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Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies Concentration American Studies

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  • Objectives
    AMERICAN STUDIES IS THE EXPLORATION OF CIVILIZATION AND CULTURE in the United States. It uses the methods and perspectives of several disciplines — particularly history and literature — as lenses through which the nation and its cultural heritage may be examined. In this way, the American Studies Program at Hamilton is representative of the most enduring liberal arts traditions and principles. Yet American studies is highly innovative as well. Our interdisciplinary approach fosters creativity and originality by encouraging students to work closely with faculty members as they develop and pursue individual plans of study.
  • Course description
     The concentration in American studies consists of 10 courses: two offered by the program itself and eight selected among the range of U.S.-focused courses offered by other departments and programs at Hamilton College.

    The American Studies Program offers students an opportunity to study American culture from a variety of perspectives and through the methodologies of different intellectual disciplines. Specialized studies in all fields of learning dealing with the United States are included in the program, and the impact of these studies is reflected in the work of the American Studies introductory course (201) and the Senior Seminar (420).

    Students work closely with faculty members in developing a plan of study that brings at least two disciplinary perspectives to bear on major issues in American culture. Required courses include 201, usually taken in the fall of the sophomore year; 420, taken in the spring of the junior or senior year; two courses in American literature; and two courses in American history, chosen in consultation with the program director. Of the remaining four elective courses, at least two must be at the 300-level or higher. The departments and programs in Africana Studies, Anthropology, Art History, Cinema and New Media Studies, Communication, Economics, Environmental Studies, Government, Hispanic Studies, History, Music, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Sociology, Theatre and Women's Studies all offer courses on issues pertinent to American Studies.

    The only 100-level courses that may count towards the concentration in American Studies are those offered by the program itself.

    Concentrators with a grade point average in the program of 3.5 (90) or higher at the end of their junior year may, on approval, pursue an honors project in their senior year (550) under the direct supervision of a faculty member. To earn honors in American studies, students must maintain a grade point average of 3.5 (90) or above in their coursework and earn a grade of A- or higher in 550.


    Courses and Descriptions

    125F Introduction to the History and Theory of New Media
    .
    What are new media and what makes them “new?” How do new media compare with, transform or remediate earlier media practices and forms? In this course we will examine new media, specifically the emergence of digital visual media after World War II, in terms of the history of their production, reception and circulation. We will cover the central issues and debates raised by new media through close study of key texts in new media studies and of varied examples of new media, from early hypermedia experiments and hypertext literature to digital cinema, video games and online social networks. Open to first-year students and sophomores only. (Same as and Cinema and New Media Studies 125.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Anable.

    [201F] Introduction to American Studies
    .
    An interdisciplinary introduction to culture and society in the United States, from the colonial era through the 21st century, as revealed in literary, cinematic and historical texts. Offered in alternate years. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, a 100-level course in American Studies, English, or History. Next offered in 2010. Maximum enrollment, 20.


    [202] Introduction to Asian-American Studies.
    An introduction to Asian-American studies, an interdisciplinary field of inquiry that deals with the history, experiences and cultural production of Americans of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, South Asian, Filipino and Southeast Asian ancestry. Topics addressed include the history of Asian immigration to the United States; popular and self-representation of Asians in various cultural media; questions of race and ethnicity; and the category of gender as it is inflected along racial and class lines. Counts toward the concentrations in American studies or Asian studies. Not open to seniors. Maximum enrollment, 16.

    [268F] Latino Literature: The Diversity of Identities and Experience.

    Explores issues, themes and social positions common to U.S. Latino and Latina literature. We will also consider the great diversity within that shared literary rubric. As a class, we will reflect on and connect personal experiences, assumptions, and thoughts to the larger social conversations and relevant social, historical, and political contexts in which Latino literature and identity are situated. Involves writing, close readings, literary analysis and participation in class discussion (post-1900). Prerequisite, one 100-level course in English or equivalent. (Same as English 268.)

    315S The Technological Sublime.
    Traces the shift from the natural to the technological sublime through a variety of visual imagery from the early modern period including landscape paintings, images of factories and mechanisms of all sorts. Readings place the technological sublime as a critical element in American consciousness and ideology-building. Additional study of contemporary visual media demonstrates how the technological sublime continues to shape our view of new innovations, influencing everything from art photography and painting to advertising, popular and documentary film, and the imagery of nano-technology. (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, one course in Art History. (Same as Art History 315.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Rosolowski.

    325S Media Theory and Visual Culture.
    We are bombarded with images, in myriad forms, on a daily basis. How do we interpret and analyze them? What is the relationship between an online advertisement for a movie and the movie itself, between a television program and a video game? This seminar will provide an overview of contemporary media theory as it relates to visual culture in the twenty-first century. Readings will include seminal works in psychoanalytic theory, cultural studies, semiotics, postmodern theory, new media studies, and visual studies. (Same as and Cinema and New Media Studies 325 and Communication 325.) Maximum enrollment, 12. Anable.

    350S Gender and Cyberculture.
    This course explores critical approaches to media through the intersection of gender and the technological imaginary. We will study how the production, use, and circulation of digital media affect notions of representation, identity, the body, and consciousness. Students will engage in close visual and textual analysis of the ways writers, artists, and theorists have conceived these issues. (Same as Cinema and New Media Studies 350.) Maximum enrollment, 20. Anable.

    [377S] Ethnic Autobiography: Negotiating the Self.
    Explores autobiography and the philosophies of identity implicit in autobiographies by ethnic authors. Since readers often read fictionalized texts by ethnic authors as autobiographical we will also look at some quasi-autobiographical texts. Possible readings include Wright’s Black Boy, Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, Kingston’s Woman Warrior, Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory, Cisneros’s House on Mango Street, Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (post-1900). (Writing-intensive.) Prerequisite, one 200-level course in literature. (Same as English 377.) Maximum enrollment, 20.

    380S Ut Pictura Poesis: Contemporary Graphic Narrative.
    Study of the graphic narrative as a hybrid literary medium particularly conducive to memoir and social commentary. Readings in the history of comics and in theories of life writing will accompany close analysis of texts by artist/authors such as Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, Daniel Clowes, Harvey Pekar, Joe Sacco, Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware. Prerequisite, one 200-level course in literature, American studies, art, art history or history. (Same as English 380.) Kodat.


    420S Seminar in American Studies: American Folk Revivals.
    Study of the various folk revivals that marked 20th century U.S. cultural life, from the publication of the first song collections of Lila W. Edmonds and Cecil B. Sharp to the Washington Square scene in New York's Greenwich Village. Grounded in the study of the music and its circulation, the course will also examine the impact of these revivals on dance, film, literature and politics. Offered in alternate years. Prerequisite, two courses in English, history or music (in any combination), or consent of instructors. (Same as Music 420). Maximum enrollment, 12. Hamessley and Kodat.

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