American Studies Course List

Emily Mieras: These syllabi from recent semesters are a sample only. Instructors regularly fine-tune or update syllabi, and two instructors may take very different approaches to the same course. For accurate information about upcoming offerings of this course, please contact the department or instructor. Syllabi are the intellectual property of the instructor and may not be reproduced or used without permission of the instructor. 

FSEM 100 American Popular Culture - Film, television, the Internet, advertising, music, news media, best-selling fiction--these are only some of the forms of popular culture that we encounter every day in the United States. Far from being "just entertainment," popular culture helps shape values, ideas, and attitudes in American life. This course highlights key moments and themes in American popular culture from the 1940s to the present, including such themes as youth culture, national identity, and conceptions of gender and the family. From the Cleavers to the Cosbys, from James Dean to the Brat Pack, from '50s rock-n-roll to rap, and World War II V-Mail to Facebook, the popular culture of this era gives us insights into some of the assumptions that shape American values, policy, and social practice. Students will have an opportunity to pursue projects on topics that interest them and will learn strategies for successful and rewarding popular culture analysis. At the same time, students will hone their writing and speaking skills. This classroom setting is highly interactive, and we will work together to understand our texts and their significance for their times.

AMST 151 American Popular Culture - his course investigates the power and meaning of popular culture in American life. With the assumption that a movie/TV show/cartoon/etc. is never "just a movie/TV show/cartoon/etc." We will study how forms of popular culture such as film, television, popular fiction, shared rituals, music, comics, videos, and theme parks shape and reflect American values and ideals. Far from being neutral texts, or merely "entertainment," these cultural forms are carriers of meaning. We will look at forms of American popular culture past and present, studying how ideas about gender, race, family, and national identity emerge in these texts.

AMST 153H Gender in American History and Culture - This course is an examination of how Americans have defined, experienced, and expressed masculinity and femininity from the nineteenth century to the present.

AMST 155D Multicultural United States - This course examines the experiences of people of diverse ethnic, racial, and sexual identities in American society, past and present. Provides a standpoint for critical analysis of American ideals like the "melting pot" and the "American dream."

AMST 220 American Consumer Culture - This course is an interdisciplinary examination of consumer culture in the United States. We will think about why things have meaning in our society, what kind of world consumer culture creates, why it flourishes, and what type of belief systems consumerism embodies and encourages. Our work includes hands-on fieldwork in shopping malls and big box stores, analysis of consumer objects and images, and reading about consumer culture past and present.

AMST 290 Special Topics: Masculinity and American Film

AMST 320H American Women's History - This course studies the history of American women. Focusing primarily on the period from the nineteenth century to the present, the course stresses the variety of women's experiences, making race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality key topics. Other themes include: home and work, the female body, and women's activism.

AMST 325W Beauty and the Body in American Culture - This course studies attitudes about the body in American culture, past and present. We will look at how ideas about beauty and the body have changed over time and how those ideas intersect with forms of power in American culture, with concepts of national identity, with consumer culture, and with various identities including age, race, class, and gender. Topics may include body-building, diet and exercise trends and fads, ideal body images for women and men, cosmetic surgery, and beauty pageants.

AMST 330 Multicultural United States, Advanced Topics - This course takes a more in-depth approach to the topics introduced in AMST 155. In order to illuminate American efforts to wrestle with cultural diversity over time, students will study theories of racial and ethnic difference, sexual identity and gender since the colonial period. They will apply these critical concepts to case studies of American diversity, which may include African American, Asian American, European American, Latino/American, Native American, and gay and lesbian experiences. The course also examines the debates over academic theories of multiculturalism itself.

AMST 360B Southern Culture(s) - This course examines the cultural traditions, beliefs, and practices of the American South, past and present. Using interdisciplinary texts including literature, history, memoir, music, and film, course examines historical memory, the Southern sense of place, and the uses of culture in sustaining a collective identity. The class considers both the dominant ideologies of the region and the conflicting ideals, values, and experiences that have also shaped the Southern experience.

AMTS 390 Special Topic: American Feminism(s)