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American Studies Course Descriptions


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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
[AM120A]    Writing about Photographs      Though we think of photographs as offering neutral descriptions of the world, they can also encode a point of view and even a political agenda. Focusing on documentary photography, we will explore the fine lines between depiction and commentary, aesthetics and politics, in photographic images. Through frequent writing and revision, students will develop skills of visual analysis and argumentation, and will be introduced to research and the use of sources.     Four credit hours.  A,W1.  
AM120Bs    Writing about Place      The places we live in reflect and shape who we are. We will explore ways of thinking and writing about place, using the American home as a focal point. We will examine changes in the home as a material structure and imaginative construct, paying particular attention to how place intersects with conceptions of gender, class, race, and sexuality. Students will analyze various forms of culture, historical and contemporary, while practicing writing in a variety of formats.     Four credit hours.  W1.    LISLE
AM135As    New York City: Wearing the World      From labor strikers' outfits to hijab bans, the personal dress and appearance of New York City's diverse inhabitants reflected and influenced the city's global economic, political, and cultural status. We will focus on the intersection of public appearance with class, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, using examples such as Jewish assimilatory fashion, Harlem drag balls, glam rock, and post-9/11 Arab-American dress restrictions. Historical analysis, critical writing, and active discussion will be emphasized. Part of the three-course Integrated Studies 135, "New York: Global City." Prerequisite:  Concurrent enrollment in American Studies 135B and English 135.     Four credit hours.  H.    LE ZOTTE
AM135Bs    Space, Place, and New York City      Examines historical and contemporary New York City using the twin concepts of place and space. Pivots on the escalating significance of place in a world of modernization and globalization. Explores New York as a "global city"—an economic and cultural control center. Considers how New York capitalists "produce" space near and far, and investigates expressions and consequences (positive and negative) of global capitalism on city streets, how place constructs cultural and political identity, and the role of the built environment in cultivating identity. Discussion-based. Students develop skills of spatial, material, textual, and historical analysis and critical writing. Part of the three-course Integrated Studies 135, "New York: Global City." Prerequisite:  Concurrent enrollment in American Studies 135A and English 135.     Four credit hours.  S.    LISLE
AM136Af    Sex and Family in Postwar America      In the decades following the end of World War II, popular representations of romantic love and the American family often promoted ideals of capitalist democracy. We will explore ways in which portrayals of gender and sexualities conformed to, negotiated, or resisted narratives of national identity. Primary texts include paintings, television shows, films, magazines, music, and advertisements. Students will develop skills in visual, textual, and aural analysis, interdisciplinary critical thinking, and dynamic 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 History 136. (Elect IS136.)     Four credit hours.  A.    LE ZOTTE
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 History 136.     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.  
[AM137B]    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.  
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.     Four credit hours.  U.    ARELLANO, LISLE
[AM214]    African-American Elites and Middle Classes      Listed as Sociology 214.     Three credit hours.  S, U.  
AM217f    Religion in the United States      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
AM236s    Introduction to the Francophone World: The Americas      Listed as French 236.     Four credit hours.  I.    MAUGUIERE
[AM241]    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.  
AM252s    Medicine and Visual Culture      Listed as Art 252.     Four credit hours.  A.    SHEEHAN
AM253s    Mormons      Listed as Religious Studies 253.     Four credit hours.  H, U.    CAMPBELL
[AM255]    Women in American Popular Comedy      An interdisciplinary examination of the ways that female comedians have used comic genres to advance powerful and influential critiques of American culture and politics, since 1970. Students will learn to situate the humor in historical context; to analyze the formal aspects of comedic performances; and to understand a variety of genres, including stand-up, character comedy, comedy/variety shows, and sitcoms. We will address the particular constraints that gender norms and ideologies place on women participating in a male-dominated form of entertainment and will attend to the ways that female comedians' work tracks ever-shifting and contested notions of gender roles and relations.     Four credit hours.  
AM256f    African-American Art      Listed as Art 256.     Four credit hours.  A, U.    SHEEHAN
AM258f    American Art 1750-1900      Listed as Art 258.     Four credit hours.  A.    SHEEHAN
[AM268]    Latino/a Cultural Expressions in Literature and Film      Listed as Spanish 268.     Four credit hours.  L, U.  
