American Studies Program

Courses of Study

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. Two credit hours. Wilson
[AM120C]    Social Justice and the City In this writing intensive course, we examine ways that cultural, economic, and political power is expressed and resisted through urban social and spatial relations. Why do cities exist? Whose interests do they serve? How might they work differently? We explore topics that include gentrification, homelessness, the "right to the city," social activism, immigration, and environmental justice. Students learn how to interpret the city through various methods—including textual analysis, geographical fieldwork, and digital storytelling and mapping—applying them particularly to the Maine cities of Waterville, Lewiston, and Portland. Four credit hours. W1, U.
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 Literary, religious, and philosophical texts, historical documents, material objects, works of art and music, and varied forms of popular culture are studied, with a focus on what it means, and has meant, to be an American. Prerequisite: First-year or sophomore standing. Four credit hours. U. Fugikawa, Saltz
AM216j    Deconstructing Daughters of the Dust: African American Origins Listed as African-American Studies 216. Three credit hours. S, U. Gilkes
[AM221]    Mapping Waterville This interdisciplinary humanities lab combines geographical and architectural fieldwork, historical research, digital mapping, and storytelling. Waterville is our learning space. Students work collaboratively to analyze the town's material and spatial character, track and explain changes across time, locate Waterville in broader contexts of urban and social change, and publish interpretations online using a range of digital tools and platforms. Four credit hours. H.
[AM224]    Practice of Digital Scholarship A humanities lab that explores the concepts, methods, and tools of digital scholarship. Students learn how to create and manage digital archives, map cultural artifacts and landscapes, data-mine textual sources, and produce media-rich online projects. We combine archival investigation (in Colby's Special Collections), ethnographic fieldwork, and technical skill building with interdisciplinary modes of analysis drawn from history, geography, and cultural studies. Students will collaboratively develop research projects, which will contribute to Digital Maine, an online platform for public scholarship ( Four credit hours.
[AM228]    Nature and the Built Environment Built environments order human experience and action, shaping people's sense of themselves and the world. We examine how the built environment has influenced and expressed Americans' relationships with nature. We track how ideas about the natural environment emerge in different historical and geographical settings and consider the material and environmental consequences of these beliefs. Topics include park design, suburban development, environmental justice campaigns, and green building. In this reading-intensive discussion course, students develop abilities to interpret material, spatial, visual, and historical evidence. Four credit hours. H.
[AM229]    Art, Community, and Ethical Urban Development We explore how buildings and neighborhoods can be platforms for art, culture, and community. How might we ethically redevelop urban spaces, constructing sustainable places that value beauty and resident rights over narrow profit logics? In this interdisciplinary humanities lab that foregrounds experiential and community-oriented learning, we will examine artistic, political, and community-based organizations in other cities as models to help us develop our own projects for a more just and equitable Waterville. Previously listed as American Studies 297 (Fall 2017). Four credit hours.
[AM232]    Queer Identities and Politics Listed as Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 232. Four credit hours. U.
[AM235]    Made in Maine We examine how Mainers make meaning through the lens of craft beer cultures, exploring beer as a food, a commodity, an expression of cultural history and artisanal production, a builder of community, an expression of status, and a shaper of the built environment. This is a humanities lab course, combining reading, writing, and discussion with fieldwork, archival research, and digital storytelling. Four credit hours. S.
AM238s    Making Modern Science This introduction to the global history of science examines formations of scientific knowledge from the 17th century to the present. What historical narratives have been told about scientific progress? What forms of knowledge do these stories privilege? Who counts as a scientist? How has science been influenced by religion, literature, and art? By professionalization, industrialization, and politics? Focusing on the US, we will read, discuss, and write about topics such as evolution and racial science, physics and the atomic bomb, and the discovery of DNA and genomics, considering today's controversies - including masking and vaccination - in light of the past. Four credit hours. H, U. Saltz
AM245f    Land, Sovereignty, and Art Examines how Indigenous artists and activists respond visually to issues related to land, power, and social justice. We look at a broad range of media used by Indigenous peoples, including documentary filmmaking, printmaking, photography, and performance. While we focus on case studies in North America, the issues explored are relevant across the globe. We discuss Indigenous epistemologies related to land and mapping, and the ways in which these knowledge systems are mobilized in resistance to settler colonialism. Students leave equipped with theories and methods used to challenge the legacies of colonial research and representation. They complete several creative assignments and write a final essay. Counts as an elective toward the ES major and minor. Previously offered as American Studies 298B (Spring 2020). Four credit hours. U. Hickey
AM247s    History of U.S. Political Violence Focuses on the complex history and representation of "revolutionary" American political behavior with emphasis on practices of political violence alongside representations of these practices. The course draws together case studies of radical and militant political movements and actors from across the twentieth century in order to engage the following questions. What is political violence? How and why do different periods and political visions produce different forms of political violence? How have "violent" activists and organizations been represented within the broader context of U.S. political cultures and mythologies about American democracy? Examples include union violence, armed feminist resistant, black militancy and radical environmental movements. Four credit hours. U. Arellano
[AM254]    Surveillance Culture Introduction to the history and contemporary manifestations of surveillance culture in the United States and its global implications. We ask, what is the role of surveillance in American culture, and how does it shape our bodies, behaviors, relationships, communities, and political possibilities? We look at how surveillance unevenly affects marginalized communities, and consider how artists and activists have responded to surveillance culture through re-purposing these technologies into tools of resistance. Students will familiarize themselves with surveillance technologies, such as iris scanning and drone imaging. Previously offered as American Studies 298 (Spring 2020). Four credit hours. U.
