Fall 2020

Lecture Course


Casey N. Blake

Monday and Wednesday, 4:10-5:25 (REMOTE)

This course examines major themes in U.S. intellectual history since the Civil War. Among other topics, we will examine the public role of intellectuals; the modern liberal-progressive tradition and its radical and conservative critics; the uneasy status of religion in a secular culture; cultural radicalism and feminism; critiques of corporate capitalism and consumer culture; the response of intellectuals to hot and cold wars, the Great Depression, and the upheavals of the 1960s. Required of all American Studies majors and concentrators. **Freedom & Citizenship in the United States may be substituted.**



Benjamin Rosenberg

Monday, 6:10-8:00 (REMOTE)

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. No preregistration, join waitlist.


James Shapiro

Tuesday, 10:10-12:00 (REMOTE)

The course explores the place of Shakespeare in American literary and political culture from the Revolution to the present. We will explore the ways in which American poets, novelists, presidents, essayists, polemicists, and humorists over the past two hundred years have turned to Shakespeare, time and again, in addressing such divisive issues as race, immigration, gender, and national identity. In this sense, the complex story of Shakespeare in America offers an alternative version of our nation’s past. Readings include works by Washington Irving, John Adams, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Mary Preston, Walt Whitman, Jane Addams, Henry James, Isaac Asimov, Mary McCarthy, and Adrienne Rich. Familiarity with Shakespeare’s major plays is expected. 


Caroline Miller

Wednesday, 12:10-2:00 (REMOTE)

The 2020 presidential election offers 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 the current battle for the presidency. How have the death of newspapers, the rise of social media and the explosion of hyper-partisan news sources disrupted the discourse? And what happens to the decisions voters make when the fact base is under assault and journalists are branded enemies of the people? No preregistration, join waitlist.


Richard R. John and Matt Stoller

Monday, 4:10-6:00 (REMOTE)

Google. Billionaires. Inequality. Slavery. All men are created equal. This seminar will examine the evolving meaning, character, and significance of inequality in the United States from the Enlightenment to the present. For social theorists as diverse as Alexis de Tocqueville and Hannah Arendt, the equality of social conditions was a defining American trait. Yet slavery was not abolished until the Civil War, and the distribution of wealth is today is highly skewed. Our organizing theme is the relationship between “inequality” and “justice.” The course is conceived on the model of Contemporary Civilization (CC)—that is, we will focus exclusively on primary texts, the order of readings will be roughly chronological, and the class will be discussion-driven. Among the topics we will consider will be slavery, universal male suffrage, women’s rights, antimonopoly, and neoliberalism.  Authors include Paine, Tocqueville, George, Du Bois, Brandeis, Arendt, MacKinnon, Piketty, and Stiglitz. Attention will be paid to the role of inequality as a public issue in the 2020 presidential election. No preregistration, join waitlist.


Hilary Hallett

Wednesday, 10:10-12:00 (REMOTE)

This seminar explores the history of American gender through the history of the American film industry from the first features in the 1910s through the crumbling of the Hollywood Studio System and Production Code in 1968.  The industry’s movies and stars offer important sites to examine transformations associated with the development of modern sex roles and racial attitudes over the half-century comprising Hollywood’s Studio Era.  During this period, much of the controversy sparked by the industry stemmed from its depictions of new ideals of womanhood, manhood, and sexuality.  Moreover, in this era, Hollywood targeted specific audiences and movies were not afforded the protection of free speech. This made films and movie stars peculiarly reflective of, and vulnerable to, broader societal fantasies and fears about changes involving gender roles, sexuality, and racial attitudes. We will use motion pictures and movie stars as primary sources and consider how the changing institutional history of film production connected to the images it sold.  Students will write one short paper and a paper proposal in preparation for a short research-based essay on a topic relating to how some aspect of film history reflected a particular problem in gender history. No preregistration, join waitlist.


Casey N. 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 the senior thesis seminar for the spring and submit a final draft of the thesis in March.