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Allen Ginsberg, 1985


About American Studies

Degree Requirements

Courses

Fall 2014
Spring 2015
Past Courses


 

ABOUT AMERICAN STUDIES

The American Studies Major and Concentration

Students may choose American Studies as an undergraduate major or a concentration. A minimum of 30 points is required to complete the major, 21 points to complete the concentration. Coursework for both consists of a combination of required courses (see degree requirements below) and an individualized program of study.

Although students generally declare their major or concentration in the spring of their sophomore year, you may want to take electives early on in areas that interest you but that will later connect with the American Studies major.

Advising

Each student is assigned an academic advisor who monitors his or her progress through graduation. Advisors meet with their advisees at least twice a semester.

Study Abroad

We encourage our students to study abroad and to take courses that examine America in an international context. With careful planning, you can both study abroad and fulfill all the American Studies requirements. You should consult with your advisor early on about how to integrate study abroad into your program, and you should keep in mind that syllabi from courses taken abroad must be reviewed by your advisor to determine whether they count toward American Studies requirements. For more information about study abroad programs, click here.

Grades

Any grade lower than a C minus cannot be counted towards a degree in American Studies. A grade of C minus can be counted only with the approval of the Director or Associate Director of the Center. Pass/fail courses will not count toward the major unless the course was taken before the student declared the major.

Departmental Honors

Students with a 3.6 minimum GPA in the major and an outstanding senior project will be considered for honors. By College policy, no more than 10% of majors are permitted to receive honors in a given year.

Career Opportunities

A major in American Studies can open doors to many careers as well as to graduate or professional school. A number of our students, for example, develop a thematic concentration centered on the media that can take them into journalism, publishing, and other related areas. An interdisciplinary major like American Studies, in combination with your general education through the Columbia Core Curriculum, can also lead to opportunities in non-profit organizations or public affairs. Over the last few years, our majors have gone on to graduate school, law and medical school, business, government and public-service organizations, as well as other post-college programs such as Teach-for-America. Click here to see what our alumni are doing now.

 

 

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DEGREE REQUIREMENTS

The Major

A minimum of 30 points is required to complete the major:

8 points: Two Seminars in American Studies

6 points: Two American Studies Core courses. The following two courses are ordinarily required:

  • Foundations of American Literature I: American Literature from the Puritans to the Civil War (ENGL W3267)
  • U.S. Intellectual History, 1865-Present (HIST W3478)

12 points: Four courses drawn from at least two departments, one of which must be History.

4 points: Senior Research Project

The final requirement for the major in American Studies is completion of a Senior Essay, to be written in the spring of senior year. Alternatively, students may fulfill this requirement by taking an additional seminar where a major paper is required or by writing an independent essay under the supervision of a faculty member. Seniors who wish to do a senior research project are required to take the Senior Project Colloquium in the fall of the senior year.

Keep track of your courses and points - download the Major Planner (Microsoft Word).


The Concentration

A minimum of 21 points is required to complete the concentration:

6 points: Two American Studies Core courses. The following two courses are ordinarily required:

  • Foundations of American Literature I: American Literature from the Puritans to the Civil War (ENGL W3267)
  • U.S. Intellectual History, 1865-Present (HIST W3478)

15 points: Five additional courses drawn from at least two departments, one of which must be History.

Keep track of your courses and points with the Concentration Planner (Class of 2014 and thereafter)

 


COURSES


Fall 2014

Lecture Courses

Foundations of American Literature
Andrew Delbanco
ENGL W3267
MW 10:10-11:25
Introduction to American thought and expression from the first English settlements to the eve of the Civil War. Writers include the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Herman Melville. Themes include the rise of an American national consciousness, the transformation of religion, ideas of nature and democracy, debates over immigration, race, and slavery. The course proceeds through a combination of lecture and discussion with the aim of deepening our understanding of the origins and development of literature and culture in the United States. In addition to the two lectures, a weekly discussion section is an integral and required part of the course for all students.  Required of all American Studies majors.

The American Graphic Novel
Jeremy Dauber with Paul Levitz
AMST W3630
MW 1:10-2:25
The course seeks to combine literary and historical approaches to investigate one of the most rapidly growing and increasingly influential genres of American popular (and, increasingly, critically recognized) literature: the graphic novel. A historical overview of the genre’s development, along with analysis of relevant broader institutional and cultural factors illuminating the development of American media culture more generally, will be complemented by study of a series of works that illuminate artistic approaches taken within the genre to the classic themes of the American experience: politics, ethnicity, sexuality, and America’s place in the broader world, among other themes. Authors read include Eisner, Crumb, Spiegelman, Bechdel, Sacco, Thompson, and Hernandez.

