American Studies Course Descriptions

115j    The Image of Women and Men in American Film    How Hollywood films of a particular era reflected and helped determine the vast social and psychological changes that women, men, and the country were experiencing--or were denying experiencing--during tumultuous time periods of U.S. history. Topics include gender roles, genre, directorial style, historical background, the effects of camera placement, movement and lighting, and the function of narrative--how to "read" a film. January 2010 topic: "The Sixties" (1958-1978). Enrollment limited; upperclass students seeking admission should contact Mr. Eisen at Three credit hours.    EISEN

[136]    American Film from the Bomb to 'Nam     Focuses on films from the explosive period between 1945 and 1970, considering them as a lens on the broader American culture. Looks at representations of gender, sexuality, and race, and asks how film genres helped negotiate the Cold War desire for consensus and usher in the turbulent ’60s. Emphasizes skills of visual analysis. Part of Integrated Studies 136, "America in the Postwar World: 1945-1970." Prerequisite: Initially elect IS136 = concurrent enrollment in History 136 and Music 136. Four credit hours.  L, U.    

137f    American Cinema During the Great Depression     The era of the Great Depression corresponds to one of the most exciting and controversial periods in American cinema, characterized by the advent of sound film, the consolidation of the studio system, the rise of genre films, and films bawdy or violent enough to inspire powerful censorship laws. We will study these developments in film and their relationship to the broader American culture during the Depression, working together to develop skills (1) of visual analysis and (2) in writing clear, persuasive arguments about the films and their contexts. Part of the three-course Integrated Studies 137, "Left in the Dust: America's Great Depression." Prerequisite: Concurrent enrollment in Art 137 and History 137. Four credit hours.  L.    SALTZ

171fs    Introduction to American Studies     An introduction to methods and themes in American studies, the interdisciplinary examination of past and present United States culture. A wide selection of cultural texts from all periods of American history explore the dynamic and contested nature of American identity. Literary, religious, and philosophical texts, historical documents, material objects, works of art and music, and varied forms of popular culture are studied, with a focus on what it means, and has meant, to be an American. Open to first-year students. Formerly listed as American Studies 271. Four credit hours.  U.    MCFADDEN, SALTZ

197j    Fundamentals of Screenwriting    An introduction to the craft of writing film scripts, with a strong emphasis on screenplay format and the three-act structure. Besides studying films and screenplays, students will complete exercises in character development, scene construction, dialogue, and description. The final project will be a complete script for a short (no longer than 30 pages) three-act feature film. Two credit hours.    WILSON

232f    Queer Identities and Politics    Listed as Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 232. Four credit hours.  U.    ARELLANO

275f    Gender and Popular Culture    In the 21st century, popular culture is a key site for the dissemination of ideas about gender roles, gender relations, and sexuality. Students will use recent feminist approaches to the study of popular culture to analyze how contemporary films, music, advertising, toys, television, magazines, and popular fiction help to construct us as gendered individuals. Also listed as Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 275. Four credit hours.  U.    MCFADDEN

276s    African-American Culture in the United States     An interdisciplinary examination of black cultural expression--including folk tales, the blues, gospel music, work songs, jazz, sermons, dance, literature, and social institutions--from the slave era to the present, tracing the stages of development of a distinctive black culture in America, its relationship to the historical, social, and political realities of African Americans, and its role in the cultural formation of the United States. Also listed as African-American Studies 276. Four credit hours.  S, U.    GILKES

[282]    American Popular Culture    An interdisciplinary examination of the ways our ideas about race and ethnicity in the United States have been shaped and reshaped by popular cultural forms, from blackface minstrelsy of the 1840s to today. Special attention to the relationship between changing ideologies of race and ethnicity and the social, political, and historical experiences of a diverse range of people living in the United States. Examples from popular theater, recorded sound, radio, silent and sound film, advertising, television, and new computer-based media. Four credit hours.  U.    

285s    History of Photography    Listed as Art 285. Four credit hours.  A.    SALTZ

297f    American Art: From Colonial to Contemporary     An examination of American painting, sculpture, photography, and architecture produced from the Colonial period through the end of the 20th century. In addition to well-known artists, the diverse and often overlooked contributions of women, Native Americans, African Americans, and folk artists are considered. Weekly visits to the Colby College Museum of Art will offer students the opportunity to extend their knowledge of American art through the direct study of art objects. Four credit hours.    CARO

297Jj    Introduction to Television Studies: The L Word    An introduction to recent critical approaches to the study of television in the United States, with an emphasis on feminist methodologies and questions. The economic, technological, historical, cultural, and aesthetic dimensions of this enormously influential medium will be explored. After completing extensive research on relevant social and cultural contexts, students will apply one or more methodological approaches to produce their own critical readings of the Showtime series The L Word (2004-09), the first program to represent a lesbian community in depth. Extensive out-of-class viewing required. Three credit hours.    MCFADDEN

298s    African-American Art    A survey course that introduces the major artists, ideas, and movements in African-American art from the Colonial period to the present day. Drawing from theories of African-American identity and racial representation in visual art, we will use case studies of key artists and movements to address larger contextual themes in American and African-American art, culture, and society. Four credit hours.    CARO

[332]    Thinking September 11th     How can we make sense of September 11, 2001? How have artists, writers, musicians, architects, filmmakers, philosophers, historians, theologians, political theorists, and politicians around the world conceptualized and analyzed these events? How has the fallout of 9/11 reshaped the culture and politics of the United States and its relationship to the rest of the world? Topics include experiences of victims and survivors; memorializing of "ground zero"; the "war on terror"; the Patriot Act and civil rights; Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and the re-definition of torture; the history of the United States in the Middle East; the role of the media in shaping our perspectives. Formerly offered as American Studies 398. Four credit hours.    

