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American Studies



114, 214 Race, Empire, and Transnationalism: Chinese Diasporic Communities in the U.S. and the World

(Offered as HIST 114 [AS/US/TR/C], AMST 114 and ASLC 114) How does a study of the Chinese diasporic communities in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, the United States, and other parts of the world help us understand the questions of ethnic identity formation, construction, and negotiation? More specifically, how does the study of their history and experiences force us to rethink the concepts of “China” and “Chinese-ness”? How did scholars, officials, and travelers construct the categories of “China” and being “Chinese”? These are the main questions that we seek to answer in this introductory course to the history of the Chinese diaspora. We will begin by looking into the early history of Chinese migration (circa 1500 to 1800) to particular geographical areas in the world, including the United States. The rest of the course will look into the history of selected diasporic communities from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. All throughout the course we will also examine how these diasporic people and their families manipulated and continue to manipulate attempts by dominant groups to control their identities, bodies, and resources, and how their lives challenge the meanings of “China” and “Chinese-ness.” Other questions to be discussed during the course are: What caused people from China to move, and to where? What forms of discrimination and control did they experience? How do their experiences and histories deepen our understanding of “race,” “empire,” and “transnationalism”? Themes to be discussed throughout the course include imperialism, colonialism, race, ethnicity, gender, nationalism, transnationalism, orientalism, hegemony, and globalization. Two class meetings per week.

Fall semester.  Five College Associate Professor Chu.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2022

115, 215 "The Embodied Self" in American Culture and Society

(Offered as AMST 115 and SOCI 215) The course 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 18 students per section. Spring semester. Professor Couvares and Senior Lecturer Bergoffen.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

120, 220 Reading, Writing, and Teaching

(Writing Intensive) (Offered as ENGL 120, AMST 120 and EDST 120) ​​This course considers from many perspectives what it means to read and write and learn and teach both for ourselves and for others. As part of the work of this course, in addition to the usual class hours, students will serve as weekly tutors and classroom assistants in adult basic education centers in nearby towns. Thus, this course consciously engages with the obstacles to and the power of education through course readings, through self-reflexive writing about our own varied educational experiences, and through weekly work in the community. As an Intensive Writing course, this class further supports students as they hone deep reading strategies and multi-step writing processes themselves.

Although this course presses participants to reflect a great deal about teaching, this course does not teach how to teach. Instead it offers an exploration of the contexts and processes of education, and of the politics and desires that suffuse learning. Course readings range across literary genres (ex: essays, poems, autobiographies, and novels) in which education and teaching figure centrally, as well as readings from other disciplines, which may include ethnography, sociology, psychology, and philosophy. As part of the work of Intensive Writing, students will examine not only the content of these readings but also how they are constructed. Specifically, they will study rhetorical features (ex: audience awareness and genre expectations), as well as the structures of argument and analysis, with an eye on developing reading and writing skills they can use in other courses across the College.

Ultimately, students will come together as a community of writers who support one another as they reflect on their experiences as tutors and develop their own academic writing voices.

Preference given to first-year Amherst College students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students. Lecturer Reardon.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

130 Transnational American Studies

(Offered as AMST 130 and BLST 130) The hustle and flow of bodies, ideas, inequalities and solidarities is core to our increasingly globalized world. This course offers an introduction to the Americas as a transnational space. We will explore the interplay of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and nationality from interdisciplinary perspectives. We will draw examples from the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Students will learn through a variety of methods including textual analysis, feminist ethnography, archival research, and cultural studies. We will also examine multiple approaches to American Studies such as critical race and ethnic studies, feminist and queer studies, indigenous studies, as well as theories of decolonization and settler colonialism. We will grapple with the complexities of identity and difference, immigration and border control, slavery, colonization, and empire.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2022-23. Post-Doctoral Fellow Jolly and Professor Schmalzbauer.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Fall 2023

