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Courses

The following information is from the 2018-19 Vassar College Catalogue.

American Studies: Required Courses

100 Introduction to American Studies 1Semester Offered: Fall and Spring

This course reveals and challenges the histories of the categories that contribute to the definition of "America." The course explores ideas such as nationhood and the nation-state, democracy and citizenship, ethnic and racial identity, myths of frontier and facts of empire, borders and expansion, normativity and representation, sovereignty and religion, regionalism and transnationalism as these inform our understanding of the United States and American national identity. One goal of the course is to introduce students to important concepts and works in American Studies. Either AMST 100 or AMST 105 will satisfy the 100-level core requirement of the American Studies major. Topics vary with expertise of the faculty teaching the course.

Topic for 2018/19a: The American Secular: Religion and the Nation-State. Is there a distinct realm in American politics and culture called the secular, a space or a mode of pubic discourse that is crucially free of and from the category of religion? This class considers the sorts of theoretical and historical moments in American life, letters, and practice that have, on the one hand, insisted the importance and necessity of such a realm, and on the other hand, resisted the very notion that religion should be kept out of the American public square. We ask whether it is possible or even desirable---in our politics, in our public institutions, in ourselves---to conceive of the secular and the religious as radically opposed. We ask if there are better ways to conceive of the secular and the religious in American life, ways that acknowledge their mutual interdependence rather than their exclusivity. Jonathon Kahn.

Topic for 2018/19b: People, Culture, and Place. A dynamic introduction to the interdisciplinary field of American Studies by focusing on the key concerns of people, culture, and place. Lisa Collins.

 

 

Open to first-year students and sophomores only.

Two 75-minute periods.

105 Introduction to Native American Studies 1Semester Offered: Spring

This course is a multi-and interdisciplinary introduction to the basic philosophies, ideologies, and methodologies of the discipline of Native American Studies. It acquaints students with the history, art, literature, sociology, linguistics, politics, and epistemology according to an indigenous perspective while utilizing principles stemming from vast and various Native North American belief systems and cultural frameworks. Through reading assignments, films, and discussions, we learn to objectively examine topics such as orality, sovereignty, stereotypes, humor, language, resistance, spirituality, activism, identity, tribal politics, and environment among others. Overall, we work to problematize historical, ethnographical, and literary representations of Native people as a means to assess and evaluate western discourses of domination; at the same time, we focus on the various ways Native people and nations, both in their traditional homelands and urban areas, have been and are triumphing over 500+ years of colonization through acts of survival and continuance. Either AMST 100 or 105 will satisfy the 100-level core requirement of the American Studies major. Molly McGlennen.

Open to first-year students and sophomores only.

Two 75-minute periods.

250 America in the World 1Semester Offered: Fall

This course focuses on current debates in American Studies about resituating the question of "America" in global terms. We explore the theoretical and political problems involved in such a reorientation of the field as we examine topics such as American militarization and empire, American involvement in global monetary organizations such as the World Trade Organization and the World Bank, the question of a distinctive national and international American culture, foreign perspectives on American and "Americanization," and the global significance of American popular culture including film and music such as hip-hop. Carlos Alamo, William Hoynes.

Required of students concentrating in the program. Generally not open to senior majors. Open to other students by permission of the director and as space permits.

Two 75-minute periods.

302 Senior Thesis or Project 0.5Semester Offered: Fall

Required of students concentrating in the program.

The senior project is graded Distinction, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory.

Yearlong course 302-AMST 303.

303 Senior Thesis or Project 0.5Semester Offered: Spring

Required of students concentrating in the program.

The senior project is graded Distinction, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory.

Yearlong course AMST 302-303.

313 Multidisciplinary Research Methods 1

This course explores the challenges of conducting multi- and interdisciplinary inquiry within the field of American Studies. Drawing on key texts and innovative projects within the field, the course examines the ways in which varying disciplines make meaning of the world and puts specific modes of inquiry into practice. Students learn how to seek, produce, and evaluate different forms of evidence and how to shape this evidence in the direction of a broader project. Specific forms of inquiry may include: interpreting archival documents, conducting interviews, making maps, crafting field notes, analyzing cultural texts, among others.

