AMST 295 Topics in American Studies

Topics vary semester to semester.

Latino/a Experience

This course will explore the history and experience of Latino/a immigrants in the United States, paying particular attention to how race, ethnicity, identity, politics, class, and gender influence the lives of Latino/a immigrants. We will also examine how they have influenced historical developments in different regions of the country, especially in terms of U.S. demographics. 

Black Literary History and the Archive 

How do we resurrect the lives of people who were considered unimportant, those whose contributions were dismissed and buried? What does the existing historical archive tell us about what is considered valuable and about what constitutes "memory"? This class examines the lives of two of the most important 19-century Black women writers, Harriet Jacobs and Harriet Wilson, as a means to develop the tools of literary recovery. As we expand the contours of the historical canon, we will also reflect on our own sense of the scope and shape of African American historical memory and the ways in which we organize history. How do we interpret religion, resistance, and labor activities that that fall "outside" of the most recognized narratives about African American experience? This class will take on these larger questions as we also engage in archival work in newspapers, census records, and beyond. 

African American Literature: Race/Gender/Sexuality 

This course is designed as a survey of African American literature. We will examine a multitude of genres, including: oral forms (spirituals, ballads, work songs), poetry, fiction, drama, and essays by authors such as: Phillis Wheatley, David Walker, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Nella Larson, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, Jessie R. Faucet, Claude McKay, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Ann Petry, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Beyond strictly a "greatest hits" or "major authors" course, this class will also consider the ways African American writers interrogate complex categories of personal identity, which requires an in-depth investigation into the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic class. Through lectures, class discussions, and student presentations, we will highlight the critical impact of African American literature on American culture.

"America is a Great Country!": The Politics of Transnational Iranian-American Women's Memoirs and the Legacy of Black Radical Thought

Some scholars of Middle Eastern Studies attribute today's rise in Islamophobia to a particular event in history: the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. While we grapple with the xenophobic, racist, and sexist implications of Islamophobia in the United States, we must also look at how Islamophobia plays out in the Middle East, and in Iran, in particular. Further, how does transnational Islamophobia function in the Iranian-American diaspora? This course traces the evolution of the Islamic Revolution, starting with the rarely examined friendship between the ideologue of the Revolution, Ali Shariati, and the black radical thinker, Frantz Fanon. We will examine how post-Revolution memoirs written by Iranian-American women have played a significant role in erasing radical history and promoting Orientalism and its more dangerous iterations of Islamophobia. Specifically, how do these memoirs position Iranian-Americans as model minorities and promote salvation narratives about Iranian women in need of rescue from Islam by the U.S.? 1.) To what extent do we take subjective experiences as authoritative voices in a diaspora? 2.) Who is doing the work of representation and what are they representing about the diaspora? 3.) Why is a particular diasporic voice allowed a wide-reaching platform? 4.) How is being American understood by diasporic people?

Credits

4 units

Core Requirements Met

  • United States Diversity