Seminars

Journalism, Democracy, and the Digital Revolution
Caroline Miller
AMST W3930 Sec. 1
W 2:10-4:00
The American news media occupy a complex role in the life of the nation: both a constitutionally protected feature of democracy and a product of free enterprise. In this class we will analyze coverage of the 2014 election in real time, with an eye to the radical changes in the media business brought about by the digital revolution. We'll look at how news gathering and distribution have changed, from the heyday of the great 20th century news organizations to the triumph of Twitter. How has the rise of radically decentralized sources of information altered the political discourse? What happens to the knowledge base when more and more Americans prefer their news raw rather than mediated, targeted rather than broad, passionate rather than neutral? When we trust our social network more than professional journalists? We’ll look at what these changes mean for the body politic and the decisions we make as a people. Attend first class for instructor permission.

Equity in Higher Education
Andrew Delbanco, Roger Lehecka
AMST W3930 Sec. 2
M 2:10-4:00
In this seminar we examine the roles colleges and universities play in American society; the differential access high school students have to college based on family background and income, ethnicity, and other characteristics; the causes and consequences of this differential access; and some attempts to make access more equitable. Readings and class meetings cover the following subjects historically and in the 21st century: the variety of American institutions of higher education; admission and financial aid policies at selective and less selective, private and public, colleges; affirmative action and race-conscious admissions; what “merit” means in college admissions; and the role of the high school in helping students attend college. Students in the seminar are required to spend at least four hours each week as volunteers at the Double Discovery Center (DDC) in addition to completing assigned reading, participating in seminar discussions, and completing written assignments. DDC is an on-campus program that helps New York City high school students who lack many of the resources needed to succeed in college and to be successful in gaining admission and finding financial aid. The seminar integrates students' first-hand experiences with readings and class discussions. Preference will be given to students who apply before April 7th. Email Professor Lehecka (Lehecka@columbia.edu) for application form. Interview required.

The Supreme Court in American History
Benjamin Rosenberg
AMST W3930 Sec. 3
M 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. Attend first class for instructor permission.

Freedom and Citizenship in the United States
Roosevelt Montás
AMST W3930 Sec. 4
T 4:10-6:00
This seminarwill examine the historical development of ideas of freedom and citizenship in the American context.  The course will focus exclusively on primary texts, and the order of readings will be roughly chronological.  The first weeks of the course will be dedicated to reading and discussing foundational texts in Western political history that frame the 17th century founding of the American colonies.  The rest of the course will situate the American case in this historical development, beginning with an examination of the Puritan migration to New England, and continuing with the study of major documents surrounding the Revolution, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, and contemporary debates about the meaning of American citizenship. In addition to the classroom requirements, students will be expected to volunteer a minimum of four hours a week with the Double Discovery Center (DDC), in connection to the Freedom and Citizenship Project, which DDC conducts in partnership with the American Studies Program. CLICK HERE for application form and send to Prof. Montás at rm63@columbia.edu.

Salinger, Lowell, McCullers: Freaks & Aesthetes in 1950s Families
Ross Posnock
AMST W3930 Sec. 5
R 2:10-4:00
We will read J.D. Salinger's Glass Family fiction, which features a group of hyper-articulate New York prodigies who experiment with Eastern religion, Robert Lowell's prose and poetry in  Life Studies, a breakthrough in "confessional" subject matter, and Carson McCuller's novel A Member of the Wedding,about the coming of age of a Southern tomboyWe will also watch and discuss Nicholas Ray's film Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean, the most famous portryal of teenage rage and angst. All these works narrate crises of conformity in postwar America--the much advertised sense of "alienation"--and dramatize the possibility of alternative values and improvised families. Attend first class for instructor permission.

American Cultural Criticism
Casey N. Blake
AMHIST 4580
T 11:00-12:50
This course is an intensive seminar on American cultural criticism since the late 19th century, with particular emphasis on debates over modernist currents in the arts from the 1910s through the 1960s. Readings will consist primarily of works by major interpreters of American culture, including John Dewey, Constance Rourke, Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, Allan Kaprow, Ralph Ellison, Paul Goodman, and Susan Sontag.  Each student will write a research paper on a major critic or controversy in 20th century culture. Attend first class for instructor permission.


Spring 2015

Contemporary American Fiction: David Foster Wallace and After
Adam Kirsch
AMST W3931 Sec. 1
In this seminar, we will read some of the leading writers to emerge in American fiction in the last twenty years. Analyzing the work of writers like Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Lydia Davis, Dave Eggers, Jennifer Egan, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Gary Shteyngart, we will explore what, if anything, constitutes a "literary generation," and see how the work of this period addresses issues of politics, technology, immigration, sincerity and impersonation, realism and experimental form, and the threatened place of literature in society.

Disability, Embodiment, and Social Justice
Rachel Adams
AMST W3931 Sec. 2
What does it mean to be disabled in America?  This course approaches disability less as a medical condition affecting individual bodies than as a social, environmental, and historical phenomenon.  We will investigate the role of culture in shaping and reflecting on disability in contemporary American culture.  How have philosophers, policy makers, authors and artists framed the political and ethical debates surrounding the status of disability?  How have imaginative representations in literature, film, and the visual arts contributed to and/or challenged those understandings?  Given that nearly every one of us will be disabled at some point in life, these questions could not be more important.  This course seeks to address them by considering a broad array of texts, including philosophical debates about morality and ethics, history, and literary, filmic, and visual representations.  In addition to our consideration of cultural representations, an experiential learning requirement will also give students the opportunity to work closely with an organization dedicated to serving the needs of people with disabilities.