Prerequisite(s): or co-requisite: a discipline-specific methods course appropriate to the student.

Not offered in 2018/19.

315 Senior Project Seminar 1Semester Offered: Fall

This course is required for all senior American Studies majors. The seminar engages current debates in the field of American Studies, as it prepares students to undertake the Senior Project. The course is designed to help students to identify a compelling research problem, locate appropriate critical resources, deepen their engagement with the disciplinary and interdisciplinary methods appropriate to their focus within the major, and locate their projects within a broader field of inquiry. Texts include Bruce Burgett and Glen Hendler, Keywords for American Culture Studies; Wayne Booth et al., The Craft of Research. Taught by the Director, Hua Hsu.

Corequisite: Senior Project; offered in the fall semester in the senior year.

One 2-hour period.

American Studies: Core Courses

101 The Art of Reading and Writing 1Semester Offered: Fall

Development of critical reading in various forms of literary expression, and regular practice in different kinds of writing.

Open only to first-year students; satisfies the college requirement for a First-Year Writing Seminar.

160 Art and Social Change in the United States 1

(Same as ART 160) In this first-year writing seminar, we explore relationships between art, visual culture, and social change in the United States. Focusing on twentieth and twenty-first century social movements, we study artists and communities who have sought to inspire social change--to cultivate awareness, nurture new ideas, offer fresh visions, promote dialogue, encourage understanding, build and strengthen community, and inspire civic engagement and direct action--through creative visual expression. Lisa Collins.

Open only to first-year students; satisfies the college requirement for a First-Year Writing Seminar.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

177 Special Topics 0.5Semester Offered: Spring

(Same as ENGL 177 and URBS 177)

First six-week course.

Two 75-minute periods.

203 These American Lives: New Journalisms 1Semester Offered: Spring

(Same as ENGL 203) This course examines the various forms of journalism that report on the diverse complexity of contemporary American lives. In a plain sense, this course is an investigation into American society. But the main emphasis of the course is on acquiring a sense of the different models of writing, especially in longform writing, that have defined and changed the norms of reportage in our culture. Students are encouraged to practice the basics of journalistic craft and to interrogate the role of journalists as intellectuals (or vice versa). Hua Hsu.

207 Commercialized Childhoods 1

(Same as SOCI 207) This course examines features of childhoods in the U.S. at different times and across different social contexts. The primary aims of the course are 1) to examine how we've come to the contemporary understanding of American childhood as a distinctive life phase and cultural construct, by reference to historical and cross-cultural examples, and 2) to recognize the diversity of childhoods that exist and the economic, geographical, political, and cultural factors that shape those experiences. Specific themes in the course examine the challenges of studying children; the social construction of childhood (how childhoods are constructed by a number of social forces, economic interests, technological determinants, cultural phenomena, discourses, etc.); processes of contemporary globalization and commodification of childhoods (children's roles as consumers, as producers, and debates about children's rights); as well as the intersecting dynamics of age, social class, race/ethnicity, gender, and sexuality in particular experiences of childhood. Eréndira Rueda.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

231 Native American Literature 1

This course examines Indigenous North American literatures from a Native American Studies perspective.  Native American literature is particularly vast and diverse, representing over 500 Indigenous nations in the northern hemisphere and written/spoken in both Indigenous languages and languages of conquest (English, Spanish, French).  Because of this range of writing and spoken stories, our goals for the class are to complicate our understanding of "texts," to examine the origins of and evolution of tribal literatures (fiction, poetry, non fiction, graphic novel, etc.), and to comprehend the varied theoretical debates and frameworks that have created and nurtured a robust field of Native American literary criticism.  A Native American Studies framework positions the literature as the creative work of Native peoples on behalf of their respective Nations or communities and complicated by the on-going legacy of colonialism.  Authors include William Apess, Luther Standing Bear, Pauline Johnson, Mourning Dove, Gerald Vizenor, N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Silko, Louise Erdrich, Wendy Rose, Thomas King, Beth Brant, Kimberly Blaeser, and Richard Van Camp, among other Native theorists, spoken word artists, filmmakers, and artists. Molly McGlennen.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

