Fall 2017


Casey Blake
Monday & Wednesday 4:10-5:25

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.


Andrew Delbanco
Monday 2:10-4:00

This course follows the struggle over slavery, secession, and the future of the United States through writings by observers and participants including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Walt Whitman, John C. Calhoun, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Mary Chesnut, Alexander Stephens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Abraham Lincoln.  Our aim will be to grasp something of the depth and intensity of the passions on both sides of a conflict that cost nearly one million lives while liberating some four million human beings from legal bondage. Join waitlist and attend first class for instructor's permission.

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

Hilary Hallett
Tuesday 10:10-12:00

Motion pictures have played a unique role in shaping and reflecting new ideals and images of womanhood and manhood in the modern United States. Throughout the 20th century, movies and their stars have had a complex relationship to transformations affecting the lives of Americans. This seminar examines motion pictures and movie stars as primary sources that, when juxtaposed with other kinds of historical evidence, indicate changes in the gendering of work, leisure, sexuality, family life, and politics. We will consider how the changing institutional history of American film production during the 20th century connected to the gendered images it sold. For much of the period under review, Hollywood used specific genres to target particular audiences and movies were not afforded the protection of free speech. This made films and movie stars peculiarly reflective of, and vulnerable to, the nation’s changing fantasies and fears regarding sexuality and gender roles. Join waitlist and attend first class for instructor's permission.

Roosevelt Montas
Tuesday 4:10-6:00

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.

Ross Posnock
Wednesday 2:10-4:00

This course will focus on three crucial post-war writers and thinkers of the loosely affiliated group known as New York intellectuals:  the German emigre Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin of Harlem and Paris, and Susan Sontag, the so-called “last of the NY intellectuals.” In addition, we will read an important book, Dialectic of Enlightenment, co-authored by Theodor Adorno, another German emigre living in New York in the 40s. Each of these figures possesses an audacity and fearlessness that continues to make their work vital and controversial: Arendt spoke of the “banality of evil” in her account of a Nazi official (Adolph Eichmann); Baldwin tells us that the white American majority is, actually, enslaved; Sontag renounces interpretation, calling it the “revenge of the intellect upon art”; Adorno finds the bulwark of Western liberal valueswith liberal values--the Enlightenment--as in complicity with Nazism. All of these thinkers challenge and rethink the relations among art, politics, and intellectual responsibility in a period of world war and Nazi genocide. Arendt and Adorno confront the traumatic aftershocks of the war; Baldwin confronts the enduring outrage of U.S. white supremacy; Sontag is an eyewitness and participant in the cultural ferment of the avant-garde in the post-war period. Join waitlist and 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. 

Senior Research Projects

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 a senior thesis seminar for the spring and turn in a final draft of the thesis in March.