Fall 2022 Undergraduate Courses in American Studies

Courses are listed by campus.

AMST-ENGL 1201 / HIST 1503: Introduction to American Studies

TuTh 9:00-10:45am, AMST class# 4823

As a basic introduction to the key issues of the field of American Studies, this course will explore such topics as: the role of space in American history; the role of immigration across history; the interplay of the arts with social and political ideas; the place of race, gender, class, and ethnicity now and in the past; patterns of everyday life; and architecture and material culture generally. Students will write brief reaction papers to their readings; midterm and final will be given. Authors will include Frederick Douglass, Walker Evans and James Agee, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Leslie M. Silko

Professor: Wayne Franklin

AMST / ENGL 2200:  Literature and Culture of North America before 1800

TuTh 12:30-1:45pm,  AMST class # 8294

This course examines the early written and oral record of the area that eventually became the United States. It does so within the context of various non-textual analogues (e.g., architecture, art, landscape, material culture, and social, economic, and political institutions). The goal is to achieve a holistic understanding of the ways in which peoples of many varied backgrounds, from the Asian-derived indigenous inhabitants of North America to the various immigrant populations from continental Europe and the British Isles and the enslaved Africans they introduced to the Western hemisphere, came to express their views of the land and their experiences on it and with each other. Primary readings are drawn from recorded Indigenous mythic and historic texts, travel accounts originally written in various European languages (e.g., French, Spanish, Dutch, German, and English), works centered on indigenous-Euro-American contact and conflict, social history documents of literary value, key political documents, and poetry, early fiction and autobiography. Quizzes or reaction papers on major texts plus a midterm and a paper on the final two texts will be required.

Professor:  Wayne Franklin

AMST / ENGL 2207     Empire and U.S. Culture

MWF 12:20-1:10pm,  AMST class# 13354

How the frontier and overseas ambitions have shaped U.S. institutions and culture. The impact of U.S. expansion on people outside its borders. These topics are explored through literary narratives and historical documents. CA 1. CA 4.

Professor: Jerry Phillips

AMST / ENGL 2274W:  Disability in American Literature and Culture

MoWe 6:10-7:25pm,  AMST class# 7114

An interdisciplinary examination of the symbolic roles of disability and the social implications of those roles.  CA 1.  CA4.

Professor: Brenda Brueggemann

AMST / ENGL 2276W  American Utopias and Dystopias

Th 12:30-1:45pm, AMST class# 9547

We know a dystopian landscape when we see one, perhaps because recent literature, film, and television abound with examples, from the popular YA franchise The Hunger Games to comic-book-turned hit-series The Walking Dead, to the serialized version of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, all of which bespeak contemporaneous anxieties arising from large-scale problems that we currently contend with: climate change, the resurgence of fascism, the persistence of racial and economic injustice, the Covid pandemic, and more. Harder to find are compelling depictions of utopia, which translates from the Greek as “no place,” and which theorists Frank and Fritzie Manuel identify as a “fantasy” based on the myth of heaven on earth.

In this class, we will focus on predominantly contemporary narratives that complicate our understanding of both dystopian and utopian imaginaries by considering texts that are grounded in a realist tradition but which mine the past in order to suggest the outlines of an alternative future. Using Jack London’s The Iron Heel (1908) as a foundational text, we will read novels such as Lauren Groff’s Arcadia, Laura van den Berg’s Find Me, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, Ling Ma’s Severance, and Kiese Laymon’s Long Division alongside a variety of theoretical and cultural readings to arrive at our own working definition of utopian and dystopian thought. In addition to substantial reading and consonant with the requirements of a W course, students will write weekly responses, participate in online discussion, and create two multimodal projects that respond to and extend course material.

