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American Studies Course Descriptions


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AM115j    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 2011 topic: "The Image of Men and Women in American Film: The Sixties" (1958-1978). Prerequisite:  First-year standing or permission of instructor.     Three credit hours.    EISEN
AM117j    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. Formerly offered as American Studies 197.     Two credit hours.    WILSON
AM136Af    Culture and Politics in Postwar United States      An exploration of the intersections of American culture and politics, from the emergence of the U.S. as a superpower at the end of World War II through the turbulent years of the 1960s. Particular focus on the role of social movements, including the antiwar, civil rights, feminist, gay liberation, environmental, and antipoverty movements. Primary texts include historical documents, literature, films, and other forms of mass media. Special attention to critical analysis of cultural historical sources and to intensive practice in writing and discussion. Part of the three-course Integrated Studies 136 cluster, "America in the Postwar World: 1945-1970." Prerequisite:  Concurrent enrollment in American Studies 136B and Music 136. (Elect IS136.)     Four credit hours.  H.    MCFADDEN
AM136Bf    Material Landscape of Postwar United States      We will examine the postwar United States through "things," considering how materiality culturally constructed class, gender, race, and sexuality. We will explore the meanings of objects at all scales; differences and continuities between "high" and "low" design; gendering and racializing of public and private spaces; automobile aesthetics and spatiality; consumption-based progress narratives; and restricted access to postwar abundance. In this discussion-based course, students will develop their skills of material, spatial, visual, and historical analysis and their critical writing skills. Part of the three-course Integrated Studies 136 cluster, "America in the Postwar World: 1945-1970." Prerequisite:  Concurrent enrollment in American Studies 136A and Music 136. (Elect IS136.)     Four credit hours.  W1.    LISLE
[AM137]    Comedy and Tragedy in Depression America      The Great Depression produced two powerful but opposing responses in American culture. The 1930s were both a "golden age" of popular comedy and a decade in which images of heroic figures defeated by calamity were wildly popular. We will focus on the visual and sound cultures of the 1930s, including painting, sculpture, photography, advertising, film, music, and radio, and will explore how these forms were used by a wide variety of artists to shape audiences' responses to economic, political, and social upheaval. Special attention to skills of visual analysis and critical writing. Part of the three-course Integrated Studies 137 cluster, "American Stories: Understanding the Great Depression." Prerequisite:  Concurrent enrollment in English 137 and History 137. (Elect IS137.)     Four credit hours.  A.  
[AM137A]    American Design and the 1930s      Explores Depression-era United States through the design of its buildings and the things within them. We consider how designed objects expressed a sense of machine-age progress; the rise of industrial design as a response to "underconsumption;" the influence of European modernisms (functionalism, expressionism, and Art Deco); the ascendance of the International Style in architecture; and the emergence of streamlining as a design style and cultural metaphor. Students will develop skills in analyzing, discussing, and writing about material, spatial, visual, and historical culture. Prerequisite:  First-year standing.     Four credit hours.  A.  
AM137Bs    History and Culture in 1930s America      An exploration of key historical developments of the years of the Great Depression. What caused the Depression and how did it pose a crisis of faith in capitalism and in the government? And how did Americans respond, creating vibrant new forms of politics and culture? Through analysis of primary historical and cultural texts like films, photos, novels, and varied forms of popular culture, students will develop critical-thinking skills, learn to write clear and precise analytical essays, and practice articulating their ideas effectively. Prerequisite:  First-year standing.     Four credit hours.  H,W1.    MCFADDEN
AM171fs    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
[AM214]    African-American Elites and Middle Classes      Listed as Sociology 214.     Three credit hours.  S, U.  
AM217f    Religion in the U.S.A.      Listed as Religious Studies 217.     Four credit hours.  H.    CAMPBELL
AM232f    Queer Identities and Politics      Listed as Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 232.     Four credit hours.  U.    ARELLANO
AM236f    Introduction to the Francophone World: The Americas      Listed as French 236.     Four credit hours.  I.    MAUGUIERE
[AM239]    Mythologizing African-American Music in Film      Listed as Music 239.     Four credit hours.  U.  
[AM264]    U.S. Latina/o Literature: "New" American Identities      Listed as Spanish 264.     Four credit hours.  L, U.  
[AM268]    Latino/a Cultural Expressions in Literature and Film      Listed as Spanish 268.     Four credit hours.  L, U.  
[AM275]    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 and to sustain systematic gender inequality. Students will write weekly informal papers, longer analytical papers, and a comprehensive final exam and will be expected to participate actively in class discussions to develop their analytical capacities and hone oral communication skills. Also listed as Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 275.     Four credit hours.  U.  