180, 211 Contemporary Native American Art

(Offered as ARHA 180 and AMST 211) This course will examine works of art created by Native American artists, including painting, sculpture, photography, and performance and installation art, from the late nineteenth century to today.  Students will study important movements and consider individual artists who worked primarily as painters, including the Iroquois realists of the late nineteenth century; the Studio School of Southwestern artists, printmakers, and illustrators; the Kiowa Six and their important role in creating modern Native American murals; abstract expressionists like Kay Walkingstick (Cherokee); Pop artists like Fritz Scholder (Luiseno) and Harry Fonseca (Nisenan Maidu); and Conceptual artists such as Edgar Heap of Birds (Cheyenne). Major Native American contemporary photographers include Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke (Crow)), Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie (Seminole-Diné), and Horace Poolaw (Kiowa). The course will also consider sculptors working in realistic (Alan Houser, Blackbear Bosin) and abstract styles (Rick Bartow, Tammy Garcia); performance artists like James Luna and Rebecca Belmore; important emerging artists like the interdisciplinary activist/arts collective Postcommodity; and Angel de Cora, the first Native American graduate of Smith College.

Limited to 34 students. Spring semester. Visiting Lecturer Couch.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021

200 Race, Education, and Belonging

(Offered as AMST 200, EDST 200, and SOCI 200) Disproportionate numbers of students of color drop out or disengage from schools in America each year. Responding to the framework of “drop out,” critical educational scholars have argued that many school practices, policies, and cultures “push out” already marginalized students, or at the very least, do not take sufficient steps to create an inclusive culture that supports all students’ participation and sense of belonging. This course examines the ways in which race and racism influence political, social, cultural, and institutional belonging. This interdisciplinary course will draw on theory and research from the fields of education, sociology, and ethnic studies to examine the conditions of schooling that prompt students’ formal and less formal forms of school disengagement. We will explore how educational institutions, educators, and their community partners support students’ access to and engagement with education. We will examine educational reform practices that strive to cultivate a culture of belonging and community in schools. As part of this course, students will collaboratively work toward a community-engaged project centered on college access.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Luschen.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2024

200, 206 Major Debates in Latinx and Latin American Studies

(Offered as LLAS 200 and AMST 206) In this course students will become familiar with the major debates that have animated Latinx and Latin American Studies, addressing a wide range of issues from the Conquest to the present. Each week students will focus on specific questions such as: Does Latin America have a common culture? Is Latin America part of the Western world? Is Latinx a race or an ethnicity? Is U.S. Latinx identity rooted in Latin America or the United States? Are Latin American nations post-colonial? Was the modern concept of race invented in the Caribbean at the time of the Conquest? The opposing viewpoints around such questions will provide the main focus of the reading assignments, which will average two or three articles per week. In the first four weeks, students will learn a methodology for analyzing, contextualizing, and making arguments that they will apply in developing their own positions in the specific controversies that will make up the rest of the course.

Limited to 15 students. Spring Semester. Professor Coranez Bolton . 

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Spring 2022, Spring 2024

203 Youth, Schooling, and Popular Culture

(Offered as AMST 203, EDST 203, and SOCI 203) What do we understand about schools, teachers, and students through our engagement with popular culture? How do we interrogate youth clothing as a site of cultural expression and school-based control? How do race, class, and gender shape how youth make sense of and navigate cultural events such as the prom? Contemporary educational debates often position schools and popular culture as oppositional and as vying for youth's allegiance. Yet schools and popular culture overlap as educational sites in the lives of youth. In this course, we will employ feminist, critical race, and cultural studies perspectives to analyze representations of schooling and youth in popular culture. By doing so, we will consider the historically shifting meaning of youth, interrogate an oppositional stance to school and popular culture, and examine relationships of power and representation in educational sites. Readings, class discussions, and frequent film screenings will support our examination.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Luschen.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

205 Whose Game: Sports in American Society

Sports infiltrate American lives.  Whether we are active participants, fans, or only disinterested consumers of media, we cannot escape the influence sport has on American society. Moreover, the world of sports is the place where discussions of major societal issues—racism, gender inequality, labor rights—most prominently arise in the public sphere. Media often point to sport as being emblematic of the most powerful myths about American culture and identity. Yet, few people have an appreciation for how sports in American society and their meaning have evolved over time. This course is designed to offer such an understanding and promote critical analysis of the role of sports in our individual and collective lives. We will study and discuss contemporary scholarship on the history of American sport, from roughly 1800 to the present, as well as related literature and documentary film.