Hollywood Countercultural Cinema: Movies of the 1970s
Maura Spiegel
AMST W3931 Sec. 3
Dominated by outcasts and anti-heroes, movies of the 1970s freshly engaged the conversation about what American society is and should be.  A new generation of maverick American auteurs (including Coppola, Altman, Kubrick, Ashby, Lumet, Pakula and Scorcese) saved Hollywood from financial collapse by channeling and giving voice to the frenetic activities of the previous decade— while also speaking directly into the moment. They tackled previously taboo subjects; challenged traditional narrative expectations; revised Classic Hollywood film genres; and engaged race and gender in new ways. Originally considered a "lost generation," the filmmakers of the 1970s are now recognized as having produced a turning point in American filmmaking.  Through close readings of some of the decade´s greatest works, and through readings in film, cultural and social theory, this course will examine the role of movies in American discourse.  What do movies do for and to us? What prisms cloud the windows they offer on a by-gone era?  What does the current viewer "hear" in film from the past that wasn´t heard then?  Can we speak of different "styles of heroism" in film eras?  Do current movies (and HBO series) pursue different strategies for engaging the present? How has the viewer changed, and how is the context of viewing different today?

Race, Poverty and American Criminal Justice
Cathleen Price
AMST W3931 Sec. 4
This course will examine the influence of race and poverty in the American system of confronting the challenge of crime.  Students will explore some history, including the various purposes of having an organized criminal justice system within a community; the principles behind the manner in which crimes are defined; and the utility of punishment.  Our focus will be on the social, political and economic effects of the administration of our criminal justice system, with emphatic examination of the role of conscious and unconscious racism, as well as community biases against the poor.  Students will examine the larger implications for a community and culture that are presented by these pernicious features.  We will reflect on the fairness of our past and present American system of confronting crime, and consider the possibilities of future reform.  Readings will include historical texts, analytical reports, some biography, and a few legal materials.  We will also watch documentary films which illuminate the issues and problems. 

Language Contact
John McWhorter

AMST W3931 Sec. 5
This course will explore the results of language mixture, as demonstrated on the North American continent as well as beyond. All human languages are hybrids to an extent, but post-Neolithic technological developments have made population movement ever more common, resulting in mixture between peoples and the languages they speak. The result has been a panorama of language mixtures of a kind rare to nonexistent before roughly ten thousand years ago, including what are called creoles, pidgins, koines, "vehicular" languages, and nonstandard dialects that straddle the boundary between these categories. Such languages are usually felt as new and/or illegitimate, such that they have had various fates in the media and education, and also occasion vigorous controversies even as to their origins. This seminar will explore America's—and the world's—newest, and in some ways most interesting, languages.

The Sixties
Todd Gitlin

AMST W3931 Sec. 6
"The Sixties" have dwindled into reputation, slogan, and myth.  But were they anything else in the first place?  The effort in this seminar will be to recover that period both from the outside (via history, analyses of demographic, social, political, and economic trends) and the inside (personal reminiscence, music, film, and television), with attention to penetrating accounts from movements, counter-movements, and establishment alike.   Among the topics:  civil rights, affluence, television, youth culture, celebrity, the university boom, Vietnam, the Cold War, party politics, feminism, and gays.  Film and TV footage will supplement class discussion. 

Senior Research Seminar
Casey Blake
A seminar devoted to the research and writing, under the instructor's supervision, of a substantial paper on a topic in American studies. Open to American Studies seniors only.


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Past Courses:


Spring 2014

Seminars

Language Contact
Professor John McWhorter
Tuesday, 12:10-2:00 PM

This course will explore the results of language mixture, as demonstrated on the North American continent as well as beyond. All human languages are hybrids to an extent, but post-Neolithic technological developments have made population movement ever more common, resulting in mixture between peoples and the languages they speak. The result has been a panorama of language mixtures of a kind rare to nonexistent before roughly ten thousand years ago, including what are called creoles, pidgins, koines, "vehicular" languages, and nonstandard dialects that straddle the boundary between these categories. Such languages are usually felt as new and/or illegitimate, such that they have had various fates in the media and education, and also occasion vigorous controversies even as to their origins. This seminar will explore America's -- and the world's -- newest, and in some ways most interesting, languages. To apply: Attend first class for instructor permission.


Race, Poverty and American Criminal Justice
Professor Cathleen Price
Thursday, 11:00 AM-12:50 PM

This course will examine the influence of race and poverty in the American system of confronting the challenge of crime.  Students will explore some history, including the various purposes of having an organized criminal justice system within a community; the principles behind the manner in which crimes are defined; and the utility of punishment.  Our focus will be on the social, political and economic effects of the administration of our criminal justice system, with emphatic examination of the role of conscious and unconscious racism, as well as community biases against the poor.  Students will examine the larger implications for a community and culture that are presented by these pernicious features.  We will reflect on the fairness of our past and present American system of confronting crime, and consider the possibilities of future reform.  Readings will include historical texts, analytical reports, some biography, and a few legal materials.  We will also watch documentary films which illuminate the issues and problems. To apply: Attend first class for instructor permission.