252 The American Military at Home and Abroad 1

After 1945 the U.S. created the world's largest and most far-reaching network of military bases. Today, more than 700 military bases in over 150 countries are hosts to American troops, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and private military contractors. Readings explore the development of this unprecedented global network of military bases, the differing Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs) that govern the relationship between the U.S. military and the local populations, as well as the impact of the U.S. troops on these communities. By taking a transnational perspective, we explore the possibilities and limits for democratic change due to the U.S. presence, but also the way in which America's military deployments abroad brought about change at home. Assigned readings draw on the writing of scholars of the U.S. military, texts produced by opponents of the U.S. military, as well as artistic responses (films, plays, novels, poems) to the U.S. global base structure. Maria Höhn.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

258 Studies in Sound 1

(Same as MEDS 258) This course familiarizes students with the emerging field of sound studies. We spend the first eight weeks exploring the different facets of sound culture: histories and ethnographies of listening; theories of sound capture and reproduction; the political economy of recording media (particularly the MP3); the experience of the modern American soundscape. We conclude with case studies of contemporary sonic experiences: "glitch"-based digital music and the aesthetics of failure; new developments in sonic weaponry; art and activism that "listens" to drones and the US-Mexico border. Hua Hsu.

Prerequisite(s): 100-level course work within the multidisciplinary programs, or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

262 Native American Women 1

(Same as WMST 262) In an effort to subjugate indigenous nations, colonizing and Christianizing enterprises in the Americas included the implicit understanding that subduing Native American women through rape and murder maintained imperial hierarchies of gender and power; this was necessary to eradicate Native people's traditional egalitarian societies and uphold the colonial agenda. Needless to say, Native women's stories and histories have been inaccurately portrayed, often tainted with nostalgia and delivered through a lens of western patriarchy and discourses of domination. Through class readings and writing assignments, discussions and films, this course examines Native women's lives by considering the intersections of gender and race through indigenous frameworks. We expose Native women's various cultural worldviews in order to reveal and assess the importance of indigenous women's voices to national and global issues such as sexual violence, environmentalism, and health. The class also takes into consideration the shortcomings of western feminisms in relation to the realities of Native women and Native people's sovereignty in general. Areas of particular importance to this course are indigenous women's urban experience, Haudenosaunee influence on early U.S. suffragists, indigenous women in the creative arts, third-gender/two-spiritedness, and Native women's traditional and contemporary roles as cultural carriers. Molly McGlennen.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

266 Art, Urgency, and Everyday Life in the United States 1Semester Offered: Fall

(Same as AFRS 266 and ART 266) An interdisciplinary exploration of how a range of U.S. based creators--through their artistic practices, aesthetic choices, and expressive interventions--are grappling with urgent issues of our time. Lisa Collins.

Prerequisite(s): ART 105 or ART 106 or coursework in Africana Studies, American Studies, Women's Studies, or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

284 Decolonizing the Exhibition: Critical Approaches to Contemporary Indigenous Art 1Semester Offered: Fall

This course consists of two areas of inquiry: the study of the impact and importance of Indigenous art from a Native American Studies perspective and the research and exhibition of Inuit works on paper from the Edward J. Guarino Collection at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. We begin by exploring Indigenous art through culturally and tribally specific perspectives in order to challenge the ethnographic lens that has traditionally examined and catalogued Native artists. Through a Native American Studies framework, we approach Indigenous art not through western categories of artifact or craft, but as artworks that stress the continuance of Indigenous peoples in direct conversation with the non-Indigenous world. From this understanding, the class constructs an exhibition to be installed in the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at the end of the semester. Students research and interpret Inuit works from the collection, design the exhibition installation, write the exhibition catalogue and create the accompanying website. Molly McGlennen.

