Spring 2019

When Corn Mother Meets King Corn: Cultural Studies of the Americas

Listed in: American Studies, as AMST-280  |  English, as ENGL-273


Lisa Brooks (Section 01)
Kiara M. Vigil (Section 01)


(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. Spring semester. Professors Brooks and Vigil.

AMST 280 - L/D

Section 01
Tu 01:00 PM - 03:30 PM WEBS 220

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
Beautiful Corn: America's Original Grain from Seed to Plate New Society Publishers Boutard, Anthony Amherst Books TBD
Corn & Capitalism: How a Botanical Bastard Grew to Global Dominance University of North Carolina Press Warman, Arturo Amherst Books TBD
The Tangled Field: Barbara McClintock's Search for the Patterns Harvard University Press Comfort, Nathaniel C. Amherst Books TBD
Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals Penguin Press Pollan, Michael Amherst Books TBD
Maize for the Gods: Unearthing the 9,000 year History of Corn University of California Press Blake, Michael Amherst Books TBD
Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother's Wisdom Fulcrum Publishing Awiakta, Marilou Amherst Books TBD
Struggle for Maize: Campesinos, Workers, and Transgenic Corn in the Mexican Countryside Duke University Press Fitting, Elizabeth M Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2019