AMST - American Studies

AMST 101 Introduction to American Studies

An interdisciplinary examination of some of the varieties of American experience, aimed at developing a functional vocabulary for further work in American Studies or related fields. After a brief review of American history, the course will direct its focus toward important moments in that history, investigating each of them in relation to selected cultural, historical, artistic, and political events, figures, institutions, and texts. Course topics include ethnic and gender studies, consumption and popular culture, urban and suburban life, and contemporary American literature.

Instructor

Fisher

Prerequisites

This course is required of American Studies majors and should be completed before the end of the junior year.

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Fall

Degree Requirements

HS

AMST 120 Sport and Society

Commonplace understandings of sport tend to assign either an entertainment or recreational value to participation and attention paid to such activities. A closer look at competitive athletics reveals that its meaning and significance stretch far beyond entertainment and recreation. Sport studies tell us about ourselves and our society, as sport's impact extends to the business world, to community building and child socialization, to race, gender, and sexual politics. This course introduces the academic study of sport, touching on a wide range of topics primarily through a sociological lens. Students are encouraged to think critically about their own experiences and to follow current events and pop cultural debates about sports, in order to apply methods and theory from the readings to their everyday sports lives.

Instructor

Jeffries

Prerequisites

None

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Not Offered

Degree Requirements

SBA

AMST 151 The Asian American Experience

An interdisciplinary introduction to the study of Asian Americans, the fastest-growing ethnic group in North America. Critical examination of different stages of their experience from "coolie labor" and the "yellow peril" to the "model minority" and struggles for identity; roots of Asian stereotypes; myth and reality of Asian women; prejudice against, among, and by Asians; and Asian contributions to a more pluralistic, tolerant, and just American society. Readings, films, lectures, and discussions.

Instructor

Lee (English)

Prerequisites

None

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Fall

Degree Requirements

REP, HS

AMST 152 Race, Ethnicity, and Politics in America

The  politics of race and ethnicity in America are constantly shifting, due to demographic, political, and economic transformations. However, fundamental questions about the nature of racial and ethnic divisions in America help frame the investigation of race and ethnicity across historical contexts. Some of the questions that will guide our discussions are: Are racial and ethnic hierarchies built into American political life? Are episodes and regimes of racial injustice the result of economic structure or a shameful absence of political will? How do gender and class influence our understandings of racial and ethnic categorization and inequality? To what extent is racial and ethnic identification a matter of personal choice?

Instructor

Jeffries

Prerequisites

None

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Not Offered

Degree Requirements

SBA

AMST 211 Contemporary Asian American Immigration and Food

Chinese explorers traveled to North America before Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean. American merchants traded in Japan and China before the American Civil War. South Asians, Koreans, and Filipinos created their own immigrant communities in the US before World War I. Yet many scholars of Asian American studies simply focus on Asian American immigration after World War II. More dangerously, they present Asian American immigration as exceptional and fail to compare the American immigrant experience to immigration in South America, Europe, and Africa. This class uses food to compare Asian immigration experiences in different times and continents. We will use the adaptation of recipes and culinary techniques by Asian immigrants in different parts of the world to place the Asian immigrant experience in the context of historical global economics, nineteenth-century empire, world politics, and the transnational modern world.

Instructor

Orquiza

Prerequisites

None

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Spring

Degree Requirements

SBA

AMST 212 Korean American Literature and Culture

What is Korean American Literature and what is the justification for setting it apart from the rest of Asian American literature? The course approaches this question by taking up a range of fictional and dramatic writings, almost all of which were turned out between 1995 and 2012. Many writings not on the syllabus will also be introduced, in order to convey a broader picture. Films on Korean Americans help us look beyond literature per se to a wider cultural perspective. As the semester evolves we will continue to keep an eye on the range of styles, issues, and silences that characterize this field. We will also consider how Korean American literature relates to other literary traditions, such as modern Korean literature and Asian American literature. Finally, we will take up the problem of language: the ways in which English is used to evoke a specifically Korean American idiom and the contrary process through which certain Korean American works reach beyond the “ethnic” designation and into the mainstream. By the end of the semester we will have assembled some tools for deciding whether a piece of literature qualifies as “Korean American.”