Two 75-minute periods.

290 Field Work 0.5 to 1Semester Offered: Fall or Spring

Permission of the director required.

297 Readings in American Studies 0.5Semester Offered: Fall

298 Independent Study 0.5 to 1Semester Offered: Fall or Spring

Permission of the director required.

338 German-American Encounters since WW I 1

(Same as HIST 338) This seminar explores the many ways in which Germans envisioned, feared, and embraced America in the course of the twentieth century. We start our readings with WWI and its aftermath, when German society was confronted and, as some feared, overwhelmed, by an influx of American soldiers, expatriates, industry, and popular culture. The Nazi Regime promised to overcome Weimar modernity and the alleged Americanization of German society, but embraced nonetheless aspects of American modernity in its quest to dominate Europe militarily and economically. For the period after WWII, we study in depth the U.S. military occupation (1945-1955), the almost seventy-year lasting military presence in West Germany, and the political, social and cultural implications of this transatlantic relationship. Maria Höhn.

Not offered in 2018/19.

352 Indigenous Literatures of the Americas 1Semester Offered: Fall

(Same as ANTH 352 and LALS 352) This course addresses a selection of creation narratives, historical accounts, poems, and other genres produced by indigenous authors from Pre-Columbian times to the present, using historical, linguistic and ethnographic approaches. We examine the use of non-alphabetic and alphabetic writing systems, study poetic and rhetorical devices, and examine indigenous historical consciousness and sociopolitical and gender dynamics through the vantage point of these works. Other topics include language revitalization, translation issues, and the rapport between linguistic structure and literary form. The languages and specific works to be examined are selected in consultation with course participants. They may include English or Spanish translations of works in Nahuatl, Zapotec, Yucatec and K'iche' Maya, Quechua, Tupi, Aymara, and other indigenous languages of Latin America. David Tavárez.

 

One 2-hour period.

365 Racial Borderlands 1

Borders have been made to demarcate geographic and social spaces. As such, they often divide and separate national states, populations, and their political and cultural practices. However, borders also serve as spaces of convergence and transgression. Employing a comparative and relational approach to the study of American cultures, this seminar examines concepts, theories and methodologies about race and ethnicity that emerged along the U.S. racial borderlands between the 18th and 20th centuries. We also consider the historical and contemporary ways in which discourses about race have been used to define, organize, and separate different social groups within the U.S. racial empire state. Throughout the semester we ask the following questions: How does race emerge as an idea in the U.S. political and social landscape? What is the relationship between race, gender and empire? What are the relational and historical ways in which ideas about race have been used to arrange and rank distinct social groups in the U.S. imperial body? How have these hierarchies shifted across space and time and how have different groups responded to these racial formations? Lastly, this seminar considers the future potential and limits of solidarity as a practice organized around ideas about race and exclusion for different marginalized populations within the U.S. empire state. Carlos Alamo.

Not offered in 2018/19.

366 Art and Activism in the United States 1Semester Offered: Spring

(Same as AFRS 366, ART 366, and WMST 366) Topic for 2018/19b: Exquisite Intimacy. An interdisciplinary exploration of the work and role of quilts within the US. Closely considering quilts--as well as their creators, users, keepers, and interpreters--we study these integral coverings and the practices of their making and use with keen attention to their recurrence as core symbols in American history, literature, and life. Lisa Collins.
 

Prerequisite(s): permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period.