334f    Film and Society     Examines films of the 1940s, the classics of American cinema. Begins with the basics of film form and film analysis. Then emphasizes film genre, including film noir, melodrama, the Western, the "woman's film," and the war film. Explores the ways these genres respond to turbulent social events such as World War II and the Cold War. Focuses on the ways genres construct oppositions of male/female, white/nonwhite, and American/alien. Four credit hours.  U.    SALTZ

[335]    American Independents: Their Art and Production     The conception, content, and production of independent films. On-campus examination of classic independents from the past will be followed by attendance at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in January, where attendance at selected film showings will be supplemented by class meetings. Upon return to campus students will report on and synthesize their observations and experiences. Cost in 2008, including transportation and accommodations, but not food or film tickets: $2,000. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor. Three credit hours.  A.    

359s    Slavery and Slave Communities in the United States    Listed as African-American Studies 359. Four credit hours.  S, U.    GILKES

[360]    The Car in Modern American Literature and Pop Culture    Listed as English 360. Four credit hours.  L, U.    

375s    Seminar: Race and Visual Culture    Asks how American visual culture helped construct racial categories in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Examines painting, sculpture, photography, minstrelsy, spectacles, and early film. Considers how ideologies of class and gender intersect with constructions of blackness, whiteness, Native American, and Asian-American identity. Emphasizes skills of visual analysis. Prerequisite: Junior or senior standing. Four credit hours.  U.    SALTZ

376s    Queer Popular Cultures     An interdisciplinary exploration of the vibrant queer cultures created by and for LGBT people in the United States since the Stonewall Riots (1969). Students will learn to analyze a wide range of cultural productions, including works of art, theatrical productions, popular musics, films, television programs, and comics, and to situate them in their historical, cultural, and political contexts. Extensive critical interpretation and writing and participation in a substantial group project to increase queer visibility are required. Prerequisite: A 200-level or higher course in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Four credit hours.  U.    MCFADDEN

[378]    American Dreams: The Documentary Film Perspective    The American experience as viewed through the lenses of American documentary filmmakers and videographers. Issues of documentary: reality or art, truth-telling or fiction-making, propaganda or objective presentation, responsibility of the filmmaker. A study of different visions of America that documentaries created, from their historical roots (The Plow That Broke the Plains, Frank Capra's war documentaries) through classic examples (High School, Thin Blue Line, Berkeley in the 1960s, Hoop Dreams) to their most current realizations (It Was a Wonderful Life, Tongues Untied), which are part of a renaissance in American documentary, born out of the new filmic expression of the most marginalized groups in American society. Prerequisite: Senior standing. Four credit hours.  U.    

393f    Proseminar: American Masculinities     Required of all majors, preferably during the junior year. Fall 2009: American Masculinities. Draws on historical texts, literature, and film to consider constructions of masculinity, representations of masculine subjectivity, and the ways that ideas about maleness serve to structure and inform gender identity and ideology more broadly (topical emphases on athletics, violence, sexuality, and labor). Emphasizes advanced interpretive skills (adaptation, visual literacy, theories of narrative) and oral presentation (discussion participation and oral presentation required). Formerly offered as American Studies 373. Prerequisite: Junior standing as American Studies major or Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major or minor. Four credit hours.  U.    ARELLANO

397j    Art, Politics, and Production of American Social Action Documentaries    Listed as English 397J. Three credit hours.  A, U.    MANNOCCHI

398s    Militarization, Culture, and War: Anthropology of the Military    Listed as Anthropology 398B. Four credit hours.    TATE

[457]    American Gothic Literature    Listed as English 457. Four credit hours.  L, U.    

483f, 484s    Senior Honors Project    Research conducted under the guidance of a faculty member and focused on an approved interdisciplinary topic leading to the writing of a thesis. Prerequisite: A 3.25 major average and permission of the director of the program. Three credit hours.    FACULTY

491f, 492s    Independent Study    Individual study of special problems in American studies in areas where the student has demonstrated the interest and competence necessary for independent work. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor and the program director. One to four credit hours.    FACULTY

493s    Seminar: Spike Lee's United States     An in-depth, interdisciplinary exploration of recent American culture through the lens of the African-American filmmaker Spike Lee. Working in multiple genres, Lee has offered compelling and controversial interpretations of the significance of race in shaping all aspects of American life. Students will situate a range of Lee's films in their historical and cultural contexts and will use the tools of film analysis to understand his aesthetic and representational innovations. Each student will research and write a major paper analyzing one of Lee's films and will present that work at the Colby Undergraduate Research Symposium. Prerequisite: Senior standing as an American studies or African-American studies major. Four credit hours.    MCFADDEN