Hollywood Countercultural Cinema: Movies of the 1970's

Professor Maura Spiegel
Thursday, 2:10-4:00 PM

Dominated by outcasts and anti-heroes, movies of the 1970s freshly engaged the conversation about what American society is and should be.  A new generation of maverick American auteurs (including Coppola, Altman, Kubrick, Ashby, Lumet, Pakula and Scorcese) saved Hollywood from financial collapse by channeling and giving voice to the frenetic activities of the previous decade-- while also speaking directly into the moment. They tackled previously taboo subjects; challenged traditional narrative expectations; revised Classic Hollywood film genres; and engaged race and gender in new ways. Originally considered a "lost generation," the filmmakers of the 1970s are now recognized as having produced a turning point in American filmmaking.  Through close readings of some of the decade´s greatest works, and through readings in film, cultural and social theory, this course will examine the role of movies in American discourse.  What do movies do for and to us? What prisms cloud the windows they offer on a by-gone era?  What does the current viewer "hear" in film from the past that wasn´t heard then?  Can we speak of different "styles of heroism" in film eras?  Do current movies (and HBO series) pursue different strategies for engaging the present? How has the viewer changed, and how is the context of viewing different today? To apply: Send email to instructor (mls37) stating year, major, and statement of interest by November 15, 2013.


Hispanic New York (CSER)

Professor Claudio Remeseira
Thursday, 6:10-8:00 PM

New York City contains a wide spectrum of immigrants from all over Latin America and the Caribbean, including a large number of artists, writers, and intellectuals. Because of this rich diversity, New York is both one of the leading Hispanic cities in the U.S. and a pivotal node of Latin American culture. This seminar is a survey of the cultural heritage that sustains this diversity. It explores the history and the demographic evolution of New York's Latino and Latin American population, its racial, ethnic, and religious make-up, and its long-standing tradition in arts, music, and literature. Readings include fiction, non-fiction, and poetry originally written both in English and Spanish (English translations are provided for students who don't read Spanish). The course also analyzes the connections between New York's Hispanic cultural tradition and the broader U.S. culture, as well as New York's place in the Spanish-American intellectual world. Finally, the seminar addresses some of the most pressing sociological issues related to the immigration flow from Latin America and the increasingly decisive role played by Latinos in New York politics.


Elites In America (SOC)

Professor Shamus Khan
Monday, 4:10-6:00 PM

In this class we will seek to better understand elites and the conditions of advantage, identifying how elites influence inequality. Over the past forty years increases in inequality are not explained by the declining wages of the poor and middle classes; instead, it is the massive increase in the income share of the highest earners that has driven inequality. Wealth, not poverty, is the engine of inequality. Poverty cannot be understood as a thing in and of itself. Instead, it must be understood in relation to both wealth and overall social organization. Yet scholars have dedicated almost all their time to the disadvantage side of inequality and spent little time on understanding the "other side" of the relations of inequality: advantages. This course is dedicated to that other side.  It is important to engage with the conditions of advantage because in situating advantages in a context related to disadvantage, those who acquire and enjoy advantages might better understand the social contract which ties them to those less fortunate than themselves. This course aims to provide the tools to think about elites within democratic societies. What is the place of an elite within a democracy? How have elites contributed to and fought against the reproduction of social inequality? To apply: Attend first class for instructor permission.


American Cultural Criticism (AMHIST)

Professor Casey Blake
Tuesday, 2:10-4:00 PM

This course is an intensive seminar on American cultural criticism since the late nineteenth century, with particular emphasis on debates over modernist currents in the arts from the 1910s through the 1960s. Readings will consist primarily of works by major interpreters of American culture, including John Dewey, Constance Rourke, Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, Allan Kaprow, Ralph Ellison, and Susan Sontag.  Each student will write a research paper on a major critic or controversy in twentieth-century culture. To apply: Attend first class for instructor permission.


Senior Research Seminar

Professor Casey Blake

A seminar devoted to the research and writing, under the instructor's supervision, of a substantial paper on a topic in American studies. Open to American Studies seniors only.

 


Fall 2013

Seminars


Equity in Higher Education

Professor Roger Lehecka
Wednesday, 11:00 AM-12:50 PM

In this seminar we examine the roles colleges and universities play in American society; the differential
access high school students have to college based on family background and income, ethnicity, and
other characteristics; the causes and consequences of this differential access; and some attempts to
make access more equitable. Readings and class meetings cover the following subjects historically and
in the 21st century: the variety of American institutions of higher education; admission and financial
aid policies at selective and less selective, private and public, colleges; affirmative action and race-
conscious admissions; what “merit” means in college admissions; and the role of the high school in
helping students attend college. Students in the seminar are required to spend at least four hours
each week as volunteers at the Double Discovery Center (DDC) in addition to completing assigned
reading, participating in seminar discussions, and completing written assignments. DDC is an on-
campus program that helps New York City high school students who lack many of the resources
needed to succeed in college and to be successful in gaining admission and finding financial aid. The
seminar integrates students' first-hand experiences with readings and class discussions. Admission
by interview only. Please email Professor Lehecka (lehecka@columbia.edu) to set up an interview by April 10th.