AM276s    African-American Culture in the United States      An interdisciplinary examination of black cultural expression—including folktales, 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
AM285f    History of Photography      Listed as Art 285.     Four credit hours.  A.    SALTZ
AM297f    Geographies of Play      Begins with the paradoxical notion that places of play are vital sites of identity construction and maintenance. We will examine how gender, class, race, and sexuality are written on our leisure landscapes, exploring particularly how recreational spaces are constructed, controlled, and used; how built environments express complex and often contradictory sets of values; and how users of such spaces variously experience them. In this discussion-based course, students will learn how to interpret cultural landscapes and develop skills in writing and speaking about cultural landscapes.     Four credit hours.    LISLE
AM297Jj    History of Television      Listed as Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 297.     Three credit hours.  H, U.    GRIFFIN
AM298As    Cultural Work of American Football      Examines the place of football in American culture. Identifies the game's core ideologies through investigations of its origins, development, and major historical crises, paying particular attention to how football constructs gender, race, and nationalism. Students emerge from this discussion-based course with enhanced skills in analyzing material, visual, and literary cultural expression and improved abilities to speak and write cogently and clearly about complex and contested ideas.     Four credit hours.    LISLE
AM298Bs    New York's Avant-gardes from Bebop to Punk Rock      Listed as Music 298.     Four credit hours.  A.    DOHONEY
AM334s    Film and Society: Films of the 1940s      Immersion into the Hollywood films of the 1940s. Using the basic tenets of genre theory—that film genres mediate the general anxieties of a culture—study of a range of genres, including Westerns, film noir, melodrama, and social problem films, as well as the social conditions with which these genres are in dialogue. Of special interest are the ways that World War II and the Cold War affected ideals of masculinity and femininity and a national dialogue about race. Students will (1) learn the basic language for describing film form; (2) read a number of theoretical texts; (3) develop skills of visual analysis; and (4) develop skills in writing clear, persuasive arguments about the films and their contexts. Prerequisite:  American Studies 171 or 198 (Spring 2011) or Art 112 or Cinema Studies 142 or English 241 or Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 201.     Four credit hours.  U.    SALTZ
AM335j    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 2011: $2,600 for travel and lodging; tickets and food not included. Prerequisite:  Permission of the instructor.     Three credit hours.  A.    MANNOCCHI
[AM355]    African-American Women and Social Change      Listed as Sociology 355.     Four credit hours.  U.  
[AM357]    Civil Rights, Black Power, and Social Change      Listed as Sociology 357.     Four credit hours.  S, U.  
[AM359]    Slavery and Slave Communities in the United States      Listed as African-American Studies 359.     Four credit hours.  S, U.  
[AM360]    The Car in Modern American Literature and Pop Culture      Listed as English 360.     Four credit hours.  L, U.  
AM375j    Seminar: Representing Difference in American 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.     Three credit hours.  U.    SALTZ
[AM376]    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 as well as 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.  
AM378s    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.    MANNOCCHI
AM393Af    Proseminar: American Masculinities      Required of all majors, preferably during the junior year. Fall 2011: 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
AM393Bs    Proseminar: Built Environment      Explores American studies methodologies through the analysis of built environments. We will read texts from different disciplinary perspectives that examine constructions of gender, race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality as they are inscribed in our built spaces. Students will investigate the history of American studies as a contested field of academic inquiry, will develop understanding of cultural studies theory, will present the intellectual profile of a significant cultural theorist to peers, and will enhance critical writing skills through a range of assignments. Prerequisite:  Junior standing as an American studies major.     Four credit hours.  U.    LISLE
AM398s    Condition of Postmodernity      Explores conflicting conceptions of postmodernity using David Harvey's influential text, The Condition of Postmodernity, as a launching pad. Our conversation will pivot on distinctions and continuities between the modern and postmodern. We will examine intersections of the socioeconomic, the geographical, the political, and the cultural. Students will emerge from this discussion-based course having enhanced skills in analyzing material, visual, and literary cultural expression and having developed abilities to speak and write cogently and clearly about complex and contested ideas.     Four credit hours.    LISLE
[AM457]    American Gothic Literature      Listed as English 457.     Four credit hours.  L, U.  
AM483f, 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
AM491f, 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
AM493Af    Seminar: Nature and Nation      Explores the use of the idea "nature" in the construction of American national identity. Puts early foundational texts and images—by Thomas Jefferson, Thoreau, landscape painters such as Thomas Cole, and others—in dialogue with contemporary practices, including back-to-the-land movements, the linking of nature and spirituality, the use of land to manage populations. Students will research and write a major paper on American uses or constructions of nature and present that work at the Colby Undergraduate Research Symposium. Prerequisite:  Senior standing as an American Studies major.     Four credit hours.    SALTZ
AM493Bs    Seminar: Spike Lee's United States of America      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