Drawing on a wide range of primary materials, and taking advantage of the ease of visiting the sites of many of the topics we study, this course offers an introduction to American Studies through an exploration of the Connecticut River Valley that stresses both the fascination of detailed local history and the economic, political, social, and cultural networks that tie this place to the world. Topics may include conflicts and accommodations between Native peoples and English settlers; changing uses of land and resources; seventeenth-century witchcraft trials; the American Revolution and Shays rebellion; religious revivalism of the Great Awakening; abolitionist and other nineteenth- century reform movements; tourism and the scenic including Thomas Cole's famous painting of the oxbow; immigration, industrialization and deindustrialization, especially in the cities of Holyoke and Springfield; educational institutions and innovations; the cold war, the reach of the "military industrial complex" into local educational institutions, and "the bunker"; the sanctuary movement; feminist and gay activism; present environmental, mass incarceration, and other social equity issues; and of course, Emily Dickinson's poetry.
Limited to 20 students per section. Admission by consent of the instructor. Fall semester. Professors Couvares and Sánchez-Eppler.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
This course will explore the imagined and conflicted experience of urban life in the United States through study of the country's first metropolis: New York. Drawing on primary materials--maps, memoirs, film, poetry, fiction, census data, the natural and the built environment--and a selection of secondary sources, we will encounter moments in the life of the city from the 17th into the 21th century.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2016-17.2016-17: Not offered
(Offered as HIST 165 [US] and AMST 165.) This course is an introduction to the history of U.S. Latinos/as, 1848 to the present. Central themes include ethnic and national identity, migration, gender, and political mobilization. Questions the course will answer include: What is ethnic identity? How does it relate to nationality? How has race historically fit into the equation? We will consider the role that imperialism has played in shaping patterns of Latino/a migration, identity and political mobilization. While the history of some groups begins with U.S. territorial conquest, for most Latinos/as migration has been central to their experiences. How has the crossing of different kinds of cultural and political frontiers changed over time? What is the difference between immigration and transnational migration? And how have different ideas of “home” and changing patterns of migration affected modes of political mobilization and ideas of citizenship? The course pays particular attention to the 1960s through the 1980s when Latinos/as mobilized in defense of their rights and against economic exploitation and undertook the “decolonization” of their communities. We will address why their struggles took the form of the right to have rights, a rejection of stereotypes, and the right to define their own identities. But what kind of narration of self did they recover? What issues divided different groups of U.S. Latinos/as (e.g., Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicanos, etc.) from one another? What commonalities have they shared? By the 1980s, ethnic-specific identities and mobilizations were increasingly subsumed under pan-Hispanic and pan-Latino/a movements. Why? What does “Latino” mean? How is it similar to or different from “Hispanic”? Is there an “American experience” that unites different U.S. Latinos/as groups and that separates them from Latin Americans? Two class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Professors del Moral and Lopez.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
Through a focus on Native American traditional lifeways and the contemporary efforts by Native Peoples to revitalize these practices, students will learn to think critically about decolonization, the complexities of contemporary tribal economies and politics, and the complex ways that indigenous peoples globally are working to create sustainable futures for their communities. These key themes will be built upon and reinforced each week as students explore multiple aspects of Native American life, including food ways and plant medicines, residential/boarding schools, traditional spiritual practices, repatriation, and protection of sacred sites and heritage landscapes.
Through a series of weekly written response papers and collaborative projects, students will consider how traditional ecological knowledge and other critical cultural information are transmitted through oral tradition and storytelling. They will also examine each topic through scholarly writing from social sciences and humanities disciplines. Students will then be asked to integrate these forms of knowledge and consider how they complement each other, how and why they might differ from one another, and how best to address situations in which these diverse forms of knowledge conflict with each other. Students will demonstrate their understanding of the course material and the integration of knowledge through a mid-term and final exam. Throughout the semester, students will also learn through hands-on community engagement, including the construction of a birch bark canoe. During the last week of class we will be putting the canoe into the river--a culmination of collaborative work and hands-on experience with revitalization of traditional knowledge and practices in a contemporary setting.
