Professor Thomas Tweed and his "Buddhism in America" class in the midst of discussion
In the Department of American Studies, we believe that a complete education should take place both inside and outside of the classroom.
We offer courses exploring the wilderness of Indiana, the “ruins” of Detroit, the campus of Notre Dame, and beyond. In the classroom, we offer a wide breadth of courses that allow you to study what interests you. With American Studies, you can truly study everything.
Fall 2018 Course Descriptions
Please visit the registrars site for the most up to date class listing and to register.
AMST 10100/20100 – Introduction to American Studies
M/W 12:50-1:40 pm F Discussion Sections
This course explores the rich and varied field of American Studies, a field dedicated to understanding America's diverse cultures and the ways American national identity has been constructed and contested differently over time. Through lectures, readings, and discussion, we will consider questions such as: How have ideas about race, gender, religion, sexuality, ethnicity, and class shaped the making and meaning of America and Americans, and how have they evolved? What are the dominant myths and values that Americans seem to share? How has the American Dream been defined, and by whom? As a class we will consider the ways in which concepts of America and American are performed and how they have changed over time, across space, and within particular social, cultural, and political contexts. Assignments emphasize critical analysis of texts; requirements include papers, a midterm, and a final.
AMST 30102 – Integration in the US & Europe
T/R 2:00-3:15 pm
This class examines the social, spatial and intellectual history of integration in the United States & Europe from the publication of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract (1762) up to the so-called “global revolutions” of 1968. Students will gain a comprehensive introduction to how persons with low social status, (im)migrants, people of color, and other disempowered populations negotiated confraternity and inclusion — despite tenacious subjugation and exclusion — within and across Western nation-states and colonial possessions. Related topics range from "Indian removal" to religious persecution; from absolutistic monarchies to transatlantic gender discrimination and anti-homosexuality; and from legalized slavery to histories of genocide. Our seminar, eclectic in scope and method, will put particular emphasis on transnational histories of social movements and cultural transformations. In addition to three short writing assignments (4 – 5 pages, double-spaced) connecting two or more course readings, students will develop a final paper (7 – 8 pages, double-spaced) based on course readings. Course readings will include: Alexander Pushkin’s The Negro of Peter the Great (1837), Maya Jasanoff’s The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World (2017), Todd Tucker’s Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan (2004), and Winston Churchill’s “United States of Europe” speech (1946). No prior background in American or European history is either required or assumed.
AMST 30119 – Asian American Experience
M/W 2:00-3:15 pm
This class will survey the various historical and contemporary dimensions of Asian American experiences including immigration & integration, family & community dynamics, ethnic/gender/class identity, as well as transnational and diasporic experiences. We will explore contemporary and historical issues of racism, the model minority myth, inter-generational relationships, and the educational experiences of Asian Americans. To accomplish this, our class will pose such questions as: Who is Asian American? How did racism create Chinatown? Is there an Asian advantage? Coursework includes essays based on topics of your choice, presentations, and a creative narrative.
AMST 30137 – The Indian School and American Culture: Native peoples, education, mascots, and more
M/W 9:30-10:45 am
Native education took place in communities throughout North and South American long before Europeans arrived, but when the Europeans arrived the education took on a new form and flow first with Spanish missionary education in the presidios that dotted the new American landscape and then later in schools run out of the budget of the War Department as Grant's Peace Policy worked to "kill the Indian but save the man" a quote so often attributed to the Indian School era. Now in the modern era Native American schools are being run more and more often by Native people and for Native peoples. What has shifted in these eras to make "Indian" education change? What does the Indian School in the modern era look like? How do modern schools combat the prejudice and racism against them in other schools and in broader society? This course will discuss the history of native education both in the past and present and create digital humanities resources for some of the remaining Indian Schools in the country in conjunction with the American Indian Catholic Schools Network at Notre Dame. The useful digital humanities projects will be put to work at current schools. This is a class in which you'll both learn about the past and make a difference in the present with members of a small team from the class.
Professor Erika Doss took her "American Ruins" class to Detroit to visit ruined factories, homes, and more.
AMST 30145 – Immigrant America
M/W 11:00-12:15 pm
This course offers a critical examination of what it means to be an immigrant or child of immigrants through scholarly works, memoirs, blogs, and popular journalism. Since the liberalization of immigration policy in 1965, immigrants from Latin America and Asia are becoming an increasing and emergent demographic of American society. In major American cities such as Los Angeles and New York, they comprise over 50% of the population. This course focuses on how immigrants and the children of immigrants experience the United States. How are immigrants changing the US racial and ethnic structure? How do their experiences differ given varying legal statuses? How is the second generation becoming American? We will explore these questions through readings that focus on family, religion, education, dating and sexuality.
AMST 30149 – African American Art
T/R 12:30-1:45 pm
In the fall of 2018, the Snite Museum of Art will host "Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection", a major exhibition of art made since 1940 by African-American artists. This special class will focus on this exhibition, including museum visits, guest speakers, and talks with visiting artists, as it examines how black artists have use painting, sculpture, and mixed media to raise questions about personal, racial, and national identity.