AM275s    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. Relying on examples from the end of World War II to the present, students will analyze the use of films, music, advertising, toys, television, magazines, and popular fiction to help construct us as gendered individuals and to sustain systematic gender inequality. Students will write weekly informal papers and longer analytical papers, and will be expected to participate actively in class discussions to develop their analytical capacities and hone oral communication skills.     Four credit hours.  U.    LE ZOTTE
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
[AM321]    Space, Steam, Speed: 19th-Century U.S. Science, Technology, and Culture     The 19th century saw watershed changes in ideas about space, time, and power. Astronomy, physics, locomotion are only a few of the means by which the universe was revealed as older, vaster, and more dynamic than previously suspected. Yet, as the case of evolution and racial science shows, scientific theory did not exist in a cultural vacuum. We will examine 19th-century scientific texts, contemporary texts in the history of science and technology, and 19th-century literary and visual texts that interpret the implications of changing concepts of time and space for everyday life. Students will develop skills of analysis in writing and class discussions and will conduct independent research.     Four credit hours.  
[AM334]    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.  
[AM335]    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.  
[AM355]    African-American Women and Social Change      Listed as Sociology 355.     Four credit hours.  U.  
AM357s    Civil Rights, Black Power, and Social Change      Listed as Sociology 357.     Four credit hours.  S, U.    GILKES
[AM360]    The Car in Modern American Literature and Pop Culture      Listed as English 360.     Four credit hours.  L, U.  
[AM368]    Great Books by American Women of Color: from Hurston to Danticat     Through both literary and cultural studies lenses, we will read classic works by American women of color, written in a variety of genres, including memoir, poetry, and personal essays, and review selected film adaptations of our books. Study will be chronological, beginning with Hurston and extending to Sapphire, Danticat, and Lahiri, and will include writers representing differences in culture, race, class, religion, and ethnicity. We will address topics such as marginalization versus assimilation, changing attitudes toward family and heritage, the search for a language and a room of one's own, challenges to traditional views of romantic love, sex, and sexuality, and the struggle for identity and social justice.     Four credit hours.  L, U.  
AM368Jj    Great Books by American Women of Color: from Hurston to Danticat     Through both literary and cultural studies lenses, we will read well-recognized, often ground-breaking literature by American women of color who have created new perspectives on American women's lives. Readings will include selections by Hurston, Walker, Morrison, Danticat, Lahiri, Kingston, Alvarez, and Silko. We will address topics such as marginalization versus assimilation, changing attitudes toward family and heritage, the search for a language and a room of one's own, challenges to traditional views of gender roles, class, race, romantic love, marriage, sex, and sexuality, and women's struggles for equality and social justice.     Three credit hours.  L, U.    MANNOCCHI
AM375f    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.     Four 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.  
[AM378]    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.  
AM393f    The Commodification of America      Food, clothing, material goods, education, romance, and travel are all commodities in America today. We will examine how the process of commodification and patterns of consumption reflect and affect relations of class, gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. We will draw historical and contemporary examples from various media, as well as real and abstract consumer spaces, including department stores, colleges, theme parks, and eBay. Emphasizes analyzing visual objects and historical texts, writing clear and persuasive arguments, and organizing and executing original research projects. Prerequisite:  Junior or senior standing as an American studies major or a women's, gender, and sexuality studies major or minor.     Four credit hours.  U.    LE ZOTTE
[AM398A]    Interpreting the American 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, develop understanding of cultural studies theory, present the intellectual profile of a significant cultural theorist to peers, and enhance their critical writing skills through a range of assignments.     Four credit hours.  
AM398Bs    Fashion, History, and Culture in America      From the early days of ready-made clothing in industrializing America to TLC's What Not To Wear, fashion has reacted to and reflected political dissent, economic fluctuations, technological advances, and social and artistic movements. Whether created by designers or adapted from the street, trends alter popular perceptions of ideal beauty in connection to class, gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. We will investigate the ways in which communal identities and cultural affiliations are sartorially signified by various styles, with an emphasis on visual and historical analysis, active participation in discussion, and original research and writing skills.     Four credit hours.    LE ZOTTE
[AM398C]    American Masculinities      The construction of gender ideology and archetypes has been a central topic of inquiry within gender and sexuality studies for decades; but most of this work has focused on ideas about females and femininity. Expands the conversation about gender by focusing on constructions of maleness and masculinity. 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.     Four credit hours.  
[AM457]    American Gothic Literature      Listed as English 457.     Four credit hours.  L, U.  
AM458s    American Art in a Global Context      Listed as Art 458.     Four credit hours.    SHEEHAN
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 3.5 major average and permission of the program director.     Three or four credit hours.    FACULTY
AM483Jj    Senior Honors Project          Noncredit.    ARELLANO
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
AM493s    Seminar: Geographies of Play      The places where we play are vital (and often overlooked) sites of identity construction and maintenance. We will examine how gender, class, race, sexuality, and nationality 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. Students will learn different approaches to interpreting cultural landscapes, research and write a major paper analyzing a site of play, and present that research at the Colby Liberal Arts Symposium. Prerequisite:  Senior standing as an American studies major.     Four credit hours.    LISLE
[AM493A]    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.