Instructor

Widmer (East Asian Languages and Cultures)

Prerequisites

None

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Spring

Degree Requirements

LL

AMST 220 Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan

In what is often called American cinema’s “golden age”, the late 1960s through the 1970s, commercialism and creativity joined forces to produce artistically innovative, socially engaged works that revitalized Hollywood. We’ll study films that interpreted the decades’ contested topical issues (the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, feminism, Watergate, LGBT liberation) by considering the aesthetic trends, cultural influences, economic factors, and industrial and technological determinants that combined to make possible this period’s vital filmmaking. Screenings will likely include All the President’s Men, Annie Hall, Bonnie & Clyde, The Conversation, Girlfriends, Killer of Sheep, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Midnight Cowboy, Shampoo, and Taxi Driver.

Instructor

San Fillipo

Prerequisites

None

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Not Offered

Degree Requirements

ARS

AMST 230 Through the Transatlantic Mirror: French-American Encounters from the Age of Revolution to the Age of Disney

France and the United States have fascinated each other throughout their history, beginning with the founding of the American republic. Americans from the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries viewed France, and Paris in particular, as a beacon of art, culture, literature, and philosophy. For some, especially African Americans, Paris offered a refuge from discrimination back home. Although the French initially perceived the United States as a rustic backwater, by the dawn of the twentieth century it had emerged as a symbol of the future and as the vehicle of a worldwide mass culture epitomized by Hollywood, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Disney. This course traces the evolving relationship between France and the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Drawing on a variety of historical and literary documents, among them novels and essays as well as films, we will investigate the ways in which each country served as a mirror for the other's culture and experience.

Instructor

Datta (French)

Prerequisites

None

Cross Listed Courses

FREN 230

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Spring

Degree Requirements

LL, HS

AMST 240 The Rise of an American Empire: Wealth and Conflict in the Gilded Age

An interdisciplinary exploration of the so-called Gilded Age and the Progressive era in the United States between the Civil War and World War I, emphasizing both the conflicts and achievements of the period. Topics will include Reconstruction and African American experience in the South; technological development and industrial expansion; the exploitation of the West and resistance by Native Americans and Latinos; feminism, "New Women," and divorce; tycoons, workers, and the rich-poor divide; immigration from Europe, Asia, and new American overseas possessions; as well as a vibrant period of American art, architecture, literature, music, and material culture, to be studied by means of the rich cultural resources of the Boston area.

Instructor

Fisher

Prerequisites

None

Cross Listed Courses

ENG 266-01-S

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Spring

Degree Requirements

LL, HS

AMST 241 A Nation in Therapy

What is therapy? Although historically tied to the values and goals of medicine, the roles that therapy and therapeutic culture play in defining life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are now ubiquitous. The impact of therapeutic culture on every major social institution, including the family, education, and the law, has created a steady stream of controversy about the ways in which Americans in particular make judgements about right and wrong, about others, and about themselves. Are Americans obsessed with their well being? Is there a type of humor specific to therapeutic culture? This course provides a broad survey of the triumph of the therapeutic and the insights into the character and culture that triumph reveals.

Instructor

Imber (Sociology)

Prerequisites

None

Cross Listed Courses

SOC 241

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Spring

Degree Requirements

SBA

AMST 249 Celebrity, Fame, and Fortune

A critical examination of the concept of status in sociological and social-scientific thinking. Focus on the historical rise of fame and its transformation into celebrity in the modern era. The relationship of status and violence. The meaning of sudden changes in good and bad fortune as attributes of status, including contemporary examples such as lottery winners, disgraced politicians, and media-driven attention to the powerful and pathetic. Fame and celebrity among women and minorities. The psychopathologies of leadership and conformity in political, religious, and educational institutions.

Prerequisites

One 100-level unit or permission of the instructor.