381 Ideas, Sound, and Story: Podcast Production 1Semester Offered: Spring

(Same as MEDS 381) This is a course on narrative audio production that focuses on the study and production of various nonfictional genres in the American podcasting landscape, including audio documentaries, investigative reporting, confessionals, art pieces, storytelling for academic purposes, and others. Students learn the craft of audio production from getting tape, tape-logging, writing for audio, story and tape-editing, and sound-tracking. Students  complete various technical assignments, and submit a final 10-minute piece, with regular progress graded throughout. In order to model the highly competitive nature of the podcasting production space today, students must be highly-motivated, highly-organized, and grading is very rigorous, with the highest of standards and strict deadlines. Barry Lam.

Prerequisite(s): permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period.

Two 2-hour periods.

382 Documenting America 1

The demand for documentation, the hunger for authenticity, the urge to share in the experiences of others were widespread in the first half of the twentieth century. A huge world of documentary expression included movies, novels, photographs, art and non-fiction accounts. This course explores the various ways in which some of these artists, photographers, writers and government agencies attempted to create documents of American life between 1900 and 1945. The course examines how such documents fluctuate between utility and aesthetics, between the social document and the artistic image. Among the questions we consider are: in what ways do these works document issues of race and gender that complicate our understanding of American life? How are our understandings of industrialization and consumerism, the Great Depression and World War II, shaped and altered by such works as the photographs of Lewis Hine and Dorothea Lange,the paintings of Jacob Lawrence, the films of Charlie Chaplin, the novels and stories of Chester Himes, William Carlos Williams and Zora Neale Hurston, the non-fictional collaboration of James Agee and Walker Evans. Miriam Cohen and Patricia Wallace.

Not offered in 2018/19.

One 2-hour period.

383 Indigenous New York 1

(Same as URBS 383) Over half of all Native American people living in the United States now live in an urban area. The United States federal policies of the 1950's brought thousands of Indigenous peoples to cities with the promise of jobs and a better life. Like so many compacts made between the United States and Native tribes, these agreements were rarely realized. Despite the cultural, political, and spiritual losses due to Termination and Relocation policies, Native American people have continued to survive and thrive in complex ways. This seminar examines the experiences of Indigenous peoples living in urban areas since the 1950's, but also takes into consideration the elaborate urban centers that existed in the Americas before European contact. Using the New York region as our geographical center, we examine the pan-tribal movement, AIM, Red Power, education, powwowing, social and cultural centers, two-spiritedness, religious movements, and the arts. We study the manner in which different Native urban communities have both adopted western ways and recuperated specific cultural and spiritual traditions in order to build and nurture Indigenous continuance. Finally, in this course, we understand and define "urban" in very broad contexts, using the term to examine social, spiritual, geographical, material, and imagined spaces in which Indigenous people of North America locate themselves and their communities at different times and in different ways. Molly McGlennen.

Not offered in 2018/19.

One 2-hour period.

384 Native Religions/Americas 1

(Same as ANTH 384 and LALS 384) The conquest of the Americas was accompanied by various intellectual and sociopolitical projects devised to translate, implant, or impose Christian beliefs in Amerindian societies. This course examines modes of resistance and accommodation, among other indigenous responses, to the introduction of Christianity as part of larger colonial projects. Through a succession of case studies from North America, Mesoamerica, the Caribbean, the Andes, and Paraguay, we analyze the impact of Christian colonial and postcolonial evangelization projects on indigenous languages, religious practices, literary genres, social organization and gender roles, and examine contemporary indigenous religious practices. David Tavárez.

Prerequisite(s): prior coursework in Anthropology, American Studies or Latin American Latino/a Studies or permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2018/19.

One 2-hour period.