Key readings for the course include: The Island of the Anishinaabeg: Thunderers and Water Monsters in the Traditional Ojibwe Life-world by Theresa Smith, Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive: Decolonizing Botanical Anishinaabe Teachings by Wendy Makoons Geniuz, and The Common Pot by Lisa Brooks. Students will also be assigned readings from a number of scholarly journals, including Ethnohistory, Canadian Journal of Native Studies, Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Transcultural Psychiatry, and the Journal of Ethnobiology.
Omitted 2016-17.2016-17: Not offered
This course explores the social and cultural history of sports in American society, focusing on the unique histories of sports such as hunting, soccer, basketball and football and, in particular, their relation to issues of race, ethnicity, and gender. Course materials will include a range of primary and secondary materials: archival photographs, academic monographs and journal articles, documentary films, legal documents, poetry and paintings. The course is discussion-based and includes short writing assignments, collaborative work, and a final exam.
Limited to 30 students. Preference given to American Studies majors and first-year students. Spring semester. Professor Hayashi.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
This course will use selected keywords to examine how the Jewish experience has been conceived, narrated, and remembered in American society. Keywords do not present static definitions, but illuminate a shared vocabulary of meaning. Therefore, we will approach each keyword as a point of departure for examining the complexity of American Jewish experience. Course questions include: Why do the terms “mobility” and “success” continue to resonate for American Jews in the twenty-first century? What has motivated individuals to claim a “marginal” or “mainstream” status? When do members of the community act like “menschen” or “brothers” to others? To what degree does New York’s "Lower East Side" exemplify as well as simplify American Jewish experience? Students will engage with a range of materials, including fiction, memoir, film, historical documents, and photography; readings will include selections of literary criticism, ethnic and racial studies, social history, and sociology.
Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2016-17. Lecturer Bergoffen.
2016-17: Not offered
"The Embodied Self" in American Culture and Society is an interdisciplinary, historically organized study of American perceptions of and attitudes towards the human body in a variety of media, ranging from medical and legal documents to poetry and novels, the visual arts , film, and dance. Among the topics to be discussed are the physical performance of gender; the social construction of the ideal male and female body; health reform movements; athletic achievement as an instrumentalization of the body; commercialization of physical beauty in the fitness and fashion industries; eating disorders as cultural phenomena; the interminable abortion controversy; the equally interminable conflict over pornography and the limits of free speech; and adaptations to the possibility of serious illness and to the certainty of death.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professors Couvares, K. Sanchez-Eppler and Lecturer Bergoffen.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
The United States has inscribed the separation of church and state into its constitutional order, and yet Americans have for two centuries been more deeply committed to religious faith and practice than any other people in the Western world. This course endeavors to explore that paradox. Topics addressed include the changing meanings of "the city on a hill"; the varieties of millennial belief and utopian community; the relationship between religion, ethnicity, and gender; religious political activism, including abolition, prohibition, anti-war and anti-abortion movements; and the limits of religious tolerance from movements against Catholics and Mormons to recent warnings of a "clash of civilizations" with Muslim cultures.
Limited to 25 students per section. Omitted 2016-17. Professors Couvares and Sánchez-Eppler.
2016-17: Not offered
This course investigates the practice and ideal of community in America both on a national and a local level, asking students to engage in specific projects aimed at strengthening the public sphere and fostering community life. We will consider the nature and limits of democracy, the meaning of belonging, the experience of stigma and exclusion, the concepts of civic responsibility and public discourse, and the conflict and compromises inherent in political advocacy. This course will pay particular attention to the struggles of often-marginalized groups to build healthy and just communities. Coursework will include contemporary and historical case studies, literary depictions, and more theoretical readings, as well as observation of a range of community building efforts at the local level: from grassroots organizing to town government.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Mead.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
From the advertising copy and backdrop of truck ads to the democratic rhetoric of politicians, the West as a place of national mythology still permeates American culture. In this course, we will analyze the evolution of the West as a prominent site of American myth and the contemporary representations of it in literature and film, the Neo-Westerns. Students will read works by authors such as Annie Proulx, Cormac McCarthy, Sherman Alexi and Percival Everett, as well as view recent popular films by Ang Lee, Clint Eastwood, and John Sayles. The course will also include readings in history, as well as other disciplines, to contextualize the creative works and to gauge how the myth of the West compares to its reality and how truly revisionist its most current representations are.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professor Hayashi.2016-17: Not offered
In Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates says “race is the child of racism, not the father.” How might this view help reshape our understanding of race and identity? In the United States, how does racism generate the ways that we think of ourselves as white, or of color, or as individuals for whom race somehow does not matter? Is our racial identification a permanent marker, or is it a process? And how does this all manifest in our rooted and routed lives, in the ways we perform our social identities with one another and across the worlds between us? In this course we dive into theories and embodied realities of race, racism, and racializing processes that continually reshape us. We will trace some of the histories through which race became and continues to be an organizing principle of contemporary society. We will explore how race intersects with gender, class, sexuality, religious affiliation, and other similar identifiers. We will read both established and emerging scholarship to understand key terms such as decoloniality, intersectionality, ideology, hegemony, power, and discourse. Coates also reminds us that “racism is a visceral experience [and that] the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.” We will therefore strive to weave multiple disciplines to learn new understandings, through working with performances and multimedia texts, but always grounded in lived and embodied knowledges. This course provides a pathway toward advanced courses in American Studies but is open to all.
Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Instructor Kumar.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
From Longfellow's Hiawatha and D.H. Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature to Disney's Pocahontas and James Cameron's Avatar, representations of the indigenous as "Other" have greatly shaped cultural production in America as vehicles for defining the nation and the self. This interdisciplinary course introduces students to the broad field of Native American Studies, engaging a range of texts from law to policy to history and literature as well as music and aesthetics. Film and literary texts in particular will provide primary grounding for our inquiries. By keeping popular culture, representation, and the nature of historical narrative in mind, we will consider the often mutually constitutive relationship between American identity and Indian identity as we pose the following questions: How have imaginings of a national space and national culture by Americans been shaped by a history marked by conquest and reconciliation with indigenous peoples? And, how has the creation of a national American literary tradition often defined itself as both apart from and yet indebted to Native American cultural traditions? This course also considers how categories like race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion have contributed to discussions of citizenship and identity, and changed over time with particular attention to specific Native American individuals and tribal nations. Students will be able to design their own final research project that may focus on either a historically contingent or contemporary issue related to Native American people in the United States.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Vigil.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
(Offered as AMST 260 and SOCI 260.) Whereas capital, culture, and commerce flow freely in contemporary capitalism, labor does not. Walls--physical, legal and cultural--aim to keep certain people in and “others” out. In this course we explore the sociological forces behind cross-border labor flows and the parallel reality of immigrant life. We focus specifically on the experience of Latinos in the United States. We pay special attention to the linkages between the demand and supply of Latino immigrant labor, social constructions of (il)legality, and the oft-overlooked privileged lifestyles that immigration supports. While this course has a deep theoretical rooting, we use daily immigrant life as the lens through which to explore migration.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professor Schmalzbauer.2016-17: Not offered
(Offered as SOCI 265 and AMST 265.) This class explores the ways in which race, class, gender and immigration status shape children’s lives. We begin by conceptualizing childhood as a social construct whose meaning has changed over time and that varies across context; for class privileged individuals, for example, childhood or adolescence may extend into the third decade of life, whereas for “others,” poverty and/or family responsibilities and community struggles may mean it scarcely exists at all. The bulk of the course draws from ethnographic scholarship focused on the relationship between childhood and inequality in key institutional contexts including school, family and the legal system. Through ethnography, we will critically examine the ways in which inequalities among and between groups of children shape their daily life experiences, aspirations and opportunities, and what this means for overall trends of inequality in the United States.
Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Schmalzbauer.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
(Offered as ENGL 274 and AMST 274.) In 2013, Amherst College acquired one of the most comprehensive collections of Native American writing in the world–nearly 1,500 books ranging from contemporary fiction and poetry to sermons, political tracts, and tribal histories from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Through this course, we will actively engage the literature of this collection, researching Native American intellectual traditions, regional contexts, political debates, creative adaptation, and movements toward decolonization. Students will have the opportunity to make an original contribution to a digital archive and interact with visiting authors. We will begin with oral traditions and the 1772 sermon published by Mohegan author Samson Occom and end with a novel published in 2014.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professor Brooks.2016-17: Not offered
(Offered as AMST 280 and ENGL 273.) In Penobscot author Joseph Nicolar's 1893 narrative, the Corn Mother proclaims, "I am young in age and I am tender, yet my strength is great and I shall be felt all over the world, because I owe my existence to the beautiful plant of the earth." In contrast, according to one Iowa farmer, from the 2007 documentary "King Corn," "We aren't growing quality. We're growing crap." This course aims to unpack depictions like these in order to probe the ways that corn has changed in its significance within the Americas. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, students will be introduced to critical theories and methodologies from American Studies as they study corn's shifting role, across distinct times and places, as a nourishing provider, cultural transformer, commodity, icon, and symbol.
