Fall 2024


Prof. Casey Blake

AMST 3931UN Sec.002 - Mondays 2:10 – 4:00 pm 

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.


Prof. Jeremy Dauber 

AMST 3931UN Sec.001 - Tuesdays 12:10 – 2:00 pm 

In examining the work of some of the greatest Jewish writers to live in America in multiple genres – writers in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish, some well known, some less so – this course hopes to answer several related questions. How are the changing fortunes of American Jews reflected in their literary creativity? How does Jewish multilingualism – not only seen in different works, but within the same work – affect modes and styles of Jewish writing? And, perhaps most importantly, how does one define American Jewish writing in an age of increasingly complex affiliations and identifications among American Jews?


Prof. Roosevelt Montás

AMST 3931UN Sec.004 - Tuesdays 2:10-4:00 pm  

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 with the Freedom and Citizenship Program, a high school humanities program run by the Center for American Studies.


Prof. Hilary Hallett

AMST 3931UN Sec.005 - Tuesdays 4:10-6:00 pm 

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. 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. 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. 


Prof. Caroline Miller

AMST 3937UN Sec.001 - Wednesdays 2:10 – 4:00 pm 

The 2024 midterm elections offer a prime opportunity to examine, in real time, the critical role the press plays in the American political process, and how that role has been disrupted in the digital era. We'll look back at some classic pieces of 20th century political journalism, from Theodore White to Hunter Thompson, and compare them to coverage of the 2024 campaign. How have social media and hyper-partisan news sites changed the discourse? Who’s covering groups underrepresented (or misrepresented) in legacy media? And what happens to the decisions voters make when disinformation is exploding and the fact base is under assault? 


Prof. James Shapiro

AMST 3930UN Sec.001 - Tuesdays 10:10 – 12:00 pm

This 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. 


Prof. Benjamin Rosenberg

AMST 3930UN Sec.002 - Mondays 6:10 – 8:00 pm

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, (l ) 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.


Prof. Mark Lilla

AMST 3931UN Sec.006 - Thursdays 10:10 – 12:00 pm

Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is considered a classic study on the United States. But more fundamentally it is an analysis of the democratic human type (l’homme démocratique) with his or her distinctive passions, fears, aspirations, prejudices, and self-image. In this seminar we will focus on Tocqueville’s psychology and the light it might shed on American culture.