AM254Jj    Surveillance Culture Introduction to the history and contemporary manifestations of surveillance culture in the United States and its global implications. We ask, what is the role of surveillance in American culture, and how does it shape our bodies, behaviors, relationships, communities, and political possibilities? We look at how surveillance unevenly affects marginalized communities, and consider how artists and activists have responded to surveillance culture through re-purposing these technologies into tools of resistance. Students will familiarize themselves with surveillance technologies, such as iris scanning and drone imaging. Three credit hours. U. Hickey
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. Hickey
AM293s    Methods in American Studies Provides an overview of key methods in American Studies. Students put methods into practice through their analysis of archives, textual and visual artifacts, music, maps, the built environment, oral narratives, and more. Students analyze their own research practices through discussions of research ethics, the impact of research beyond academia, and the politics of consent. They complete a series of short essays, creative exercises, and a final research project proposal in which they discuss the ways their proposed methods illuminate a topic relevant to the emphases of the American Studies major (race, gender, ethnicity, Indigeneity, sexuality, ability, economic class). Four credit hours. Hickey
[AM348]    Race, Sex, and Violence in Popular Culture Draws together work on histories of racialization, sexual representation, and visual narrative analysis in order to consider how popular culture teaches us to see and understand bodies. With support from Academic Information Technology, we will focus centrally on the production of critical viewing guides (video essays) and the development of a website. Prerequisite: American Studies 171 or WG 201. Four credit hours. U.
AM366f    Race, Gender, and the Graphic Novel Engages the lenses of race, gender, and sexuality in an analysis of graphic novels. In the United States visual representations have long played a role in creating meanings associated with racialized bodies. How have writers used this visual and literary genre to address social inequalities and explore gendered experiences of racialization? How have people of color, queer, and trans writers transformed the canon of graphic novels? What knowledge, ideas and effects emerge from reading graphic novels, and what makes the form unique? Four credit hours. L, U. Fugikawa
[AM375]    Race, Gender, and Visual Culture Examines constructions and contestations of racial identity in U.S. visual cultures of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Draws on scholarship on scientific racism, intersectionality, trauma and racial time, and memory and memorials. Visual media include photographs, films, sculptures and monuments, and illustrated books. Emphasizes skills of visual analysis, written argument, and independent research. Prerequisite: American Studies 171 or Art 101, and sophomore or higher standing. Four credit hours. U.
AM393f    Junior Seminar: Theories of Culture Introduces students to major currents in cultural theory, including Marxist, structuralist, poststructuralist, and critical race and gender theory. Emphasizes their application to contemporary cultural objects and events. Analytical and interpretive skills will be demonstrated in frequent writing assignments and a final independent research project. 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. Saltz
AM483fj    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
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
[AM493C]    Senior Seminar: Space, Culture, and Neoliberalism The spaces we live in are meaningful, shaping our behaviors, experiences, and our senses of ourselves and others. We will examine how ideas, practices, and structures of power are written on our landscapes, focusing particularly on how neoliberalismùas a political, economic, and ideological projectīhas produced our spaces and culture over the last forty years. Students learn different approaches to interpreting space and landscapes, research and write a major paper analyzing neoliberal space, and present that research at the Colby Liberal Arts Symposium. Prerequisite: Senior standing as an American studies major. Four credit hours.
AM493Ds    Senior Seminar: Interrogating Whiteness This capstone guides students through the process of designing, researching, and writing a major paper on a topic that interrogates whiteness. "White" is a constructed racial category, but it often remains invisible in American discourses on race. Students will analyze the histories, structures, and representations of whiteness in the US. Why, despite US disavowals of racism, does racial injustice persist? How does white privilege intersect with gender and class to produce social, spatial, legal, political, environmental, and economic inequalities? What is white supremacy? What forms does antiracism take? Students present their research at CLAS. Prerequisite: American Studies 393. Four credit hours. Saltz