Museums, Memory and Public Culture

Professor Valerie Paley
Thursday, 4:10-6:00 PM

Americans are living through a boom in museum attendance and museum construction that recalls the creation of cultural institutions at the end of the nineteenth century. Believing that culture could enrich the nation’s cities as it had the great European capitals, American civic leaders created museums that would soon rank among the best in the world. This seminar will explore the transformation of cultural institutions in the United States and consider the continuing contemporary debates on the practices and public role of museums. How do museums—both large and small—serve the needs of the local communities in which they are located and the private interests of their founders? How have history museums in particular shaped debates about public memory and national heritage? In addition to exploring the historical evolution of such institutions, we will examine the theory and practice of exhibitions and education in museums, with an emphasis on institutions in New York. The seminar will host conversations with speakers representing different aspects of public culture and feature a hands-on analysis of a current exhibition redesign plan at a local museum. Attend first class for instructor permission.


Freedom and Citizenship In the United States

Professor Roosevelt Montás
Monday, 4:10-6:00 PM

Freedom and Citizenship in the United States will examine the historical development of ideas of freedom and citizenship in the American context. The course will focus exclusively on primary texts, and the order of readings will be roughly chronological. The first weeks of the course will be dedicated to reading and discussing foundational texts in Western political history that frame the 17th century founding of the American colonies. The rest of the course will situate the American case in this historical development, beginning with an examination of the Puritan migration to New England, and continuing with the study of major documents surrounding the Revolution, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, and contemporary debates about the meaning of American citizenship. In addition to the classroom requirements, students will be expected to volunteer a minimum of four hours a week with the Double Discovery Center (DDC), in connection to the Freedom and Citizenship Project, which DDC conducts in partnership with the American Studies Program. To apply, submit your application to Prof. Montás at rm63@columbia.edu no later than April 10, 2013.


The Supreme Court in American History

Professor Benjamin Rosenberg
Monday 6:10-8:00 PM

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 United States history by examining its decisions on key issues throughout its history. Attend first class for instructor permission.

U.S. Intellectual History
Professor Casey Blake
Monday and Wednesday 2:40-3:55 PM

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 ina 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. As part of the course, students will also attend the "Armory Show at 100" exhibition at the New York Historical Society. This course is required for American Studies majors and concentrators. See HIST W3478.


American Studies Senior Project Colloquium

Professor Casey Blake

This course is for American studies majors planning to complete senior projects in the spring. The course is designed to help students clarify their research agenda, sharpen their questions, and locate their primary and secondary sources. Through class discussions and a "workshop" peer review process, each member of the course will enter spring semester with a completed 5-8 page prospectus and bibliography that will provide an excellent foundation for the work of actually writing the senior essay. The colloquium will meet every other week at a convenient time for the participants, and is required for everyone planning to do a senior research project.This course is only open to American Studies Senior Majors.

 


Spring 2013

Seminars

Race, Poverty and American Criminal Justice
Professor Cathleen Price
Thursday, 11:00 a.m.-12:50 p.m.

This course will examine the influence of race and poverty in the American system of confronting the challenge of crime.  Students will explore some history, including the various purposes of having an organized criminal justice system within a community; the principles behind the manner in which crimes are defined; and the utility of punishment.  Our focus will be on the social, political and economic effects of the administration of our criminal justice system, with emphatic examination of the role of conscious and unconscious racism, as well as community biases against the poor.  Students will examine the larger implications for a community and culture that are presented by these pernicious features.  We will reflect on the fairness of our past and present American system of confronting crime, and consider the possibilities of future reform.  Readings will include historical texts, analytical reports, some biography, and a few legal materials.  We will also watch documentary films which illuminate the issues and problems.


Food and American Culture

Professor Rachel Adams
Wednesday, 2:10-4:00 p.m.

Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are," wrote the 19th century French epicure Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.  While this may seem like a straightforward equation, it is anything but.  This course investigates Brillat-Savarin´s dictum by examining the varied ways food is produced, prepared, and consumed in the United States.  Beginning with what seem to be highly individualized and embodied questions of taste, we will expand outward to consider how food shapes personal, regional, national, and global identities.  We will treat cookbooks and recipes, diet guides, works of art, and food television as cultural texts that can provide insight into the meaning of food and eating.  We will also study issues of hunger, poverty, and food justice, the gendering of food preparation and consumption, questions of eating and body image, and restaurant culture.  In addition to reading and writing assignments, this course will also include an experiential component, which will give students opportunities to volunteer in a soup kitchen or food  pantry, work on an urban farm, and enjoy some of the culinary  delights of New York City.