Limited to 25 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Hayashi.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023

208 Asian Pacific American Sports: Clever Headers and Warriors

Asians and Pacific Islanders are increasingly visible in the realm of American competitive sports. These athletes are often noteworthy to Americans because they seem anomalous. In this course, we will consider the histories from which these athletes emerge, of sports diffusion across the Pacific Zone, to enrich understanding of the larger history of American sports and API history and identity. A robust transnational flow of athletes and communities across the Pacific dates to the late nineteenth century and includes Hawaiian surfers and swimmers, Chinese collegiate soccer players, as well as current professional athletes like Shohei Ohtani. We will study how American government agencies, military, religious institutions, and educators deployed sport to promote their agendas across the Pacific and the ways sports connected cultures, including those of Japanese schools, Hawaiian beaches, Philippine YMCAs, and elite American colleges like Amherst. We will explore this larger history from an interdisciplinary and transnational frame through discussion and analysis of writings in history, sociology, cultural studies, philosophy, literature, and in documentary film.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Hayashi.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

216 Afro-Latinos

(Offered as AMST 216 and BLST 240 [CLA/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 18 students.  Omitted 2021-22. Professor del Moral.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2021

221 Active Citizenship

This course investigates the practice and ideal of community in America both on a national and a local level, asking students to develop concrete strategies for 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. The 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 a substantial commitment to the observation of civic life at the local level. We will attend: school committee meetings, community organizing strategy sessions, select board meetings, board meetings of local nonprofit organizations and community gatherings. We will bring what we learn from these sessions into our classroom discussions of how to build socially just communities at the local level. Each of you will develop a personal action plan for how you plan to be an active citizen in the near and the long term of your life.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Lecturer Mead.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, January 2022, Spring 2022, Spring 2024

240, 243 Rethinking Pocahontas: An Introduction to Native American and Indigenous Studies

(Offered as AMST 240 [Pre-1900], EDST-240 and SWAG 243) From Longfellow’s Hiawatha and D.H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature to Disney’s Pocahontas and more recently Moana to 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 and Indigenous Studies, by engaging a range of texts from law to policy to history and literature as well as music and aesthetics. Film will also provide grounding for our inquiries. By keeping popular culture, representation, and the nature of historical narratives 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 have the myths of conquest become a part of education and popular representations to mask settler colonial policies and practices that seek to “erase in order to replace” the Native? This course also considers how categories like race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion have defined identities and changed over time with particular regards to specific Native American individuals and tribal nations. Students will be able to design their own final research project. It may focus on either a historically contingent or contemporary issue related to Native American people in the United States that is driven by a researchable question based on working with an Indigenous author’s writings from the Kim-Wait/Pablo Eisenberg (or KWE for short) collection of Native American Literature books in the archives of Amherst College.

Spring semester.  Professor Vigil.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2024

257 Understanding the Soul of a Nation

Representations of people in the United States, on the level of the individual and the collective, referring to the self and the nation, have often engaged in and produced a discourse concerning the soul and salvation. This course asks students to engage with literary, intellectual, and artistic articulations of the soul and the nation, from African-American intellectual writings, like W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Blackfolks (1903), and Indigenous representations, such as Charles Eastman’s The Soul of the Indian (1911), to musical works, like “Hot Buttered Soul” by Isaac Hayes (1969) and Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” (1976), as well as films such as the Disney-Pixar animated feature Soul (2020). Using these texts to ground our discussions students will explore the following questions: What does it mean to have a soul within and outside of sacred epistemologies? How does the concept of soul connect the sacred with the secular in American popular culture? Why did the Biden Presidential Campaign of 2020 frame its platform as “saving the soul of a nation"? Can a nation have a soul? How did soul come to signify a cultural belief in black resilience, enacted through musical practices, during the 1960s? In the nineteenth century, how was the Judeo-Christian concept of salvation used to justify and expand settler colonial practices, in order to “Kill the Indian, but Save the Man”? In this course students will ground their responses to these questions and others by reading an array of theoretical texts as we interrogate the meaning of soul in American culture and history in relation to racism and colonization. Students will also generate their own researchable questions to expand their understanding of the social and personal meanings of soul as framed by studies in critical race theory, Indigeneity and colonialism, and literary criticism. In addition, students will practice interdisciplinary methods from American Studies as they examine a wide-array of materials: music, film, visual art, popular culture, printed primary sources, and literature.