385 English Seminar 1Semester Offered: Fall

(Same as ENGL 385) Topic for 2018/19a: Then Whose Negro Are You?: On the Art and Politics of James Baldwin. When interviewers sought out some sense of James Baldwin's ambition, the artist often responded, "I want to be an honest man and a good writer." The forces constellated around Baldwin's career made this hardly a simple declaration. The issue of becoming a writer was an arduous task in itself, so much so that Baldwin felt he had to leave the United States, particularly his adored Harlem, to do so. Getting in the way of his artistry was the nation's troubled negotiation with its own soul: the US was trying to figure out what it wanted to be—an apartheid state? An nuclear dreadnought? A den of prudish homophobes? An imperial power? A beloved community? A city on the Hill? This course looks at all things Baldwin, or at least as many things as we can cover a four moth period. It certainly indulges his greatest hits-his essays, Notes of A Native Son; his novel, Giovanni's Room; his play, Blues for Mr. Charlie's--and several other writings both published and unpublished. It does so with an eye toward understanding Baldwin's circulation as a celebrated author and a public intellectual both in the mid-twentieth century and the present day. Tyrone Simpson.

One 3-hour period.

386 Baseball and American Society 1

Baseball has been more than merely a game in American life and history. It has permeated American culture, and reflected U.S. society. The more one peels away the layers of baseball's history, the more one finds that baseball emerges as a barometer of American culture. From challenges to racial segregation to campaigns for labor rights, baseball has mirrored and engendered social, economic, and political change in America. This course grapples with the multifaceted meanings and experiences of baseball in American society, with a particular focus on how baseball reflects, reinforces, and sometimes challenges social inequalities. We work with diverse texts to explore baseball in relation to enduring questions about race, class, and gender as well as emergent debates about globalization, new statistical measures, performance enhancing drugs, and the growing sport-media complex. Exploring broad questions about sports, culture, and society, this course is not just for baseball fans. William Hoynes.

Not offered in 2018-19.

One 2-hour period.

387 On Campus 1

This course is designed as a literary and cultural investigation of academic life in the US. Taking a long historical view we will read some examples of what is called "the campus novel": Mary McCarthy's The Group, John Williams's Stoner, Philip Roth's The Human Stain, and Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs. We will also discuss a wide range of essays, extending from memoir to cultural critique, addressing the language of campus life and its politics. Here are a few examples: Laurel Johnson Black on a working-class student at an elite institution; Louis Menand on the humanities revolution; Elizabeth Armstrong on parties on campuses; Lisa Wade on gender and hookup culture; the public letter addressed to Brock Turner by the woman he raped on Stanford campus; Laura Kipnis on Title IX cases; Ta-Nehisi Coates on "the Mecca" that was Howard University; Claudia Rankine on daily conversations mined with hidden violence; Hua Hsu on "civility wars"; and, of course, Malcolm Gladwell's podcast on the food in Vassar dining. This is an exploratory course and my hopes are that each one of you will bring more to it than is already there, and take the conversation in new directions. Amitava Kumar.

Not offered in 2018/19.

One 2-hour period.

389 From the Natural History Museum to Ecotourism:The Collection of Nature 1

(Same as ENST 389) From the rise of the Natural History Museum, the Bureau of Ethnology, and early endeavors to create a national literature, the appropriation of American Indian lands and Amerian Indians (as natural objects) offered Euro-Americans a means to realize their new national identity. Today, the American consumer-collector goes beyond the boundaries of the museum, national park, and zoo and into ecotourism, which claims to make a low impact on the environment and local culture, while helping to generate money, jobs, and the conservation of wildlife and vegetation. This course investigates historical and current trends in the way North Americans recover, appropriate, and represent non-western cultures, 'exotic' animals, and natural environments from theoretical and ideological perspectives. Course readings draw from the fields of anthropology, archaeology, museology, literature, and environmental studies.

Not offered in 2018/19.

One 2-hour period.

399 Senior Independent Work 0.5 to 1

American Studies: Electives

214 History of American Jazz 1Semester Offered: Spring

(Same as MUSI 214) An investigation of the whole range of jazz history, from its beginning around the turn of the century to the present day. Among the figures to be examined are: Scott Joplin, "Jelly Roll" Morton, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Count Basie, Thomas "Fats" Waller, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and Miles Davis. Justin Patch.

Prerequisite(s): one unit in one of the following: music, studies in American history, art, or literature; or permission of the instructor.

