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Courses

Courses offered by American Studies are open to all students.  Students do not necessarily have to be working toward the Certificate to take courses offered by the Certificate Program.

Fall 2020

ASCP 81000: Introduction to American Studies: The Long 1920s, Tuesdays, 2:00pm-4:00pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Eric Lott

Could the 1920s, the so-called Roaring Twenties, offer any hints as to what might lie ahead as we enter our own 21st-century ‘20s?  The parallels are arresting: a post-1918-pandemic decade in which Wall Street was ascendant (until it wasn’t); motor company magnate Henry Ford transforming the shop floor and the company town like a Jeff Bezos avatar; immigration restriction (the 1924 Immigration Act), state-sponsored race war (Tulsa 1921, among others), and the massive resurgence of the “second” Ku Klux Klan; and rich cultural and political movements and formations that amplified and contested these developments.  This introduction to the concepts, methodologies, and histories of interdisciplinary American Studies practice will inquire into U.S. cultural production, social activism, and historical developments from the “Spanish Flu” to the 1932 election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: the impact and influence of women’s suffrage; the music of Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and Duke Ellington; the cinema of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton; the pre-narco Prohibition gangster culture and underground alcohol economy of Al Capone and many others; the post-Russian Revolution radical analyses of Antonio Gramsci (“Americanism and Fordism”), Emma Goldman, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Louis Fraina/Lewis Corey; the black and queer interventions of the Harlem Renaissance; the so-called Lost Generation (e.g., Stein, Fitzgerald, Hemingway) as well as proletarian realisms (e.g., Anzia Yezierska, Abraham Cahan) and Greenwich Village modernisms (Edna St. Vincent Millay, e.e. cummings); radical, avant-garde, and bohemian “little magazines”; architectural, automotive, and aviation innovations; and more besides.  This course will be conducted remotely via Zoom.
 
 

 

Spring 2020

ASCP 81000: Intro to American Studies: Race and Performance, GC: Thursdays, 2:00-4:00pm, Professor Eric Lott  
This course will introduce you to the field of American Studies by looking at the social and cultural construction of race in—and as—performance.  The course seeks to accomplish a number of things at once: to examine the concepts, histories, and methodologies of American Studies; to think about textual “archives” and cultural “repertoires” as fresh ways to capture American Studies’ interdisciplinary imperative; and to construct a thematic focus or lens through which to study cultures of the United States and of the Americas hemispherically conceived.
 
American Studies as a scholarly approach was inaugurated during the Cold War, and its investment in the culture and society of a powerful U.S. nation-state grounded its inquiries.  After the Cold War’s demise, in a newly “globalized” world, we are in a better position to devise an American Studies that views critically the boundaries of and reflexive allegiances to the nation-state, that 18th-century technology of compulsory homogeneity.  While we will study a range of materials that consciously take up or express some idea of race and how it is “performed,” we will do so with reference to their hemispheric, Atlantic, or indeed global resonances and influences.  The identities, subjectivities, impostures, fealties, revulsions, desires, pleasures, and failures arising from these performances will provide most of the material for our discussions.
 
Very likely readings, among others: 
Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire (Duke, 2003)
Joseph Roach, Cities of the Dead (Columbia, 1996)
Jose Munoz, Cruising Utopia (NYU, 2009)
Donald Pease and Amy Kaplan, eds., Cultures of US Imperialism (Duke, 1991)
George Fredrickson, White Supremacy (Oxford, 1981)
Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (Grove, 1952)
Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power (Stanford, 1997)
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (Penguin, 1787)
The Confessions of Nat Turner (Bedford St. Martins, 1831)
Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Bedford St. Martins, 1885)

 
Fall 2019

ASCP 81500: Working in the Dark: Queer Takes on the Night, Tuesdays, 4:15-6:15pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Tyler T. Schmidt

Locating itself in critical conversation with Toni Morrison’s formulation of “playing in the dark” which investigates, in part, the roles race plays in creative practice, this course explores queer meanings and makings of the night, with particular attention to the labors of the nocturnal. Our collective definition of nightwork will also consider the epistemological challenges of working/writing in the dark, at the limits of understanding and on the edges of sense. Our encounters with nocturnal spaces, figures, and practices will draw from the following sources and sites: surrealist spectacle and dreamwork in Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood; the afterhours of Shane Vogel’s The Scene of Harlem Cabaret; James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room; Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake; the occult poetics of James Merrill; the eulogies of the New York School poets; the short stories of Tennessee Williams; Samuel Stewart; Samuel Delany’s The Motion of Light in Water; bathhouses and backrooms; Gary Fisher; punk-drag performance; Joshua Chambers-Letson’s After the Party; Juana María Rodríguez on queer nightlife; Fred Moten’s Black and Blur; and José Esteban Muñoz’s Disidentifications (in honor of its 20th birthday).

ASCP 82000: Voices of the City: accessibility, reciprocity, and self-representation in place-based community research, Thursdays, 2:00-4:00pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Tarry Hum and Prithi Kanakamedala.  Crosslisted with IDS 81620.

Scholars active in place-based or participatory action research are committed to documenting community narratives and neighborhoods. It is central to our work, rooted in social justice, that these communities are not just represented, but that they have equitable stake in the project. Yet practitioners across the city struggle with core issues of accessibility, reciprocity, self-representation, and equity within the communities they work with. Who do place-based researchers represent, and does our work empower communities to tell their own stories? What histories do we contest and perpetuate with this work? And, who gets to participate? This inter-disciplinary course combines best or effective practices in Public History, Oral History, and Urban Planning to consider a number of projects in New York City that seek to document communities and narratives about the city that are not traditionally represented.