Limited to 20 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Vigil.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

264, 266 Migration Across the Americas

(Offered as AMST 264, LLAS 266, and SOCI 264) This course introduces students to sociological analyses of undocumented migrations between Central America, Mexico, and the United States. An exploration of undocumented immigration demands that we engage with oft-unexamined social and economic contradictions. Namely, whereas capital and culture move freely across most international borders, many people cannot. Walls - physical, legal, and social - aim to keep certain people in and “others” out. Yet, people do cross international borders and many do so without the legal authorization to make their moves formal and secure. In this course we explore the sociological forces behind these insecure migrations between Central America, Mexico, and the US, and the reality of undocumented immigrant life in the United States. While this course has a deep theoretical rooting, we use daily life as the lens through which to explore immigration and enforcement policies, and our individual and collective relationships to them.

Limited to 25 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Schmalzbauer

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

265 Unequal Childhoods: Race, Class and Gender in the United States

(Offered as SOCI 265 and AMST 265) This course 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 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Schmalzbauer.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Spring 2019

276, 361 Remixing and Remaking: Adaptation in Contemporary Black Literature

(Offered as AMST 361, BLST 361, and ENGL 276) Through a close reading of texts by African American authors, we will critically examine literary form and technique alongside the representation of race, gender, sexuality, and class. Coupled with our explication of poems, short stories, novels, and literary criticism, we will explore the stakes of adaptation in visual culture. Students will analyze the film and television adaptations of twentieth-century fiction. Authors will include Toni Morrison, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Walker, and Gloria Naylor. Expectations include three writing projects, a group presentation, and various in-class assignments.

Limited to 18 students. Priority given to those students who attend the first day of the class. Open to first-year students with consent of the instructor. Omit 2022-2023. Professor Henderson.

2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2023

308 Gender, Feminisms, and Education

(Offered as AMST-308, EDST-308 and SOCI-308) The relationship between girls’ empowerment and education has been and continues to be a key feminist issue. For instance, second wave liberal feminist approaches sought to make schools more equitable through equal access to educational resources for girls and the elimination of gender discrimination. Yet the relationship between gender and schooling remains a complex site of research and policy.

In this course we will examine how various feminist perspectives have defined and addressed the existence of gender inequality in American schools. We will begin by examining theories that address the production of gendered experiences within the context of U.S. schools and classrooms. Utilizing an intersectional approach, we will explore how the production of gender identities in educational contexts is shaped by the realities of our race, class, ethnic, and sexual identities. We will draw on empirical research and theory to analyze pedagogies, policies, and programs that have been developed to address gender inequality and schooling, including those that address fluid notions of gender. Students will complete the course with a complex view of feminism and an understanding of how feminist approaches have shaped the debates within gender and educational reform.

Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Luschen.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Spring 2021

328 Indigenous Narratives: Creating Children's Stories about Native American History

(Offered as AMST-328, EDST-328, and HIST-328 [US/TR/TS])  Children’s literature has a diversity problem. A 2018 study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that of more than 3000 children’s books published that year, roughly 50% featured main characters who were White. Only 10% featured Black characters, 7% featured Asian / Pacific Islander characters, and 5% featured Latinx characters. (27% of the books surveyed featured animal characters.) By far the least represented group in children’s literature were Native Americans, who appeared in fewer than 1% of the books surveyed.

This course explores the ethics and impact of inclusive representation in children’s media. It focuses on the challenge of teaching young people under-represented histories, particularly when those histories engage with raw, difficult, and often still painful subjects. How can we tell historically accurate stories to children without whitewashing or sugarcoating the past? Why is the drive to make children’s media more inclusive critically important?  

 A major component of this course involves experiential learning. Working together in small groups, and with guidance from experts in children’s publishing (editors, authors, illustrators, librarians), students will research, write, and publish a book for children on a topic related to Native American history. Readings will combine scholarship about children’s literature and publishing, the importance of historical representation and storytelling, and Native American history. Students will engage directly with the local community through focus groups, discussions with Native American knowledge keepers and cultural consultants, as well as visits to local libraries and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. This course is open to all and no prior experience is necessary, however students must be willing to work collaboratively, and will be required to attend one out-of-class field trip.  