Alternate years.

217 Studies in Popular Music 1

(Same as MEDS 217 and MUSI 217)

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

218 Spiritual Seekers in American History & Culture 1880-2008 1

(Same as RELI 218) This course examines the last 120 years of spiritual seeking in America. It looks in particular at the rise of unchurched believers, how these believers have relocated "the religious" in different parts of culture, what it means to be "spiritual but not religious" today, and the different ways that Americans borrow from or embrace religions such as Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. We focus in particular on unexpected places of religious enchantment or "wonder" in our culture, including how science and technology are providing new metaphors for God and spirit. Christopher White.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

235 The Civil Rights Movement in the United States 1

(Same as AFRS 235) In this interdisciplinary course, we examine the origins, dynamics, and consequences of the modern Civil Rights movement. We explore how the southern based struggles for racial equality and full citizenship in the U.S. worked both to dismantle entrenched systems of discrimination---segregation, disfranchisement, and economic exploitation---and to challenge American society to live up to its professed democratic ideals. Lisa Collins.

Not offered in 2018/19.

249 Encounter and Exchange: American Art from 1565 to 1865 1Semester Offered: Fall

(Same as ART 249) This course provides a survey of the visual arts made in the United States (or by American artists living abroad) until 1865, beginning with the first European representations of Native Americans in the 16th century and ending with Alexander Gardner's images of death and destruction on the battlefields of the U.S. Civil War. It emphasizes the significance of cross-cultural encounter and international exchange to the creation and reception of artworks produced in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, and prints. Our approach will be both chronological and thematic, considering topics such as the role of art in the construction of national identity; the origins of the U.S. art market; and the tensions of class, gender, race, and ethnicity in early American art.

Prerequisite(s): ART 105 or ART 106, or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

251 Modern America: Visual Culture from the Civil War to WWII 1Semester Offered: Spring

(Same as ART 251) This course examines American visual culture as it developed in the years between the Civil War and World War II. Special attention is paid to the intersections among diverse media and to such issues as the emergence of new forms of mass imagery, consumerism, cosmopolitanism, regionalism, abstraction, gender, primitivism, mechanized reproduction, and the rise of modern art institutions. Artists studied include Winslow Homer, Timothy O'Sullivan, James McNeill Whistler, Thomas Eakins, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O'Keeffe, Aaron Douglas, and Edward Hopper, among others.

Prerequisite(s): ART 105 or ART 106 or a 100-level American Studies course, or permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

257 Reorienting America: Asians in American History and Society 1

(Same as ASIA 257 and SOCI 257) Based on sociological theory of class, gender, race/ethnicity, this course examines complexities of historical, economic, political, and cultural positions of Asian Americans beyond the popular image of "model minorities." Topics include the global economy and Asian immigration, politics of ethnicity and pan-ethnicity, educational achievement and social mobility, affirmative action, and representation in mass media. Seungsook Moon.

Not offered in 2018/19.

275 Race and Ethnicity in America 1

This course examines "white" American identity as a cultural location and a discourse with a history---in Mark Twain's terms, "a fiction of law and custom." What are the origins of "Anglo-Saxon" American identity? What are the borders, visible and invisible, against which this identity has leveraged position and power? How have these borders shifted over time, and in social and cultural space? How has whiteness located itself at the center of political, historical, social, and literary discourse, and how has it been displaced? How does whiteness mark itself, or mask itself? What does whiteness look like, sound like, and feel like from the perspective of the racial "other"? What happens when we consider whiteness as a racial or ethnic category? And in what ways do considerations of gender and class complicate these other questions? We read works by artists, journalists, and critics, among them Bill Finnegan, Benjamin DeMott, Lisa Lowe, David Roediger, George Lipsitz, Roland Barthes, Chela Sandoval, Eric Lott, bell hooks, Cherríe Moraga, Ruth Frankenberg, James Baldwin, Homi Bhabha, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, James Weldon Johnson, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, William Faulkner, Nathanael West, Alice Walker, and Don DeLillo. We also explore the way whiteness is deployed, consolidated and critiqued in popular media like film (Birth of a Nation, Pulp Fiction, Pleasantville) television ("reality" shows, The West Wing) and the American popular press.