A Cultural History of Wall Street

Professor Steven Fraser
Wednesday, 11:00 a.m.-12:50 p.m.

This seminar examines the impact of Wall Street on American life from the American Revolution through the dot.com boom of the 1990s, its collapse at the turn of the millennium, and the current financial meltdown. Discussions and readings explore the ways the Street has been integrated into the country’s economic, political, and cultural life, and examine how Americans have handled their ambivalence about whether the Street has been a force for good or evil. We focus on some of the principal iconic representations of the Street as they have appeared in cartoons, political tracts, movies, economic treatises, sermons, novels, histories, and other cultural artifacts.


Languages of America

Professor John McWhorter
Tuesday, 11:00 a.m.-12:50 p.m.

The United States, often thought of as a nation where since its origins all foreign languages spoken by immigrants have withered away upon exposure to English, has actually always harbored a complex mixture of languages and dialects. This course will examine the history of language in America, including the robust role of German in colonial times and beyond (once as commonly heard in America as Spanish); creole languages such as Gullah, Louisiana Creole French and Hawaiian �Pidgin� English; Black English including its history and present; Native American languages and modern efforts to preserve them; and the history of Asian languages in modern America, including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Hmong. The course also serves, in ancillary fashion, as an introduction to the variety among languages of the world and to a scientific perspective on human language.


Immigrant New York

Professor Rebecca Kobrin
Thursday, 2:10-4:00 p.m.

For the past century and a half, New York City has been the first home of millions of
immigrants to the United States.  This course will compare immigrants' encounter with New
York at the dawn of the twentieth century with contemporary issues, organizations, and
debates shaping immigrant life in New York City.  As a service learning course, each
student will be required to work 2-4 hours/week in the Riverside Language Center or
programs for immigrants run by Community Impact.


Hollywood´s Countercultural Cinema: Movies of the 1970s

Professor Maura Spiegel
Monday, 2:10-4:00 p.m.

Dominated by outcasts and anti-heroes, movies of the 1970s freshly engaged the conversation about what American society is and should be.  A new generation of maverick American auteurs (including Coppola, Altman, Kubrick, Ashby, Lumet, Pakula and Scorcese) saved Hollywood from financial collapse by channeling and giving voice to the frenetic activities of the previous decade -while also speaking directly into the moment. They tackled previously taboo subjects; challenged traditional narrative expectations; revised Classic Hollywood film genres, and engaged race and gender in new ways. Originally considered a "lost generation," the filmmakers of the 1970s are now recognized as having produced a turning point in American filmmaking.  Through close-readings of some of the decade´s greatest works, and through readings in film, cultural and social theory, this course will examine the role of movies in American discourse.  What do movies do for and to us? What prisms cloud the windows they offer on a by-gone era?  What does the current viewer "hear" in film from the past that wasn´t heard then?  Can we speak of different "styles of heroism" in film eras?  Do current movies (and HBO series) pursue different strategies for engaging the present? How has the viewer changed, and how is the context of viewing different today?


Fall 2012

Lecture Course

Foundations of American Literature
Professor Andrew Delbanco
Mon. & Wed. 10:10-11-25 am; An additional hour of discussion section to be arranged.
Note: This course counts as an American Studies core course.
Introduction to American thought and expression from the first English settlements to the eve of the Civil War. Writers include the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Herman Melville. Themes include the rise of an American national consciousness, the transformation of religion, ideas of nature and democracy, debates over immigration, race, and slavery. The course proceeds through a combination of lecture and discussion with the aim of deepening our understanding of the origins and development of literature and culture in the United States. In addition to the two lectures, a weekly discussion section is an integral and required part of the course for all students.  Required for American Studies majors.

The American Graphic Novel
Jeremy Dauber with Paul Levitz, former president of DC Comics
Tues. & Thurs. 11:40-12:55
The course seeks to combine literary and historical approaches to investigate one of the most rapidly growing and increasingly influential genres of American popular (and, increasingly, critically recognized) literature: the graphic novel. A historical overview of the genre’s development, along with analysis of relevant broader institutional and cultural factors illuminating the development of American media culture more generally, will be complemented by study of a series of works that illuminates artistic approaches taken within the genre to the classic themes of the American experience: politics, ethnicity, sexuality, and America’s place in the broader world, among other themes. Authors read include Eisner, Crumb, Spiegelman, Bechdel, Sacco, Thompson, and Hernandez.

Seminars

Journalism, Democracy and the Digital Revolution
Professor Caroline Miller
Wed. 2:10-4:00
The American news media occupy a complex role in the life of the nation: at once a constitutionally
protected feature of democracy and a product of free enterprise. With an eye to the 2012 presidential
election, this class will explore the transformation of the media from the heyday of the great 20th
century news organizations to the triumph of Twitter. How have the disruption of the mainstream
media and the rise of radically decentralized sources of information affected the political discourse
and the decisions Americans make? We’ll look back at the Grey Lady, Walter Cronkite and Watergate,
and into the future, where favored news purveyors are raw rather than mediated, hot rather than
cool, personal rather than formal, targeted rather than broad, passionate rather than neutral. We’ll
have visits from media players and prognosticators, examine where journalistic standards are going,
and assess the impact of news sources from Fox News to the latest hashtag. Attend first class for
instructor permission.