Cross Listed Courses

SOC 249

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Not Offered

Degree Requirements

SBA

AMST 269 Asian American Literature

A survey course of the history of Asian American writing. Beginning with the 1920s novella And China Has Hands, by the Marxist writer H.T. Tsiang, we look at fiction by early Asian American writers. Next, we examine Asian American writing from the World War II period; we end by considering some of the literature that emerged from the Asian American identity movement, and more recent works that seem less preoccupied with questions of identity. How did these writers understand history? How important is the idea of the nation? Is there a movement toward a global perspective? Attention is given to writers' formal choices as well. Why, for example, is the interlinked short-story collection such a common form? Why is it so rare to find continuous, lengthy narratives?

Prerequisites

None

Cross Listed Courses

ENG 269

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Not Offered

Degree Requirements

LL

AMST 274 Rainbow Cowboys (and Girls): Gender, Race, Class, and Sexuality in Westerns

Westerns, a complex category that includes not only films but also novels, photographs, paintings, and many forms of popular culture, have articulated crucial mythologies of American culture from the nineteenth century to the present. From Theodore Roosevelt to the Lone Ranger, myths of the trans-Mississippi West have asserted iconic definitions of American masculinity and rugged individualism. Yet as a flexible, ever-changing genre, Westerns have challenged, revised, and subverted American concepts of gender and sexuality. Westerns have also struggled to explain a dynamic and conflictive "borderlands" among Native Americans, Anglos, Latinos, Blacks, and Asians. This team-taught, interdisciplinary course will investigate Westerns in multiple forms, studying their representations of the diverse spaces and places of the American West and its rich, complicated, and debated history.

Instructor

Creef (Women's and Gender Studies), Fisher

Prerequisites

None

Cross Listed Courses

WGST 274

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Fall

Degree Requirements

LL, ARS

AMST 286 Radical Voyagers: Queer Literature in an American and Global Context

This course will explore the development of American and transnational LGBTQ literature from the nineteenth century to the present in the context of U.S. and global transformations of society, politics, and consciousness. The course will introduce elements of "queer theory" and gender theory; it will address historical and present-day constructions of sexuality primarily through works of poetry, autobiography, and fiction. Readings will include such writers as Walt Whitman, Henry James, Willa Cather, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Leslie Feinberg.

Instructor

Fisher

Prerequisites

None

Cross Listed Courses

ENG 286

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Spring

Degree Requirements

LL

AMST 290 LBGT Liberation and American Popular Culture

Beginning with the 1960s-1970s Stonewall-era liberation movement and continuing to the present, this course explores the diversity and intensity of approaches that LGBT artists and authors have used to represent themselves, the movement for LGBT civil rights, and the issues and experiences of gender and sexual nonconformity. Topics to be addressed include LGBT activism in/as art, documenting personal and community histories, appropriating and revising mainstream images, queer aesthetics/sensibilities, and intersections with race, class, and national identity.

Instructor

San Filippo

Prerequisites

None

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Summer II

Degree Requirements

ARS

AMST 315 Beats, Rhymes, and Life: Hip-Hop Studies

This course offers an intensive exploration of hip-hop studies where students learn about the history of hip-hop as a social movement and art form composed of the following four elements: DJing, MCing, break dancing, and graffiti art. Once a common understanding of hip-hop's genesis and history is established, attention is turned to how hip-hop is studied in the academy. This section of the course features a wide range of interdisciplinary studies of hip-hop music and culture in order to demonstrate the different methodological and theoretical frames used in hip-hop scholarship. In the final section of the course, we focus on hip-hop-related debates and discussions in popular culture, such as racial authenticity, global consumption of hip-hop, sampling and musical technologies, and sexism and gender scripts within hip-hop culture.

Instructor

Blanton

Prerequisites

Permission of the instructor. Preference given to American Studies majors and juniors and seniors.

