American Studies

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 (101) 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 101, usually taken in the spring of the first 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, English and Creative Writing, 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.

A minor in American Studies consists of five courses: 201; one course in U.S. literature or U.S. history; and three electives, one of which must be at or above the 300-level.

The only 100-level courses that may count toward the concentration in American studies are those offered by the program itself. Only one 100-level course may be counted toward the concentration or the minor.

Concentrators with a grade point average in the program of 3.5 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 or above in their coursework and earn a grade of A- or higher in 550.

101S 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. (Writing-intensive.) Not open to seniors. Maximum enrollment, 20. Nieves.

[125] Introduction to History and Theory of New Media.
What makes new media “new”? How do new media compare with, transform or incorporate earlier media? Examines the production, circulation, and reception of visual and sonic media, with emphasis on how consumers and artists shape the uses and values of media. Covers key issues raised by new media through close study of critical essays and creative texts. Examples of old and new media include the phonograph, radio, film, turntable, social networks, fantasy sports and gaming, podcast, MP3, AutoTune, hypertext literature and digital poetry. Open to first-year students and sophomores only. Maximum enrollment, 20.

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134F Americanism, Ballots, and Consumption: The ABCs of American Religion.
This course explores a variety of roles religion has played in American culture(s) and some of the ways that American culture has influenced Americans’ religious practices. We will focus on three areas: identity (Americanism), politics (Ballots), and economics (Consumption). In particular, we will consider how religion is involved in the construction of American identity and the exclusion of some people from American polity; how religion is (and is not) intertwined with our political system; and how religion affects – and is affected by – Americans’ economic practices (Same as Religious Studies 134.) Newell.

[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.

[205] Video Game Nation.
Investigates how to critically interpret and analyze video games and the roles they play in visual and popular culture, and how to test the application of these approaches to various issues in gaming and digital media culture more generally. Topics and themes include genre and aesthetics, the game industry, spectatorship, play, narrative, immersion, gender, race, militarism, violence and labor. (Writing-intensive.) Maximum enrollment, 20.

215F Religion in Film.
Study of the religious in film. Focus on the relationship between myth-making in film and post-modern culture. (Same as Religious Studies 215.) Humphries-Brooks.

245/345F Music in American Film.
An examination of music in American film from silent films to the present with an emphasis on the golden age of Hollywood. Topics include the development of musical conventions in film, different approaches of film composers (Steiner, Tiomkin, Rózsa, Herrmann, Newman, Bernstein, Williams), and the meanings that music brings to the films' narratives. Includes films such as Casablanca, Citizen Kane, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, A Streetcar Named Desire, West Side Story, Bonnie and Clyde, American Graffiti, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Hours. Special attention to films of Hitchcock Prerequisite, two courses, in any combination, in music, film, or literature. Three hours per week for film viewings in addition to class time. Music 345 has an additional independent project. Registration at the 300-level only with instructor's permission. (Same as Music 245/345.) Hamessley.

283F Introduction to Asian American Literature.
Examination of themes, forms, and history of literary production by people of Asian descent in the United States. We will survey translated and English-language works by Asian American writers of varying ethnic affiliations, including Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Indian, and others. We’ll explore how each writer negotiates a relationship with a particular cultural heritage, as well as confronts the racial, cultural, and political formations of the U.S.. Authors include Maxine Hong Kingston, Carlos Bulosan, John Okada, the Angel Island poets, and others. Prerequisite, One course in literature. (post-1900) (Theory or Identity and Difference) (Same as Literature and Creative Writing 283.) Yao.

[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? An overview of contemporary media theory as it relates to visual culture in the 21st century. Readings will include seminal works in psychoanalytic theory, cultural studies, semiotics, postmodern theory, new media studies and visual studies. Maximum enrollment, 12.

[330] Digital History and New Media: Theories and Praxis.
Focuses on the process of creating digital history and the impact of digital media technologies on the theory and practice of U.S. history and critical race theory, broadly defined. Readings, labs/workshops and discussions address the philosophy and practice of digital history, questioning how digital tools and resources are enabling and transforming analysis both in traditional print scholarship, and in emerging digital scholarship across the humanities. Maximum enrollment, 12.

342F Seminar: Written on the Wall: 20th-Century American Prison Writing.
The writing of the men and women inside the American prison system constitutes a kind of shadow canon to that of better-known literary artists. We will read broadly in 20th- and 21st-century American prison writing, asking questions about the generic coherence, social and moral import of prisoners' non-fiction, fiction and poetry. Authors will include Jack London, George Jackson, Assata Shakur, and citizens serving time today. Students who are twenty-one or older will visit a book group inside a state prison. Prerequisite, one 200-level course in literature. (post-1900) (History or Identity and Difference) Open to juniors and seniors only. Does not fulfill the senior seminar requirement for ENGL or LIT concentration. (Same as Literature and Creative Writing 342.) Maximum enrollment, 12. Larson.

[350] Gender and Cyberculture.
Explores critical approaches to media through the intersection of gender and the technological imaginary. Investigates how the production, use and circulation of digital media affect notions of representation, identity, the body and consciousness. Close visual and textual analysis of the ways writers, artists and theorists have conceived these issues. Maximum enrollment, 20.

420S Seminar in American Studies: American Folk Revivals.
Study of the folk revivals that marked 20th-century U.S. cultural life. Topics include African and Native-American origins, 19th-century minstrels, Stephen Foster, the Appalachian ballad collections of Cecil Sharp, the legacy of the Lomax and Seeger families, bluegrass and hillbilly music, Woody Guthrie and union songs, the freedom songs of the Civil Rights Movement, the Washington Square scene in Greenwich Village, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Grounded in the study of music and its circulation, examines the impact of these revivals on dance, film, literature and politics. Prerequisite, two courses in literature, history or music (in any combination), or consent of instructor. Maximum enrollment, 12. Hamessley.

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550F,S Honors Thesis.
Independent study required for honors candidates, culminating in a thesis. Registration only by express approval of the program director. The Program.

(from the Hamilton Course Catalogue)