Spring 2023

LECTURE

Introduction to American Studies — Roosevelt Montås

This course is an interdisciplinary exploration of the values and cultural expressions of the people of the United States from the Puritans to our own time. Students will examine a variety of works in literature, history, cultural and social criticism, music, the visual arts and the built environment with an eye to understanding how Americans of different backgrounds, living at different times and in different locations, have understood and argued about the meaning and significance of citizenship and American national identity- Lectures and readings will give particular attention to the sites—real and imagined—where Americans have identified the promise and perils of American life, including the City on the Hill; the Plantation; the Open Road; Borderlands; and the Home- Two lectures each week and a required weekly discussion section. Required of all American Studies majors and concentrators.

 

SEMINARS

Equity and Access in Higher Education — Andrew Delbanco, Roger Lehecka
Sec. 001

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 21 st 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.

 

Museums, Memory and American Public Culture — Valerie Paley
Sec. 002

Americans are living through a boom in museum attendance and museum construction that recalls the creation of cultural institutions at the end of the 19th century- This seminar explores the transformation of cultural institutions in the United States and considers the continuing contemporary debates on the practices and public role of museums. How do museums—both large and small—serve the needs of the local communities in which they are located and the private interests of their founders? How have history museums in particular shaped debates about public memory and national heritage? In addition to exploring this historical evolution, we will examine the theory and practice of museum curation and education, with an emphasis on institutions in New York. The seminar will host conversations with speakers representing different aspects of public culture and feature a hands-on analysis with a working team of professionals engaged in a current exhibition at a local museum.

 

Race, Poverty and American Criminal Justice — Cathleen Price
Sec. 003

This course will examine the influence of race and poverty in the American system of confronting the challenge of crime. Students will explore some history, including the various purposes of having an organized criminal justice system within a community; the principles behind the manner in which crimes are defined; and the utility of punishment. Our focus will be on the social, political and economic effects of the administration of our criminal justice system, with emphatic examination of the role of conscious and unconscious racism, as well as community biases against the poor. Students will examine the larger implications for a community and culture that are presented by these pernicious features. We will reflect on the fairness of our past and present American system of confronting crime. and consider the possibilities of future reform. Readings will include historical texts, analytical reports, some biography. and a few legal materials. We will also watch documentary films which illuminate the issues and problems.

 

Tale of Two Cities: Nev York and San Francisco and Urban Identity — Lynne Breslin
Sec. 004

Using an interdisciplinary approach, this seminar will explore the formation of identity in two great American cities: New York and San Francisco in the 20th and early 21st century. We will focus on the power of the city to appropriate space to produce distinct social, political, economic and cultural landscapes- We will ask: How do we understand a city? How is the city experienced? How is the city imagined and how is that image realized in architecture, fiction, film, music and an? In considering the formation of these urban/geographical entities, infrastructures and underlying ideologies, we will examine the mechanisms of the developing collective consciousness and individual reconciliations. New York and San Francisco will be situated in the seeming contradiction of global pressures and local formations. We will identify those official and informal spaces, the spaces of consumption, production, celebration and memory. We will also analyze both the violation of and resistance to accepted spatial practices: examining crime, homelessness, and alternative lifestyles.

 

Life the End of Life — Robert Pollack, Craig Blinderman
Sec. 005

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 con-fort care in a life cycle of care.

 

Supreme Court in American History — Benjamin Rosenberg
Sec. 006

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.

 

American Cultural Criticism — Casey Blake
Sec 007

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.

 

Films of the 70's — Maura Spiegel
Sec 008

Dominated by outcasts and anti-heroes, movies of the 1 970s freshly engaged the conversation about what American society is and should be. A new generation of maverick American auteurs (including Coppola, Altman, Kubrick, Ashby, Lumet, Pakula and Scorcese) saved Hollywood from financial collapse by channeling and giving voice to the frenetic activities of the previous decade—while also speaking directly into the moment. They tackled previously taboo subjects; challenged traditional narrative expectations; revised Classic Hollywood film genres, and engaged race and gender in new ways. Originally considered a "lost generation," the filmmakers of the 1970s are now recognized as having produced a turning point in American filmmaking. Through close-readings of some of the decade's greatest works, and through readings in film, cultural and social theory, this course will examine the role of movies in American discourse. What do movies do for and to us? What does the current viewer "hear" in film from the past that wasn't heard then? Can we speak of different "styles of heroism" in film eras? Do current movies (and HBO series) pursue different strategies for engaging the present? How has the viewer changed, and how is the context of viewing different today?

 

CROSS-LISTED COURSE

Major American Authors 11: Bellow Ellison, and Roth — Ross Posnock

Three of the most brilliant and influential modernist writers of post-war America, Ralph Ellison, Saul Bellow, and Philip Roth each explode reigning conventions and stereotypes. In his landmark novel Invisible Man of 1952, Ellison moves beyond the clenched-fist rage expected of Black authors into comic-tragic explorations of Black consciousness; and in his essays exposes, as no one had before, the intricate and ironic racial dynamics that frustrate any attempt to definitively define this country of "masking jokers"; Ellison's friend Bellow fashions in Seize the Day and Herzog a pungent new language for fiction that blends the lyricism of poetic observation and the rich vernacular of Chicago and New York street life; Bellow's protégé Philip Roth deliberately shatters--with obscenity and savage witty mockery— the genteel pieties of American middle class Jews eager for acceptance while revealing the compulsions and ambitions that deform American masculinity. Goodbye, Columbus, Portnoy's Complaint, The Ghost Writer and The Human Stain make his name a synonym for the artist as outrageous transgressor.