The History and Paradigms of American Studies 2 (Šesnić, 2017)

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 investigates the origins of the discipline of American Studies. Since the 1970s, however, the discipline has undertaken 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. In the process it becomes 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. In the last part of the course the foregoing theories will be tested on an array of texts. 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 (alterations possible):

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

Week 2: Ideology and readings of American artefacts in the 1980s (L. Marx: revision of American pastoralism; Slotkin, Prince: revision of the frontier myth), Bercovitch

Week 3: Ideology and readings of American artefacts: identity approaches (ethnic, race, gender, border, class and religious identities) Morrison, Kaplan, Carby

Week 4: Identity approaches (cont.): Parikh, Stievermann, Dallmann

Week 5: Identity approaches (cont.): Banita, Boesenberg, O’Neill

Week 6: Framing the transnational turn: from national to post-national studies : Pease, Shapiro, Shu

Week 7: Mid-term test. Individual project discussions.

Week 8: Framing the transnational turn: imperial, hemispheric and globalist approaches (Anzaldúa, Pisarz-Ramirez, Rowe)

Week 9: Post 9/11 and a new state of the discipline: Pease, Aravamudan, Merodovoi, Gray

Week 10: Contemporary America: politics, society, the economy (Pease; Spanos; Grgas)

Week 11: Case study 1: Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography (1791, 1793; Shapiro)

Week 12: Case study 2: Lin-Manuel Miranda: Hamilton (musical, 2015) (The Federalist Papers, 1787/88; Ambrose)

Week 13: Case study 3: C. L. R. James: Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In (excerpts) (Pease)

Week 14: Individual project and seminar paper topics presentation and discussions.

Week 15: Final test; course evaluation.

Readings (selection)

-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)

– Dallmann, Antje, et al., eds. Approaches to American Cultural Studies. London and New York Routledge, 2016. (selection)

– Grgas, Stipe. Američki studiji danas: identitet, kapital, spacijalnost. Zagreb: Meandar, 2015. (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)

– Rowe, John Carlos The Cultural Politics of the New American Studies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Library, 2012.Open Humanities Press. (selection)

– Shu, Yuan, and Donald E. Pease, eds. American Studies as Transnational Practice: Turning towards the Transpacific. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College P, 2015.