Beginning with the earliest travels of corn and her stories in the Americas, students will learn about the rich histories, traditions, narratives, and uses of "maize" from indigenous communities and nations, as well as its subsequent proliferation and adaptation throughout the world. In addition to literary and historical sources students will engage with a wide variety of texts (from material culture to popular entertainment, public policy and genetics) in order to deepen their understanding of cultural, political, environmental, and economic changes that have characterized life in the Americas.
Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professors Brooks and Vigil.2016-17: Not offered
(Offered as AMST 302 and SOCI 302.) This course is an in-depth exploration of the increasing global interconnectedness of economic, political, and social processes, what many have come to call “globalization.” We begin by developing a sociological critique of the relationship between inequality, post-World War II global capitalism, and the neoliberal ideology that underlies it. We do this through study of the major institutions and actors that endorse and perpetuate global capitalism. We then explore case studies which critically examine how contemporary globalization is playing out in daily life via experiences of labor, consumption, family and community. We dedicate the last part of the course to investigating diverse examples of grassroots resistance to the current capitalist order. As we strive to achieve a complex analysis of globalization, we will be challenged to grapple seriously with issues of power and social justice and to reflect on our own social positions within an increasingly intricate global web. In accordance, we will focus throughout the course on how intersections of race, class, gender and citizenship influence the human experience of globalization.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Schmalzbauer.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
(Offered as AMST 305 and SOCI 305.) In this course we draw from sociology, anthropology, and geography to explore the gendered dynamics and experiences of Latino migration to the United States. We begin by situating gendered patterns of migration in the context of contemporary globalization and relating them to social constructions of gender. Next we look at experiences of settlement, analyzing the role of women’s and men’s networks in the process of migration, especially in terms of employment and survival strategies. We also analyze how specific contexts of reception influence the gender experience of settlement. For example, how does migration to rural areas differ from migration to traditional urban migration hubs, and how does gender influence that difference? We then look at Latino family formation, paying special attention to the experiences of transnational mothers and fathers, those who have left children behind in their home countries in the process of migration. Finally, we explore the relationship between migration and sexuality.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Schmalzbauer.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
(Offered as AMST 311 and BLST 361 [CLA]). The course will survey nineteenth- and twentieth-century histories of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the two nations that share the island of Hispaniola. Despite the emergence of distinct national identities in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, their histories are deeply intertwined. We survey the history of Hispaniola in three moments. We begin with the Haitian Revolution. What was the legacy of the Haitian Revolution for Hispaniola in the nineteenth century? We examine the history of abolition, independence, empire, and the peasantry. Second, in the early twentieth century, the United States intervened and occupied both nations. What is the history of U.S. Empire and its military occupations and wars in Hispaniola? We focus on the rise of dictatorships and authoritarianism as a legacy of U.S. intervention. Third, working-class Haitians and Dominicans share a long history of migration to other Caribbean islands and the United States. Migration patterns were shaped by domestic economies and neoliberal policies. How have the histories of Dominican and Haitian migration to the United States developed over the twentieth century? The study of Hispaniola provides us the opportunity to explore the history of revolution, state-building, citizenship, US empire, national identities, and migration.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professor del Moral.2016-17: Not offered
Despite the dominant historical narrative of U.S. “exceptionalism,” imperial practices are at the heart of U.S. history and the formation of an American colonial state. In this course, we survey the emergence of U.S. Empire in the Pacific and Caribbean at the turn of the century (1890s-1910s). In the mid-nineteenth century, the United States was emerging as an empire, as the Spanish Empire was contracting and the British Empire was expanding. The formation of the United States as an empire, therefore, was shaped by competing international actors and great historical change. We examine the history of four turn-of-the-century U.S. territories in the Pacific and Caribbean: Hawaii, the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Class readings and lectures privilege the perspective of colonial peoples. We highlight the multiple ways colonial societies negotiated U.S. colonial practices. Colonial responses to U.S. imperialism were varied, ranging from radical nationalism, autonomism, and annexation. Throughout the course, we pay particular attention to how racial ideologies informed colonial practices.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor del Moral.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
(Offered as AMST 316 and BLST 331 [US]). Who is an “Afro-Latino”? Are they Latinos or are they Black? Afro-Latinos are African-descended peoples from Latin America and the Caribbean who reside in the United States. In this course, a focus on Afro-Latinos allows us to study the history of racial ideologies and racial formation in the Americas.