Equity in Higher Education
Professors Roger Lehecka and Andrew Delbanco
Mon. 2:10-4:00
In this seminar we examine the roles colleges and universities play in American society; the differential
access high school students have to college based on family background and income, ethnicity, and
other characteristics; the causes and consequences of this differential access; and some attempts to
make access more equitable. Readings and class meetings cover the following subjects historically and
in the 21st century: the variety of American institutions of higher education; admission and financial
aid policies at selective and less selective, private and public, colleges; affirmative action and race-
conscious admissions; what “merit” means in college admissions; and the role of the high school in
helping students attend college. Students in the seminar are required to spend at least four hours
each week as volunteers at the Double Discovery Center (DDC) in addition to completing assigned
reading, participating in seminar discussions, and completing written assignments. DDC is an on-
campus program that helps New York City high school students who lack many of the resources
needed to succeed in college and to be successful in gaining admission and finding financial aid. The
seminar integrates students' first-hand experiences with readings and class discussions. Admission
by interview only. Email lehecka@columbia.edu by April 10 to arrange interview. Students who
express interest after that date will be considered only if space is available.

Shakespeare in America
Professor James Shapiro
Tues. 9:00-10:50
The seminar explores the reception and influence of Shakespeare in the United States from 1776 to
the present. Readings include poems, stories, plays, and essays by a broad range of writers, including: Irving, Emerson, Maungwudaus, Aldridge, Bacon, Hawthorne, Lincoln, Melville, Lowell, Dickinson,
Whitman, James, Twain, Booth, Addams, Keller, Hughes, Berryman, Thurber, Ransom, McCarthy,
Plath, Mori, Ozick, and Smiley. Requirements include an in-class presentation and a term paper.
To apply, email Professor Shapiro at js73@columbia.edu with subject “Shakespeare in
America Seminar” - include a paragraph explaining the reasons for wanting to take the course and what
preparation you have to bring to the seminar. Include name, school, major, year of study. Deadline
April 13, 2012.

Gender History and American Film
Professor Hilary Hallett
Thurs. 11:00-12:50
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. Attend first class for instructor permission.

Freedom and Citizenship In the United States
Professor Roosevelt Montás
Tues. 4:10-6:00
Freedom and Citizenship in the United States will examine the historical development of ideas of freedom and citizenship in the American context. The course will focus exclusively on primary texts, and the order of readings will be roughly chronological. The first weeks of the course will be dedicated to reading and discussing foundational texts in Western political history that frame the 17th century founding of the American colonies. The rest of the course will situate the American case in this historical development, beginning with an examination of the Puritan migration to New England, and continuing with the study of major documents surrounding the Revolution, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, and contemporary debates about the meaning of American citizenship. In addition to the classroom requirements, students will be expected to volunteer a minimum of four hours a week with the Double Discovery Center (DDC), in connection to the Freedom and Citizenship Project, which DDC conducts in partnership with the American Studies Program. To apply, submit your application to Prof. Montás at rm63@columbia.edu no later than April 10, 2012.

The Holocaust and American Culture
Professor Rebecca Kobrin
Thurs. 11:00-12:50
When the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. opened in 1993, people asked why a ?European? catastrophe was being memorialized alongside shrines to Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln. One answer is that in the years since World War II, the experience and memory of the Holocaust have deeply shaped American culture. The course explores how Nazism and the Holocaust have been understood, interpreted and constructed by American scholars and the larger American society since the 1930s.  This course considers how American scholars and laymen saw these phenomena through the analysis of different types of sources that lay bare the numerous conflicting perspectives on this regime and its policies present in American society. We will examine documentary films, television shows, memoirs, survivor testimonies, as well as legal documents and other scholarly and popular representations of the Holocaust. This course highlights how the codification of the Holocaust as a specific historical epoch and Nazism as a movement changed America in the following ways: by engendering a distrust of the masses among liberal intellectuals; by promoting civil liberties and religious toleration; by encouraging a view of the Soviet Union as equivalent to Nazi Germany; by making the imperatives of protecting human rights and stopping genocide central to foreign policy; and by providing a new focus for American Jewish identity. Contact the History Department for more information.

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Spring 2012

Lecture Course

Introduction to American Studies (AMST W1010; 3 points)
Professors Casey Blake and Maura Spiegel
Monday & Wednesday 2:40-3:55 p.m.
An introduction to fundamental themes and debates that span four centuries of American culture. Beginning with Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, we will explore themes such as the question of national character, immigration, assimilation and the color line, opportunity and the pursuit of property, self-making, meritocracy, consumerism, Americans at work and leisure, American religion and spiritual life, educational ideals, and Americans at war. A partial list of authors includes: John Winthrop, Hector St. Jean de Crevecoeur, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, R. W. Emerson, H.D. Thoreau, Abraham Lincoln, W.E. B. DuBois, Andrew Carnegie, Horatio Alger, Theodore Roosevelt, John Dewey, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis, Thorstein Veblen, Nella Larsen, and Gish Jen. Conducted as a lecture/discussion, with weekly discussion sections.

