Fall 2018

Roosevelt Montas
Tuesday 4:10-6:00                                                                                  AMST UN 3930, Section 1

This seminar will examine foundational texts in American political and cultural history. The inherent tension between “freedom” and “citizenship” will serve as the organizing theme. The course is conceived on 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 and its place in the world.  In addition to the classroom requirements, students will serve about 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. Join waitlist and attend first class for instructor's permission. Application required due April 18. Please download and complete the application, and email it to Roosevelt Montas (rm63@columbia.edu).

Craig D. Blinderman and Robert Pollack
Thursday 4:10-6:00                                                                                  AMST UN 3930, Section 2

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 and 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. At least one prior semester of volunteer work in a clinical setting relevant to the syllabus is recommended, but not required. Application required, due April 18. Please download and complete the application, and email it to Brigid Connelly (bmc2163@columbia.edu).

Caroline Miller
Wednesday 2:10-4:00                                                                                  AMST UN 3930, Section 3

The 2018 midterm elections offer a prime opportunity to examine, in real time, the role the press plays in the American political process, and how dramatically that role has changed in the digital era. We'll look back at some classic pieces of 20th century political reporting and commentary, from Theodore White to Hunter Thompson, and compare them to coverage of what one columnist called the most important midterm elections in a century. How have social media and the explosion of hyper-partisan news sites disrupted the discourse?  And what happens to the decisions voters make when the fact base is under assault from politicians crying, “Fake news!” — not to speak of trolls creating actual fake news? Join waitlist and attend first class for instructor's permission.

Paul Grimstad
Thursday 4:10-6:00                                                                                  AMST UN 3930, Section 4

The seminar will focus on a group of American films of the 1940s and 1950s, many of them based on novels of the 1930s, in which crime, detection, and cities figure together to produce a distinctive cinema known as noir. Through discussion of cinematography, character, style, narrative form, mise en scene and music the class will consider meanings of "noir" in film and prose fiction. We will read the literary works closely and pay attention to how they are adapted for the screen. Authors include, Hammett, Chandler, Caspary, Cain, and films directed by Huston, Hawks, Welles; and "neo-noir" films by Polanski, Lynch and Coen brothers. Join waitlist and attend first class for instructor's permission.

Benjamin Rosenberg
Monday 6:10-8:00                                                                                      AMST UN 3930, Section 5

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. Join waitlist and attend first class for instructor's permission.

Luke Mayville
Wednesday 4:10-6:00                                                                                  AMST UN 3930, Section 6

The goal of this course is to enable students to think critically about 1. The American political system, and 2. The ideal of democracy. Guided by one overarching question—how democratic is the United States?—students will investigate a number of suspected shortcomings of the American system. Is the American political system sufficiently majoritarian, inclusive, and participatory? Can the various “democratic deficits” of American institutions be justified in terms of some value other than democracy? If you could redesign the American political system, what would you change? Join waitlist and attend first class for instructor's permission.

Rebecca Kobrin
Wednesday 10:10-12:00                                                                           AMHS UN4462, same as AMST 84462, Section 1

For the past century and a half, New York City has been the gateway city to millions of immigrants to the United States.  This course will compare immigrants' encounter with New York at the dawn of the twentieth century with contemporary encounters of immigrants.  How has New York been shaped by these newcomers and what  issues, organizations, and debates have shaped immigrants experiences of New York City?  As a service learning course, each student will be required to work 20-25 hours over the course of the semester at organizations such as the Riverside Language Center, Catholic Charities or St. Mary's Church.

Senior Research Projects

Casey Blake

Required for American Studies students who intend to do a senior research project in the spring. Each student will be assigned a supervisor in the fall. A full draft of the thesis will be due in December. Those drafts will be reviewed by the student's supervisor and faculty. Students will then enroll in a senior thesis seminar for the spring and turn in a final draft of the thesis in March.