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Fall

Degree Requirements

SBA

AMST 317 Seminar. Advanced Topics in American Studies

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Not Offered

Degree Requirements

SBA, HS

AMST 318 Seminar. Interning the "Enemy Race": Japanese Americans in World War II

A close examination of the rationale by the U.S. government for the incarceration of American citizens of Japanese ancestry, and Japanese nationals living in the United States and Latin America, after Japan's attack in December 1941 of Pearl Harbor. The course also examines the dynamics of overwhelming popular support for the incarceration, as well as the aftermath of the internment. The topics include Japan's rise as a colonial power, starting in the late nineteenth century; the place of Asian migrant workers and the "yellow peril"; life in the camps; the formation of the Japanese American Citizens League; the valor of the Japanese American soldiers in Europe during World War II; how the United States has since responded to its "enemies," especially after 9/11; changing immigration laws; race and politics in America.

Instructor

Kodera

Prerequisites

Permission of the instructor. Enrollment is limited and preference is given to American Studies majors and Asian American Studies minors.

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Fall

Degree Requirements

SBA, HS

AMST 320 Seminar. Blackness in the American Literary Imagination

An examination of how blackness has been represented in the American and Caribbean imagination and how it shaped some of the seminal texts in American and Caribbean literature. Implicitly, the course will also examine the obverse of the question posed by Toni Morrison: "What parts do the invention and development of whiteness play in the construction of what is loosely described as 'American' literature?"

Instructor

Cudjoe (Africana Studies)

Prerequisites

Permission of the instructor.

Cross Listed Courses

AFR 320

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Not Offered

Degree Requirements

LL

AMST 321 The United States and the Philippines, 1898-1946

From 1898 to 1946, Americans ruled the Philippines. They made English the official language, transformed the land for mining and industrial agriculture, and killed 2 million Filipinos—or one-fourth of the population—to subdue rebellion. But amid wanton destruction, Americans modernized sanitation, created free public schools, and built an infrastructure connecting the archipelago to foreign markets. This course explores the complicated and contradictory Philippine-American relationship. Some of the themes we will examine are differences in Filipino society and culture under American and Spanish rule; the application of Progressive and New Deal policies by Americans in the imperial context; the construction of racial differences by American ethnologists and anthropologists among the Filipino population; and the consolidation of power by the minority Filipino oligarchy.

Instructor

Orquiza

Prerequisites

Permission of the instructor required.

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Fall

Degree Requirements

HS

AMST 340 Seminar. Disneyland and American Culture

One of the most-visited tourist attractions in the world, subject of thousands of books and articles, adored by millions, yet reviled by many intellectuals, Disneyland has occupied a prominent place in American culture since it opened in 1955. This seminar will examine Disneyland as an expression of middle-class American values, as a locus of corporatism and consumerism, as a postmodern venue, as a utopia, and as an influence upon architecture and urban design. In a broader sense, we will use Disney to explore the ideals, the desires, and the anxieties that have shaped post-World War II American culture.

Instructor

Bedell (Art)

Prerequisites

AMST 101 or ARTH 101 and a 200-level course in American or modern culture (history, art, literature, economics, etc). Permission of the instructor required.

Cross Listed Courses

ARTH 340

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Not Offered

Degree Requirements

ARS, HS

AMST 342 Sexualities in Whitman's America

Along with the social revolutions of the 1970s, the most dramatic transformation of gender and sexual roles in the United States took place between the 1860s and the 1920s, when urbanization, women's activism, and emerging homosexual subculture radically altered American society. Literature imagined, enacted, and recorded such changes, and, with Walt Whitman as a bold early voice for sexual liberation, feminist and queer writers such as Emma Goldman, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, Willa Cather, and Langston Hughes paved the way for sexual modernity. This advanced course will provide students with feminist and queer theory and social history in order to pursue in-depth interpretations of key literary figures and to document American contributions to the wider international transformation of gender and sexual roles during this period.

Instructor

Fisher

Prerequisites

Permission of the instructor required. AMST 101, or at least one 200-level course in American studies or English.