We take a multi-layered approach to the study of modern Afro-Latino history (late nineteenth century to the twentieth century). First, the history of Afro-Latinos has been shaped by the historical relationship between race and nation in Latin America. Therefore, we look closely at the varied histories of African-descended peoples in Latin American countries. Second, the historical relationship between the United States and Latin America has shaped the experience of Afro-Latinos who reside in the U.S. The long history of U.S. economic dominance and military interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean generated an equally long history of Latin American migration to the U.S. In the twentieth century black migrants came from nations that promoted myths of racial democracy to a nation that practiced racial segregation and violence. Afro-Latino migrants experienced racial segregation and violence in the U.S. in ways similar to but different than other Latinos and African Americans. Therefore, third, we examine the history of Afro-Latinos in relation to Latinos in the U.S. The history of Latinos is at the core of U.S. continental expansion, labor practices, and exclusionary citizenship. The category “Latino” has also been shaped by racial hierarchies. The relatively new category of “Afro-Latino” allows us to examine a history that has been silenced within the broader categories of “Latino” or “African American.”
In this course, we examine how Afro-Latinos maneuvered between different racial contexts in Latin American nations and the United States. It is a history that highlights the competing and conflicting racial ideologies that have shaped the Americas.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professor del Moral.
2016-17: Not offered
Migration is an experience shared by most Caribbean communities. In this course, we study Puerto Rican migration in the twentieth-century. In 1898, the United States invaded and occupied the island as part of its expansion into the Caribbean region during the Cuban War of Independence. Since then, Puerto Rico has remained a colonial territory of the United States. We will discuss the historical patterns of migration that emerged as a result of this century-long colonial relationship. Through the case study of Puerto Rican migration, we will engage broad topics, including empire, colonialism, labor radicalism, patriarchy, language, and cultural identities. The course is organized in four units.
First, we discuss the 1898 war, the U.S. occupation, and the early migration of Puerto Rican workers to Hawaii, an American territory in the Pacific. We also examine the migration of radicals and workers to the United States, a history connected to the great migration of black Caribbean radicals to the northeast. Second, the 1940s to the 1960s marks the “great migration” of industrial and agricultural workers to the United States. Some made a permanent move to the mainland, while others, like Mexican braceros, travelled for short work contracts. Third, we examine the return migration of the 1970s, which was shaped by the great cultural production and radical politics of the New York and Chicago communities. Finally, we move to the 1990s and beyond. By then, the greater Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States was firmly established in different regions of the mainland. These different communities began to receive a new generation of workers, civil servants, and professionals in numbers that rivaled the great mid-century experience. Today, more Puerto Ricans live on the mainland than the island.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professor del Moral.2016-17: Not offered
Throughout this class we will consider the "crossroads," marked by an X, as a visual and symbolic point of intersection with undefined meaning and the potential for fateful outcomes. Reading literary and historical texts students will consider how the crossroads X carries specific meanings for an Afro-Native literary tradition. We will bring Scott Lyons's theory of the X mark, as the signature Native people placed on treaties, to issues of coercion and consent in African American literature and history. Thus, this class focuses on texts that speak in a triple voice, inflected by echoes of a Native American oral tradition, flashes of African American vernacular culture, and forms and techniques adapted from various models of modern Western literature. Students will read literary works as well as primary and secondary historical sources that point to the sometimes powerful and also fraught intersections of Black and Indian histories in the United States from the nineteenth century to the decades following the Civil Rights and Black and Red Power movements. Topics of particular attention include land and politics, history and identity, and gender and sexuality. We will also focus on themes of race, place, family, and belonging. Some of the authors featured in this course are Tiya Miles, Craig Womack, Lauret Savoy, LeAnne Howe, and Michael Dorris. In addition to active participation in seminar discussions students will write a series of short papers in response to the readings and conduct short research assignments.
