use sport, and the many documents surrounding the games, to gain a better understanding of how athletes become a symbol of nationhood, since the civil war to today.

AMER 100W: The Athlete as a National Symbol
Villanueva, Nicholas

This course explores the athlete in global context. The course will not be an exercise in sport history. Rather this course will use sport, and the many documents surrounding the games, to gain a better understanding of how athletes become a symbol of nationhood, since the civil war to today.

AMER 100W: American Social History through Dance
Kevra, Susan

In this course, dance will be our focal point for understanding American history. Adopting a chronological approach, we will set about to answer a range of questions regarding race, gender and class. How do specific dance crazes reveal responses to political and cultural events and anxieties? For example, why was the waltz considered a dance so dangerous it inspired protest and outrage and hundreds of anti-dance pamphlets? Why were months long dance marathons all the rage during the Depression? In what ways have African dance movements found a permanent place in American dance? To fully understand the changes in dance, six dance workshops will take place during the semester which students must attend. Most will occur during class time.

AMER 201: Service and Learning

AMER 201 is a service-learning course for students who wish to take a hard and deep look at the meanings and motives behind community service, how to engage in meaningful service, and the challenges of integrating service with academic coursework.  The course will be structured around a series of questions:  What is service? Why serve? How does one serve? Does service make a difference? Does service enhance learning? Who benefits from the serving and learning? The objective of the course is to have students ask these questions, apply them to their own interests in service, and place those interests within the larger context of academic scholarship and research on community service.

AMER 295: Water Rights and Wrongs
Tichi, Cecelia

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).

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 to spend one semester engaging the complex topic of water, a journey in which each student will do individual research spanning art, geography, hydrology and popular culture.

AMER 297: Senior Project
Beasley, Vanessa

Every year, American Studies seniors do a collaborative capstone project for the major. This project is not simply a senior thesis, but instead a chance to work together as we seek to understand and imagine addressing a contemporary social problem. Students work together to create a final project, which combines a written document with some other artifact or experience, such as an online museum exhibit, a grant proposal, a documentary film, etc. Students are required to go public with their research by presenting it to other students, faculty, and the wider community.

AMER 300: American Tragedy (in Theory)
Fay, Jennifer

This course concerns the unlikely intersection of American Studies, a resolutely modern and geographically located field of study, and tragedy, an ancient dramatic genre often viewed as incompatible with the modern world. By some accounts, tragedy is the ethical violence that befalls kings, queens, and their progeny in trials of sovereign power, and thus the United States' "exceptional" democratic status may render a distinctly "American" tragedy both temporally and temperamentally impossible. With these challenges in mind, this seminar will trace the status of American exceptionalism within the institutional lifespan of American Studies (from its Cold War beginnings to our post-Americanist third wave), while exploring the efficacy of a theoretical and affective vocabulary rooted in the history of tragedy. Is America the exception to European tragedy? Is America the tragic exception to the promises of democracy?

Tragedy raises interesting questions about feeling and identity, especially in the context of our neo-liberal age. Is the tragic affect available to the common person, and can it be ordinary? What narratives are available when tragedy is not a catastrophic event but an on-going state of affairs? How does the tragic narrative—of Oedipus and Antigone, for example—reflect gendered experience, and of what use are these narratives for us today? Is there a distinctly feminist tragedy? How might tragedy offer a useful paradigm as distinct from melodrama and trauma? Alongside literary and cinematic works that begin to address these questions, we will likely read from a range of philosophically-inflected meditations on tragedy, from Plato and Aristotle, to Nietzsche, Freud, Benjamin, Butler, Berlant and Žižek. As we may discover, "tragedy" and "American Studies" are sufficiently hard to define that they may exist, in the most prosaic sense, only "in theory."

 

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