Professor: Kathy Knapp

AMST / ENGL 2276W  American Utopias and Dystopias

Tu 5:00-6:15pm, AMST class# 13362

What happens when the world ends? This course explores how writers and filmmakers have imagined the possibilities that arise when all we know disappears. While the bulk of the course will explore the work of American writers, we will devote at least one unit to exploring how other nations have imagined both dystopia and utopia. In so doing, we will explore the political and cultural stakes of imagining both better and worse worlds.

Professor: Anna Mae Duane

AMST/ENGL 3267W  Race and the Scientific Imagination

TuTh 3:30-4:45pm, AMST class# 13361

This course provides students with opportunities to observe and critique how scientific and cultural narratives have reinforced one another in ways that can embed racial biases in medical, scientific, and technological discourses. By reading both popular scientific and fictional texts, we will engage in a critical exploration of key tenets underlying racism and colonialism. This course will foreground student writing and research, in the hopes of enabling imaginative approaches to disconnecting the entangled legacies of scientific racism.

Professor: Anna Mae Duane

AMST / ARTH 3440W:  Nineteenth Century American Art

MW 9:15-10:45,  AMST class# 12742

This class examines the art of the long-nineteenth century with particular emphasis in how the visual culture of the period constructed concepts of nation, power, identity, citizenship, capitalism, and religion. This writing intensive course investigates how ideas such as the United States, enslavement, the Civil War, family, freedom, citizenship, the “West,” native, and immigrant, are formed through the paintings, prints, housewares, clothes, architecture, and photographs of the period.

Professor: Alexis Boylan

AMST / HIST 3502W:  Colonial America: Native Americans, Slaves, and Settlers, 1492-1760

Tu 2:00-4:30pm, class# 13356

This course focuses on the history of the thirteen colonies that in 1776 declared independence from Britain. Its major themes are (1) the economic and political relationship between colonies and empires, (2) the diversity of the British North American colonies, especially as revealed in relations among colonists, indigenous people, and Africans, the majority of whom were imported as slaves, and (3) the cultural institutions and social systems that textured everyday life (religious beliefs, the patriarchal family, gender roles, material culture, occupations). W courses require 15 pages of revised writing. For this course, the writing assignments will consist of a series of short papers analyzing different types of original documents and artifacts dating to the 1600s and 1700s.

Professor: Nancy Shoemaker

AMST / HIST 3542E:  New England Environmental History

MoWe 2:30-345pm, AMST class# 13359

Interdisciplinary history of New England’s terrestrial and marine environmental change. Links among land, sea, and human natural resource use and management, including precontact patterns, colonial impacts, agricultural decline, industrial pollution, overfishing, re-forestation, and the rise of eco-tourism.

Professor: Nancy Shoemaker

AMST / POLS 3807:  Constitutional Rights and Liberties

TuTh 8:00-9:15am,  AMST class# 13360

The role of the Supreme Court in interpreting the Bill of Rights. Topics include freedoms of speech and religion, criminal due process, and equal protection. 

Professor: Virginia Hettinger

AMST / POLS 3822:  Law and Popular Culture

TuTh 12:30-1:45pm, AMST class# 13364

This course is an exploration of the myriad relationships between law and popular culture, where popular culture is treated simultaneously as a reflection, a distortion, and a shaper of law and legal practice.

Professor: Jeff Dudas


AMST / HIST 2810:  Crime, Policing, and Punishment in the United States

MWF 1:25-2:15, AMST class# 11838 and # 11911

How do we police and punish crime in a democratic society?  This course will explore how the answer to that question has changed over time, and how scholars have understood the growth and impact of a carceral system that made the United States the global leader in incarceration. It traces three interwoven narratives throughout the semester: the political development of criminal justice institutions; how American culture shapes understandings of criminalization; and the lived experience of crime, policing, and punishment. Through a critical and interdisciplinary exploration extending from the colonial period to the present, topics of study will include police tactics and technologies, convict leasing, prisoner rights movements, juvenile delinquency, drug wars, mass incarceration, imprisonment of immigrants, political incarceration, and reform and abolition movements.

Professor: Melanie Newport