Spring semester. Professor Vigil.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
This course examines the exciting intersection of critical fields of inquiry, including Native American History, American History, Book History, and Literary Studies. Students will immerse themselves in materials written by Native American authors from the seventeenth century to the present by doing archival research in the Kim-Wait/Pablo Eisenberg Collection at the College. Working in small groups and individually, students will be able to practice and hone research and writing skills. In particular, students will be expected to complete a semester-long research project based on books from the collection to produce new understandings about the significance of Native authorship, publishing, and writing practices as framed by their specific historical circumstances. In addition to producing a final research paper, students will work in research groups to create entries to curate their own digital exhibition as a class. This exhibition will also be accessible to the public to showcase what the class learned about Native book history. Students will spend an additional half hour each week in a required weekly meeting in the archives.
Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professor Vigil.2016-17: Not offered
(Offered as AMST 326 and SOCI 326.) This course focuses on Latino immigrant youth and the children of Latino immigrants who are coming of age in the contemporary United States, what social scientists have termed the “new second generation.” Currently this generation is the fastest growing demographic of children under 18 years of age. The majority of youth in the “new second generation” are Latino.
Drawing on sociological and anthropological texts, fiction and memoir, we will explore the social factors, historical legacies and policies that in large part shape the lived experiences of Latino youth. We begin by laying a historical and theoretical base for the course, exploring the notions of assimilation and transnationalism. We then move into an exploration of the intersecting contexts of inequality which contextualize daily life for the new second generation. Specifically we investigate how social class, race, gender, and “illegality” intersect with generation to shape the struggles, opportunities, identities and aspirations of Latino youth.
Requisite: Previous course(s) in Sociology, Anthropology, American Studies, Black Studies or Latin American History. Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professor Schmalzbauer.
2016-17: Not offered
This course examines the construction of Asian American identity from the late 1800s to the present day by examining literary texts and legal texts and how they have shaped definitions of distinct Asian ethnicities and panethnic identities. We will explore how Asians in America have been defined in the law and literary arts and how work in these distinct spheres of American life—law and literature—have been in conversation. We will focus on such issues as immigration, citizenship, and civil rights and their relation to Asian American identity. Readings will include fiction, drama, poetry, literary criticism, legal cases, legal codes and statutes, legal studies and history, and ethnic studies. Coursework will include essays, oral presentations, and a research project.
Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Hayashi.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
(Offered as ENGL 350 and AMST 350.) [before 1800] American Origins is a course in Early American literature and history. It explores when and how this country began. We readily forget that it only became the “United States” in 1789. Before that and from early in the European conquests, it was “the (Spanish, or French, or English, or Dutch) colonies,” or “America” and thus but a part of European settlements in both the Southern and the Northern hemispheres. It was also a place known as “Turtle Island,” with indigenous trade networks that traversed the continent. It was also a foreign land to which countless African people were brought as slaves, men and women who adapted and made this land their own. These simultaneities and complexities frustrate any comprehensive narrative of the period.
This will, then, be an experiment in shaping a transnational Early American literature and history course. Our goal is to expand the geographic and temporal boundaries of the subject using archival, print, and digital sources. We hope to learn multiple ways of reading the “texts” of early America: print books, pamphlets, broadsides, petitions, manuscripts and graphic media–and innovative scholarship. These will give us some access to the many peoples reshaping what was, in fact, a very Old World.
The end goal is for students to design a syllabus that can be used in secondary schools, or for a future course at Amherst.
Open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Limited to 36 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professor Brooks and Professor Emeritus O’Connell.
2016-17: Not offered
(Offered as ENGL 458 and AMST 358.) [before 1800] This course will delve deeply into the literature of “Turtle Island,” or North America. The Quiché Maya Popol Vuh (Council Book), the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Great Law of Peace, and the Wabanaki creation cycle are rooted in longstanding, complex oral narratives of emergence and transformation, which were recorded by Native authors and scribes. Another oral narrative, the Diné (Navajo) Bahane’, was recorded and translated as recently as 1984 by a non-Diné scholar, who recognized the creation story’s literary significance as well as the tendency of anthropologists to “water down” its themes of transformation, sexuality and human fallibility. We will close read these major epics as works of “ancient American” literature, narratives of tribal history, and living political constitutions.
