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
[AM135B]    Space, Place, and New York City Examines 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 an economic and cultural control center and considers how New York capitalists produce space near and far. Investigates expressions and consequences (positive and negative) of global capitalism on city streets, and examines how place and the built environment construct cultural and political identity. Discussion-based. Students develop skills of spatial, material, textual, and historical analysis and critical writing. Four credit hours. S, 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 Literary, religious, and philosophical texts, historical documents, material objects, works of art and music, and varied forms of popular culture are studied, with a focus on what it means, and has meant, to be an American. Prerequisite: First-year or sophomore standing. Four credit hours. U. Lisle, Saltz
[AM214]    African-American Elites and Middle Classes Listed as Sociology 214. Three credit hours. S, U.
AM217s    Religion in the Americas Listed as Religious Studies 217. Four credit hours. H. O'Neil
[AM221]    Mapping Waterville This interdisciplinary humanities lab combines geographical and architectural fieldwork, archival research, and digital publishing. Waterville is our learning space. Students construct an online archive of Waterville's built environment using architectural sketches, photographs, interviews, and archival research. We then analyze and interpret the town's material and spatial character, track and explain changes across time, and publish our interpretations online using innovative digital mapping technologies. Four credit hours. H.
AM222s    Maine's Musical Soundscapes: Ethnography of Maine Listed as Music 222. Four credit hours. A. Zelensky
AM224s    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. Lisle
[AM226]    Cultural Geography of Allen Island Places that people design, build, and live in structure their experience and behavior, shaping their ideas about themselves and the world. Students explore how beliefs about Maine, nature, and the past are expressed through Allen Island's cultural geography. We locate the design and use of the island's built environment in the context of mid-coast Maine and explore how human beings have responded to and represented the island across time. This interdisciplinary course combines geographical fieldwork, cultural analysis, and archival research, culminating in a collaborative and public digital humanities project. Four credit hours. H.
[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.
AM232s    Queer Identities and Politics Listed as Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 232. Four credit hours. U. Arellano
AM234s    From Rockabilly Kings to Lady Gaga: A History of Rock 'n' Roll Listed as Music 234. Four credit hours. A. Zelensky
AM236f    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.
[AM253]    Mormons Listed as Religious Studies 253. Four credit hours. H, U.
AM256f    African-American Art Listed as Art 256. Four credit hours. A, U. Sheehan
[AM258]    American Art 1650-1900 Listed as Art 158. Four credit hours. A.
[AM259]    American Art since 1900 Listed as Art 159. Four credit hours. A.
[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. 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.
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
[AM285]    History of Photography Listed as Art 285. Four credit hours. A.
AM297f    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? We examine particularly Waterville and Washington Park, on Chicago's South Side, as case studies. In this interdisciplinary humanities lab, foregrounding experiential and community-oriented learning, we will partner with a course at the University of Chicago being taught by artist Theaster Gates and visit Chicago once. Four credit hours. Lisle
AM297Bj    Deconstructing Daughters of the Dust: African American Origins Listed as African-American Studies 297B. Three credit hours. S, U. Gilkes
[AM313B]    Designing the American Seventies Explores how design expressed and shaped American lives from 1968 to 1980. We assess design at many scales, from regional development to everyday consumer products (in all their polyester and shag-carpeted glory), analyzing objects and their representations in advertising, film, and music. We attend to how design was influenced by economic and energy crises, an emergent ecological consciousness, challenges to gender and sexual norms, and a fascination with "roots" and heritage. In this reading-intensive discussion course, students develop abilities to analyze and interpret material, spatial, visual, and historical evidence. Part of the two-course Integrated Studies cluster, "America in the 1970s." Prerequisite: Concurrent enrollment in American Studies AM313A. Four credit hours. S.
[AM322J]    Imagining Maine This interdisciplinary humanities lab examines Maine's transformation in the American imagination from a barren wilderness to a "vacationland." We will collect and analyze representations of Maine in painting, photography, literature, maps, advertising, travel guides, diaries, and historical documents. For our final project, we will work collaboratively to build a website that showcases this material. Research may include travel to exhibitions and archives around the state. Three credit hours.
[AM331]    The Stadium and the City Stadiums are among our most important social spaces: central to how millions understand and experience the public world and crucial to shaping community identity in inclusive and exclusive ways. We will examine relationships between stadiums, cities, and people in the United States and across the world. We explore how stadiums have been constructed, controlled, and used; how they express sets of values and structures of power; and how users of these stadiums experience them as groups and individuals. Students learn different approaches to interpreting space, write an original research paper, and present their research at the Colby Liberal Arts Symposium. Four credit hours. H.
[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, Art 101, Cinema Studies 142, English 241, or Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 201. Four credit hours. U.
AM342f    Political Violence: American Cultures of Radicalism Focuses on the complex history of "revolutionary" American political behavior with emphasis on practices and representations of political violence. Draws together case studies of 20th-century radical and militant political movements and actors 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 these 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 land reclamation movements. Prerequisite: American Studies 171. Four credit hours. U. Arellano
[AM344]    Black Radical Imaginations Listed as Anthropology 344. Four credit hours.
AM347f    Art and Maine Listed as Art 347. Four credit hours. Sheehan
AM355f    African-American Women and Social Change Listed as Sociology 355. Four credit hours. U. Gilkes
[AM357]    Civil Rights, Black Power, and Social Change Listed as Sociology 357. Four credit hours. S, U.
[AM358]    Photography and Migration Listed as Art 358. Four credit hours. U.
AM375s    Representing Difference in American 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. Saltz
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
[AM454]    Picturing Nature: American Art and Science Listed as Art 454. 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. U. Sheehan
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
AM493Cs    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. Lisle