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Not Offered

Degree Requirements

LL

AMST 344 Greed in America

A sociologically grounded examination of acquisitiveness in American society, examining the history of social thought on the "sin" of avarice and the "virtues" of thrift and self-control, as a backdrop for understanding the ongoing tension between morality and acquisition of material wealth in the United States from its earliest history to the present. Focus on the moral critique of greed; the representation of greed in popular culture; and the cultural contradictions of American capitalist society in which the profit motive competes with values and norms of restraint and temperance. Students will read classical and contemporary theoretical social science texts—Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Max Weber, Thorstein Veblen, R.H. Tawney—and apply the insights to the interpretation of acquisitiveness in American life, past and present. Special attention will be given to the examination of the critique of greed and the mobilization of class resentment in the 2012 presidential campaign and in the Occupy Wall Street movement. 

Instructor

Cushman (Sociology)

Prerequisites

Open to juniors and seniors only. Permission of the instructor required. Enrollment is limited and preference is given to American Studies and Sociology majors.

Cross Listed Courses

SOC 344

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Not Offered

Degree Requirements

SBA, HS

AMST 348 Conservatism in America

An examination of conservative movements and ideas in terms of class, gender, and race. Historical survey and social analysis of such major conservative movements and ideas as paleoconservatism, neoconservatism, and compassionate conservatism. The emergence of conservative stances among women, minorities, and media figures. The conservative critique of American life and its shaping of contemporary national discourse on morality, politics, and culture.

Instructor

Imber (Sociology)

Prerequisites

A 100-level sociology course or permission of the instructor. Open to juniors and seniors only.

Cross Listed Courses

SOC 348

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Spring

Degree Requirements

SBA

AMST 350 Research or Individual Study

Prerequisites

Open by the permission of the director to juniors and seniors.

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Fall, Spring

Degree Requirements

None

AMST 360 Senior Thesis Research

Prerequisites

Permission of the director.

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Fall, Spring

Degree Requirements

None

AMST 363-01-F Advanced Studies in American Literature

Topic for 2013-14: Visions of the American City

This course examines how American cities have been represented in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, film, television, and photography. We'll examine how descriptions of the city's public spaces and private enclosures—its crowds, streets, shops, apartments, and grand buildings—return us to crucial questions of perspective, identity, and ownership. Our literary readings include works by Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Edith Wharton, Ralph Ellison, Ann Petry, Langston Hughes, Anna Deveare Smith, Dinaw Mengestu, Edward P. Jones, and Colum McCann. We'll look at urban photography by Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine, Arnold Genthe, Berenice Abbott, Helen Levitt, Bruce Davidson, and others, and we'll consider how the city is represented in two urban television dramas: The Wire and Treme. Assignments include critical writing and a project in creative nonfiction or photojournalism.

Instructor

Brogan (English)

Prerequisites

Open to juniors and seniors who have taken two literature courses in the department, at least one of which must be 200 level, or by permission of the instructor to other qualified students.

Cross Listed Courses

ENG 363-01-F

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Fall

Degree Requirements

LL

AMST 364-01-S Race and Ethnicity in Literature

Topic for 2013-14: Twenty-First Century American Literature of Immigration and Diaspora

This course explores the exciting new literature produced by writers transplanted to the United States. We'll consider how the perspectives of recent immigrants redefine what is American by sustaining linkages across national borders, and we'll examine issues of hybrid identity and multiple allegiances, collective memory, traumatic history, nation, home and homeland, and globalization. Our course materials include novels, essays, and films. We'll be looking at writers in the United States with cultural connections to Egypt, Nigeria, Dominican Republic, India, Greece, Vietnam, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Korea, and Mexico. Some authors to be included: André Aciman, Teju Cole, Junot Díaz, Kiran Desai, Lê Thi Diem Thúy, Jeffrey Eugenides, Aleksandar Hemon, Dinaw Mengestu, and Téa Obreht.

Instructor

Brogan (English)

Prerequisites

Open to juniors and seniors who have taken two literature courses in the department, at least one of which must be 200 level, or by permission of the instructor to other qualified students.

Cross Listed Courses

ENG 364-01-S

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Spring

Degree Requirements

LL

AMST 370 Senior Thesis

Prerequisites

AMST 360 and permission of the department.

Unit(s)

1.0

Semesters Offered

Fall, Spring

Degree Requirements

None
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