Fall 2022

Soul of a Nation

Listed in: American Studies, as AMST-257


Kiara M. Vigil (Section 01)


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.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to Sophomores and American Studies majors.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: collaborative group work, independent research, oral presentations, readings and discussions, visual and aural analysis.

AMST 257 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 1:00 PM - 2:20 PM MORG 110
Th 1:00 PM - 2:20 PM MORG 110

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience Adams, David Wallace Amherst Books TBD
The Soul of the Indian: An Interpretation Univ. of Nebraska Press 2020 Special Edition Eastman, Charles A Amherst Books TBD
Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race Wolfe, Patrick Amherst Books TBD
The Meaning of Soul: Black Music and Resilience Since the 1960's Lordi, Emily J. Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022