Limited to 30 students.  Spring semester.  Professors Boucher and Vigil.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023

337 Movie Censorship in American History

(Offered as AMST-337, FAMS-337, and HIST-337)  Almost from their very first days, even as they provoked a sense of wonderment, movies also provoked alarm and became targets of censorship. This course traces that set of reactions from the campaign to shut down the 1915 racist epic, “Birth of a Nation;” through the campaigns against sexual display and ethnic insult in the 1920s; to the Production Code era in the 1930s, with its “fallen women,” gangsters, and “screwballs"; through the end of the studio system and the rise of political censorship in the Cold War era. Frequent film viewing and intensive reading will be required, as also will be several smaller and at least one larger writing assignment.

Limited to 20 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Couvares

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

345 Model Minorities: Jewish and Asian Americans

(Offered as AMST 345, EDUST 345 and SOCI 345) The United States has long struggled with challenges created by the need to absorb ethnic and racial minorities. In the face of seemingly intractable problems, one solution has been to designate a “model minority,” which then appears to divert attention from the society at large. Earlier in the twentieth century, Jewish Americans played this role; today, Asian Americans are the focus. This course examines specific instances in which Jewish Americans and Asian Americans both embraced and rejected the model minority stereotype. Course units will also examine the underside of the model minority stereotype, quotas imposed to limit access to education and employment as well as social and legal actions taken in response to such restrictions. The course will feature a range of materials, including plays, fiction, journalism, and visual works. Students will read scholarship in the fields of American Studies, Sociology, History, and Critical Race Studies. The course will include a number of guest speakers.

Fall semester. Limited to 20 students. McCloy Visiting Professor Odo and Senior Lecturer Bergoffen.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

352 The Purpose and Politics of Education

(Offered as EDST 352, HIST 352 [US/TC/TR/TS], AMST 352 and SOCI 352) Focusing on the United States, this course introduces students to foundational questions and texts central to Education Studies. We will explore the competing goals and priorities Americans have held for primary, secondary and post-secondary education and ask how and why these visions have influenced—or failed to influence—classrooms, schools, and educational policy. We will pay particular attention to sources of educational stratification; the tensions between the public and private purposes of schooling; and the relationship between schooling and equality. 

In the first part of the course, students will reflect on how Americans have imagined the purpose of self-education, literacy, public schooling, and the liberal arts. Among the questions we will consider: What do Americans want from public schools? Does education promote liberation? Has a liberal arts education outlived its usefulness? How has the organization of schools and school systems promoted some educational objectives in lieu of others? In the second section of the course, we will concentrate on the politics of schooling. Here, we will pay particular attention to several issues central to understanding educational inequality and its relationship to American politics, culture, and society: localism; state and federal authority; desegregation; and the complicated relationship between schooling and racial, linguistic, class-based, gender, and ethnic hierarchies. Finally, we will explore how competing ideas about the purpose and politics of education manifest themselves in current policy debates about privatization, charters, testing, and school discipline. Throughout the course, students will reflect on both the limits and possibilities of American schools to challenge and reconfigure the social order.

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Luschen. 

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2024

355, 364 Emily Dickinson

(Offered as ENGL 355 and AMST 364) Emily Dickinson’s poetry is rich in what she called “illocality.” Her writing characteristically dissolves images and refuses specificity of place or event, and yet no writer is more intimately connected to a particular place. Dickinson wrote almost all of her poems in this one house on Main Street, in Amherst. Coursework will include a project done in conjunction with The Emily Dickinson Museum, newly opened and significantly restored after two years of pandemic closure. In this course we will have the extraordinary opportunity to read these poems in Amherst, to study both her individual life and her practices of literary expression in the place where she lived and wrote and with access to her manuscripts and to many of the spaces, artifacts, and records of family and local history. It is a complicated history, and starting with new scholarship on the roles the Dickinson family played in the white settlement of the Connecticut River Valley, this class will be particularly attuned to the inequalities of race, class, and gender that structure Dickinson's poetic practice and legacy.

Preference given to juniors and seniors. Limited to 12 students. Fall semester. Professor K. Sánchez-Eppler.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022, Fall 2022

490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

496 Capstone Project

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.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

498, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Fall semester. The Department.

2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023