Not offered in 2018/19.

Two 75-minute periods.

356 Contemporary American Poets 1.0

(Same as ENGL 356 ) Contemporary Native American Poets.  In our course, we study contemporary North American Indigenous poets through various lenses, including American Indian Literary Nationalism, Indigenous Transnationalisms, and tribally-specific frames.  Poets include Natalie Diaz, Adrian Louis, Sherman Alexie, Luci Tapahonso, Wendy Rose, and Orlando White among others. 

Not offered in 2018/19.

One 2-hour period

367 Artists' Books from the Women's Studio Workshop 1

(Same as ART 367 and WMST 367) In this interdisciplinary seminar, we explore the limited edition artists' books created through the Women's Studio Workshop in Rosendale, New York. Founded in 1974, the Women's Studio Workshop encourages the voice and vision of individual women artists, and women artists associated with the workshop have, since 1979, created over 180 hand-printed books using a variety of media, including hand-made paper, letterpress, silkscreen, photography, intaglio, and ceramics. Vassar College recently became an official repository for this vibrant collection which, in the words of the workshop's co-founder, documents "the artistic activities of the longest continually operating women's workspace in the country." Working directly with the artists' books, this seminar will meet in Vassar Library's Special Collections and closely investigate the range of media, subject matter, and aesthetic sensibilities of the rare books, as well as their contexts and meanings. We will also travel to the Women's Studio Workshop to experience firsthand the artistic process in an alternative space. Lisa Collins.

Prerequisite(s): permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2018/19.

One 2-hour period.

370 Transnational Literature 1Semester Offered: Fall

(Same as ENGL 370) This course focuses on literary works and cultural networks that cross the borders of the nation-state. Such border-crossings raise questions concerning vexed phenomena such as globalization, exile, diaspora, and migration-forced and voluntary. Collectively, these phenomena deeply influence the development of transnational cultural identities and practices. Specific topics studied in the course vary from year to year and may include global cities and cosmopolitanisms; the black Atlantic; border theory; the discourses of travel and tourism; global economy and trade; or international terrorism and war. 

Topic for 2018/19a: Indigenous Transnationalisms. This course focuses on the ways in which transnational studies has become a more helpful tool in unpacking particular critical questions that both American Studies and literary/cultural criticism produce. In many ways, transnational literatures and visual culture continue to serve as a means to subvert dominant narratives of the nation-state as a static and stable territory.  Many contemporary North American Indigenous writers and artists – across colonial and tribal borders alike – utilize their work to more accurately reflect the global flow of Indigenous peoples, ideas, texts, and products etc. and call into question the geo-political boundaries of colonial nation-states.  Indigenous transnationalism as a theoretical position demonstrates how some Native American/First Nation/Indio literatures and visual culture produce a mobilizing force of shared cultural and political alliances across nationalistic lines while remaining steadfast to tribally-specific and inter-tribal identities and citizenships.  In this way, many Indigenous artists are critiquing national identity and imperialism, and radically challenging the histories, geographies, and contemporary social relations that define the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean. Molly McGlennen.

One 2-hour period.

380 Art, War, and Social Change 1

(Same as SOCI 380) In recent years the "War on Terror" has expanded. Many politicians are eager to declare "World War III," and the refugee crisis continues to challenge the world. Militarism is increasing, and the public may once again come to accept the idea of sending ground troops abroad. In a climate such as this, it is vital to consider how nations conceptualize war, and equally important how groups and individuals might argue against it. To address these issues, this course looks at a body of work that challenges the precepts of war, or mourns its losses. Works include novels, films, music, art, memorials, poetry, and photography. 

Not offered in 2018/19.