Seminars

Race, Poverty, and American Criminal Justice
Professor Cathleen Price
This course will examine the influence of race and poverty in the American system of confronting the challenge of crime. Students will explore some history, including the various purposes of having an organized criminal justice system within a community; the principles behind the manner in which crimes are defined; and the utility of punishment. Our focus will be on the social, political and economic effects of the administration of our criminal justice system, with emphatic examination of the role of conscious and unconscious racism, as well as community biases against the poor. Students will examine the larger implications for a community and culture that are presented by these pernicious features. We will reflect on the fairness of our past and present American system of confronting crime, and consider the possibilities of future reform. Readings will include historical texts, analytical reports, some biography, and a few legal materials. We will also watch documentary films which illuminate the issues and problems.

Disability, Embodiment, and Social Justice
Professor Rachel Adams
What does it mean to be disabled in America?  This course approaches disability less as a medical condition affecting individual bodies than as a social, environmental, and historical phenomenon.  We will investigate the role of culture in shaping and reflecting on disability in contemporary American culture.  How have philosophers, policy makers, authors and artists framed the political and ethical debates surrounding the status of disability?  How have imaginative representations in literature, film, and the visual arts contributed to and/or challenged those understandings?  Given that nearly every one of us will be disabled at some point in life, these questions could not be more important.  This course seeks to address them by considering a broad array of texts, including philosophical debates about morality and ethics, history, and literary, filmic, and visual representations.  In addition to our consideration of cultural representations, an experiential learning requirement will also give students the opportunity to work closely with an organization dedicated to serving the needs of people with disabilities.

A Cultural History of Wall Street
Professor Steven Fraser
This seminar examines the impact of Wall Street on American life from the American Revolution through the dot.com boom of the 1990s, its collapse at the turn of the millennium, and the current financial meltdown. Discussions and readings explore the ways the Street has been integrated into the country’s economic, political, and cultural life, and examine how Americans have handled their ambivalence about whether the Street has been a force for good or evil. We focus on some of the principal iconic representations of the Street as they have appeared in cartoons, political tracts, movies, economic treatises, sermons, novels, histories, and other cultural artifacts.

The Languages of America
Professor John McWhorter
The United States, often thought of as a nation where since its origins all foreign languages spoken by immigrants have withered away upon exposure to English, has actually always harbored a complex mixture of languages and dialects. This course will examine the history of language in America, including the robust role of German in colonial times and beyond (once as commonly heard in America as Spanish); creole languages such as Gullah, Louisiana Creole French and Hawaiian "Pidginï" English; Black English including its history and present; Native American languages and modern efforts to preserve them; and the history of Asian languages in modern America, including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Hmong. The course also serves, in ancillary fashion, as an introduction to the variety among languages of the world and to a scientific perspective on human language.

Transmedia
Professor Paul Levitz
Transmedia, widely regarded as the future of entertainment, raises crucial questions about how an individual creator’s role changes as the creative project grows. Translation from one medium to another becomes a more tightly controlled form of storytelling where creators must navigate between the desire to add excitement and the threat of diluting impact. In today’s entertainment industry, properties like Batman become simultaneously films, cartoons, video games, online webisodes, and re-appear in multiple versions beyond their original expression (comics, in this example)—all with the aim of enlarging their commercial potential, and connecting with many audiences. Increasingly, writers and creators are being enlisted to build these variations even before the first incarnation of the project is released. This course will explore transmedia in the present, and speculate about its future. It will also explore its history as exemplified by such works as L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. We will examine the tensions between creative and commercial goals, and between contradictory audiences. Guest speakers will include writers, artists, and people involved in projects ranging across the media, including Broadway adaptations. Readings and viewings will include primary sources (novels, graphic novels, films, etc.), criticism and theory, and intellectual property law. Students will be expected to compose 2 response papers and either give a presentation on a transmedia property of their choice or write a research paper.

Post-wars: The Cultural Consequences of Modern American Wars
Professor Hilary Hallett
War is an engine of change like no other. This interdisciplinary seminar aims to take the measure of war?s impact on American culture by examining the costs and consequences of its aftermath in particular historical moments, beginning with the Civil War and concluding with the ?War on Terror.? The class will consider how cultural production reflects war?s making and remaking of family structures and gender roles, racial categories, federal policies and public discourse about the constitution of national identity in the wake of conflicts involving deadly force.

Research Seminar in American Studies (AMST W3990 section 001; 4 points; call number 79696)
Professor Andrew Delbanco
A seminar devoted to the research and writing, under the instructor's supervision, of a substantial paper on a topic in American studies. Open to American Studies students only.


See more past courses here.

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The Center for American Studies at Columbia University
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