Reading each long text (in English translation) over several weeks, we will study the tribally and regionally-specific contexts of each epic narrative as well as the “intellectual trade routes” that link them together. We will also consider the place of these epics within American literature and history and their contributions to historical and contemporary decolonization.
Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2016-17. Professor Brooks.2016-17: Not offered
(Offered as AMST 371 and BLST 371 [C/LA].) Race and revolution are at the heart of Cuban history. As the slave-based plantation economy expanded in nineteenth-century Cuba, enslaved and free black Cubans looked to Haiti as an example of black liberation. Inspired by the Haitian Revolution, in 1812 free black José Antonio Aponte organized an island-wide rebellion to free Cuba from slavery and Spanish rule. When Cuban elites called for independence from Spain in 1868, they relied on enslaved and free blacks for military support and promised gradual abolition in return. The concept of “racelessness” in a Free Cuba powerfully shaped the national identities that emerged during the 1895 War of Independence. In 1912, black veterans organized the Partido Independiente de Color (PIC, Independent Party of People of Color) and demanded that the state recognize the equal rights of black Cubans. The government responded by accusing the PIC of launching a “race war” and massacred thousands of PIC members and other black Cubans. The abolition of racial inequality was a central goal of the 1959 Cuban Revolution. The new revolutionary state invested heavily in social policies designed to promote racial equity. In the United States, white Cuban émigrés reproduced the racial hierarchies of pre-revolutionary Cuba, while subsequent Afro-Cuban immigrants challenged racism in the diaspora. Since the Special Period of the early 1990s, economic liberalization polices have widened economic disparities on the island, threatening the revolutionary goal of equality for all Cubans.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor del Moral.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
This seminar focuses on two major events in nineteenth century American history: the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and the U.S.-inspired overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893. We examine attitudes and actions leading to these momentous events, their impact on the target populations and American society, as well as subsequent efforts to obtain apologies from the U.S. government. Amazingly, these efforts succeeded in 2011-12 and 1993, respectively. The Congress has issued apologies only five times in its entire history–the three others were for slavery, treatment of Native Americans and forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. Throughout, we analyze the memory-making involved, largely through the lens of public history venues such as museums, documentaries, historic landmarks, websites, and others. Some familiarity with Asian American history will be assumed.
Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. McCloy Visiting Professor Odo.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016
(Offered as AMST 374 and HIST 374 [US]). In the largest incidence of forced removal in American history, the U.S. incarcerated 120,000 people of Japanese descent during WWII, two-thirds of whom were American citizens. Preceded by half a century of organized racism, the attack on Pearl Harbor provided justification for imprisonment of an entire ethnic group solely on the basis of affiliation by “blood.” At the same time, Japanese Americans served in the U.S. military with extraordinary distinction, earning recognition in the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team in Europe as the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in American military history. Thousands more served in the Military Intelligence Service using their knowledge of the Japanese language as a “secret weapon” against the Japanese Empire. We will examine the historical background leading to these events and Japanese American resistance to official actions including the cases of Yasui, Hirabayashi, Korematsu, and Endo which reached the U.S. Supreme Court. We will also explore the imposition of the draft upon men behind barbed wire and those who became draft resisters. We will also trace the post-war rise of movements to gain redress, successful with President Reagan’s signing of HR 442 in 1988, and the extraordinary rise of memorials and museums commemorating incarceration and memory-making.
Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. McCloy Visiting Professor Odo.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
This course is designed to provide American Studies juniors (and others) with a methodological grounding in the discipline and an opportunity to conduct research on a topic of their own choosing. We will engage a wide range of materials and methodologies in this course in order to grasp the broad interdisciplinarity of the field of American Studies. Through short written exercises addressing a variety of documents including manuscripts, journals, census records, images and printed books, students will gauge the utility of various methodological approaches to determine which are most useful for their own independent work. The major requirement of this course is a research presentation that will be presented in a public forum at the end of the semester.
Limited to 15 students. Open to juniors and seniors as a research seminar; first- and second-year students admitted only under special circumstances. Spring semester. Professor Hayashi.2016-17: Offered in Spring 2017
Fall and spring semesters.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
A one-semester project--either a shorter essay or some other form of independent interdisciplinary research and production. The capstone project serves as the grounds for a comprehensive evaluation of each student's achievement in the major.
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017
Fall semester.2016-17: Offered in Fall 2016