The History and Paradigms of American Studies 2 (Šesnić 2015)

Course title: The History and Paradigms of American Studies 2 (A, 19th c./20th c.)
Instructor: Dr. Jelena Šesnić
ECTS credits: 6
Status: elective (obligatory for American Studies majors in the 8th semester)
Enrollment requirements: enrollment in the 8th and/or 10th semester

Course description: This course is a companion course to the History and Paradigms of American Studies1 which investigated the origins of the discipline of American Studies. Since the 1970s, however, the discipline undertook to interrogate some of its main premises based on the changing conceptions of U.S. society and the nation-state. Even though the revisionist interventions begin to be felt already in the 1970s, we will posit as a starting point of our inquiry a methodological break observable in the 1980s as „ideology“ becomes a necessary accompaniment of any AS inquiry. The next historical break—the end of the Cold War in 1989—indicates another momentous shift as we follow the developments thereafter. The next point of interest is 9/11 and the way it refocused the work in the discipline. These will demonstrate the efforts by so-called New Americanists to devise contesting models of American culture, while the emphases in their agendas may differ, as our readings will show. In the process of revising American Studies various theories have been made use of, ranging from New Historicism to poststructuralism, to ethnic/ race, feminist and gender studies to Marxism and cultural studies to international/ transnational perspectives. Paralelly, it ought to become evident how each new methodology in the discipline invents, as it were, a new conception of „America“ as its object of study while ur-theories and underlying conceptions in the discipline of AS show great resilience and attest to continuity. The course is obligatory for AS majors.
Course requirements: regular attendance, participation in class discussions, mid-term and final test (continuous assessment), presentation in class, written assignments and a final seminar paper

Syllabus:

Primary texts:

  1. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay: Federalist Papers (1788; selection)
  2. Ralph Waldo Emerson: selected essays
  3. Henry David Thoreau: Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854; selection); „Civil Disobedience“
  4. W.E.B. DuBois: The Souls of Black Folk (1903; selection)
  5. Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)
  6. Sherman Alexie: Reservation Blues (1995)

Week 1: Laying the ground for (new) American Studies: disciplinary premises and theoretical frameworks (Fluck, L. Marx)

Week 2: Ideology and readings of American (literary) artefacts in the 1980s (Bercovitch and Jehlen)

Week 3: Ideology and readings of American (literary) artefacts in the 1980s (Fisher)

Week 4: End of the Cold War and repositionings within the discipline (New Americanists and a new field-imaginary) (Pease)

Week 5: End of the Cold War and repositionings within the discipline (New Americanists and a new field-imaginary) (Rowe) (A short written response.)

Week 6: End of the Cold War and repositionings within the discipline (New Americanists and a new field-imaginary) (Kaplan)

Week 7: Mid-term test

Week 8: Framing the transnational turn (Radway)

Week 9: Framing the transnational turn (Porter)

Week 10: Framing the transnational turn (Elliott, Lauter) (A short written response.)

Week 11: Post 9/11 and a new state in/ of the discipline (Aravamudan)

Week 12: Post 9/11 and a new state in/ of the discipline (Kaplan)

Week 13: Post 9/11 and a new state in/ of the discipline (Pease) (Seminar paper due.)

Week 14: International American Studies (Chenetier, Kennedy)

Week 15: Final test; course evaluation

Readings (alterations possible)

-Bercovitch, Sacvan, and Myra Jehlen, eds. Ideology and Classic American Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. (selection)

– Castronovo, Russ, and Susan Gillman, eds. States of Emergency: The Object of American Studies. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2009. (selection)

– Fisher, Phillip. The New American Studies. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. (selection)
– Fluck, Winfried, Donald E. Pease, and John Carlos Rowe, eds. Re-Framing the Transnational Turn in American Studies. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College Press, 2011. (selection)

-Pease, Donald, and Robyn Wiegman, eds. The Futures of American Studies. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2002. (selection)

– Radway, Janice A., Kevin K. Gaines, Barry Shank, and Penny Von Eschen. American Studies: An Anthology. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. (selection)
– Rowe, John Carlos The Cultural Politics of the New American Studies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Library, 2012.Open Humanities Press. http://www.scribd.com/doc/132330117/Rowe-The-Cultural-Politics-of-the-New-American-Studies (selection)