Fall 2016

Casey Blake
Tuesday 2:10-4:00

This course is an intensive seminar on American cultural criticism since the late 19th century, with particular emphasis on debates over modernist currents in the arts from the 1910s through the 1960s. Readings will consist primarily of works by major interpreters of American culture, including John Dewey, Constance Rourke, Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, Allan Kaprow, Ralph Ellison, Paul Goodman, and Susan Sontag. Each student will write a research paper on a major critic or controversy in 20th century culture. Attend first class for instructor's permission. 

Roger Lehecka
Thursday 2:10-4:00

In this seminar we examine the roles colleges and universities play in American society; the differential access high school students have to college based on family background and income, ethnicity, and other characteristics; the causes and consequences of this differential access; and some attempts to make access more equitable. Readings and class meetings cover the following subjects historically and in the 21st century: the variety of American institutions of higher education; admission and financial aid policies at selective and less selective, private and public, colleges; affirmative action and race-conscious admissions; what “merit” means in college admissions; and the role of the high school in helping students attend college. Students in the seminar are required to spend at least four hours each week as volunteers at the Double Discovery Center (DDC) in addition to completing assigned reading, participating in seminar discussions, and completing written assignments. DDC is an on-campus program that helps New York City high school students who lack many of the resources needed to succeed in college and to be successful in gaining admission and finding financial aid. The seminar integrates students' first-hand experiences with readings and class discussions. Interview Required. Email Professor Lehecka to express interest and schedule an interview. Preference in selection will be given to students who apply by Friday, April 8.

Roosevelt Montás
Tuesday 4:10-6:00

This seminar will examine foundational texts and debates in American political and cultural history.  The inherent tension between “freedom” and “citizenship” will serve as the organizing theme. The course is conceived in the model of Contemporary Civilization (CC) and, as in that course, we will focus exclusively on primary texts, the order of readings will be roughly chronological, and the class will be discussion-driven. We will begin with readings from the Puritan settlement of New England and continue with documents surrounding the Revolution, the early Republic, the Civil War, Reconstruction, liberalism, the Civil Rights Movement, and contemporary debates about the nature of American national identity. In addition to the classroom requirements, students will serve a minimum of four hours a week at the Double Discovery Center (DDC) in connection with the Freedom and Citizenship Project, which DDC conducts in partnership with the American Studies Program. Application due April 18. Click here for application.

John McWhorter
Wednesday 12:10-2:00

The United States, often thought of as a nation where since its origins all foreign languages spoken by immigrants have withered away upon exposure to English, has actually always harbored a complex mixture of languages and dialects. This course will examine the history of language in America, including the robust role of German in colonial times and beyond (once as commonly heard in America as Spanish); creole languages such as Gullah, Louisiana Creole French and Hawaiian “Pidgin” English; Black English, including its history and present; Native American languages and modern efforts to preserve them; and the history of Asian languages in modern America, including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Hmong. The course also serves, in ancillary fashion, as an introduction to the variety among languages of the world and to a scientific perspective on human language. Attend first class for instructor's permission.

Robert Pollack
Thursday 4:10-6:00

This seminar is designed to provide opportunities for readings and reflections on the experience of volunteer service work in the At Your Service program at Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center. Students will learn how to critically reflect on their experiences at the health care center in the context of questions raised in the texts read in the seminar. Shared experiences and reflections on texts and interactions at TCC will enhance the critical reflection of all students engaged in the course. Students will experience what it means to be a long-term or short-term patient in a nursing home. Students will provide assistance and support, whether emotional or recreational, or by simply serving as the person consistently there for someone during chronic illness or at the end of their life.  At the core of this framework is the patient; however, it is important to think about the impact this will have on the student as well. Students will develop skills necessary to critically reflect on the significance of emotional care as a medical practitioner, as well as form a deeper understanding of the role of palliative care and comfort care in a life cycle of care.  Students are required to read The Anatomy of Hope by Jerome Groopman, M.D., and What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine by Danielle Ofri, M.D. Ph.D. At least one prior semester of volunteer work in a clinical setting relevant to the syllabus is recommended. Application required. Due April 18. Click here for application.

Caroline Miller
Wednesday 2:10-4:00

A presidential election offers a prime opportunity to examine the essential role a free press plays in the life of a democracy. In this seminar we will analyze coverage of the 2016 election in real time, to identify how the transformation of the news media brought about by the digital revolution has affected the political process. We'll look at how news gathering and news consumption have changed, from the heyday of the great 20th century news organizations to the triumph of Twitter. How has the rise of radically decentralized news sources altered the political discourse? What happens to the knowledge base when more and more Americans prefer their news raw rather than mediated, targeted rather than broad, partisan rather than neutral? When we trust our social networks more than professional journalists? We’ll look at what these changes mean for the body politic and the choices we make as citizens. Attend first class for instructor's permission.

Casey Blake 

Required for American studies students who intend to do a senior research project. This course is for American studies majors planning to complete senior projects in the spring. The course is designed to help students clarify their research agenda, sharpen their questions, and locate their primary and secondary sources. Through class discussions and a "workshop" peer review process, each member of the course will enter spring semester with a completed bibliography that will provide an excellent foundation for the work of actually writing the senior essay. Permission required.

Please submit a proposal for research (no more than 3pp, double-spaced) and preliminary bibliography by June 15, 2016.  

Your proposal should describe your subject, the questions you intend to pursue and the sources you believe will best serve you in answering those questions.  A faculty committee will review your proposals and make a decision about admission to the senior colloquium in the fall. Only those students who have submitted a proposal by the June 15th deadline, and who receive permission to enroll in the fall colloquium, will be allowed to write a thesis.

Please note that each student writing a thesis will be assigned a supervisor beginning in the fall, and that a full draft of the the thesis will be due by December 23, 2016.  Those drafts will be reviewed by your supervisor and faculty.  Students who have submitted a full draft will then enroll in the senior thesis seminar for the spring and turn in a final draft of the thesis by March 10, 2017.

Benjamin Rosenberg
Monday 6:10-8:00

As Tocqueville observed, “scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question.” As a consequence, the Supreme Court of the United States has been at the center of many of the most significant developments in American history.  It has played significant roles in, for example, (1) the creation of the young republic and the achievement of a balance between states and the federal government, (2) race relations including the institution of slavery, (3) the rights of workers, (4) civil rights, and (5) elections. This seminar will explore the Supreme Court’s role in American society by examining its decisions on key issues throughout its history. Attend first class for instructor's permission.