AMST 30152 – Art in America
T/R 9:30-10:45 am
This course examines American visual and material cultures from the pre-colonial era to the present day. Providing a broad, historical account and considering a variety of media from paintings and sculptures to quilts, photographs, world's fairs, and fashion styles, this survey explores American art within the context of cultural, social, economic, political, and philosophical developments. In particular, it considers the role that American art has played in the formation of national identity and understandings of class, race, gender, and ethnicity.
Focusing especially on the 20th-21st centuries, the artists we will study include: Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, Alma Thomas, Romare Bearden, Gordon Parks, Faith Ringgold, Mel Edwards, Richard Hunt, Elizabeth Catlett, David Hammons, Adrian Piper, Betye Saar, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, Martin Puryear, Pat Ward Williams, Michael Ray Charles, Fred Wilson, Kara Walker, Glenn Ligon, Thornton Dial, Renee Cox, Kerry James Marshall, Kehinde Wiley, Nick Cave, Mark Bradford, Mickalene Thomas, Theaster Gates, Jennie Jones, and Shinique Smith, among others. Topics that we will examine include: black art and artists during the New Deal; relationships between art, race, and politics during the Cold War; African American photography—including Gordon Parks at Life magazine; black self-taught artists and white patrons and collectors; the Black Arts Movement; figurative art versus abstraction; the use of irony and caricature to deconstruct racial stereotypes; Black Power and the Black Panther Party; black feminist art; black artists and the art market; the development of African American art museums, galleries, and collectors.
AMST 30164 – Catholics in America
T/R 12:30-1:45 pm
Since 1850 Roman Catholics have constituted the single largest religious denomination in the United States. This course explores what the presence of Catholics has meant for the American experience, focusing on themes of church/state separation, religion and politics, education, and social reform. We will also examine how the American context has transformed the practice of Catholicism, with attention to ethnicity, gender, region, race and class as variables that have shaped the American Catholic experience. Assigned readings range from excerpts of anti-Catholic publications to first-hand accounts written by American Catholics from the colonial period to the present. In addition we will study the representation of Catholics in American film, themes of Catholic fiction, material culture relating to Catholic devotional life and the sacraments, and the shifting position of American Catholics in the universal Roman Catholic Church.
AMST 30165 – The Vietnam War & American Catholics
T/R 11:00-12:15 pm
How did the most divisive war in American History shape the nation¿s biggest church community? This course explores Catholics as both supporters and detractors of the Vietnam War. American Catholics wished to see America defeat Communism but, importantly, the power of faith motivated many to criticize the state's escalation of the conflict. Students will explore the tensions and transformations of this important moment in American life. Lectures and classroom discussions will address decolonization, the global and national nature of American Catholicism, the power of the liberal state, conscientious objection, the Spirit of the Sixties, sacramental protests, the rise of human rights, geopolitics, and the Cold War. Course readings will include the latest scholarship, but also primary sources like poems, films, songs, letters, prayers, newspaper articles, and art. Students will have access to the rich materials of Catholic peace activists found in the University of Notre Dame Archives
AMST 30170 – Laboring Women
M/W 11:00-12:15 pm
What did shopping, tavern-keeping, and midwifery have in common in early America? They could all be considered legitimate forms of women's and girls' labors both inside and outside of the home. We will consider work that was skilled or unskilled, free or enslaved, and paid or unpaid, and how changing definitions of "women's work" helped to shape boundaries of race and class. Servants were restricted from marrying and procreating while the value of enslaved women resided in both their work and their reproductive potential. Hence this course will also consider the dual facets of women's labor in work and their laboring in childbirth.
AMST 30174 – American Wilderness
M/W 9:30A-10:45 am
What does it mean to be American? Wilderness, as a specific place as well as an idea, is a big part of the answer. Writers, historians, painters, photographers, and politicians have described American landscapes as wild from colonization into the 21st century to great effect. Because places are constantly constructed and reconstructed through culture, they take shape in concert with identities of gender, class, race, and nation. This class will explore how the idea of wilderness—and the places associated with that idea—have developed, and how they have supported an American national identity but largely failed to recognize the diversity of American society and culture. We will focus on the 20th century with major sections on 1) developing the wilderness idea; 2) national parks and the problem of wilderness; 3) wilderness experience and politics; and 4) wilderness narratives. We will discuss literature, history, visual images, journalism, and legislation, and explore the constant tension between changing ideas of wilderness and the physical environments associated with those ideas. Through an examination of wilderness, this course will encourage students to think more critically and creatively about the historical formation of American culture, its social and political consequences, and the role they choose to play in that dynamic. Requirements include discussion and a series of papers; there will be a field trip.
AMST 43149 – Putting American Studies in Place
M/W 12:30-1:45 pm
America. The frontier. The border. Home. You can boil the field of American Studies down to examinations of American identity and power, and place matters. Thinking about where we are is an effective way to understand who we are. Because our politics, culture, and identity take shape across both time and space, it is fruitful to ask questions about history but also about space, place, landscape, mobility, and the environment. This senior seminar seeks to do just that – to put American Studies in place. We will move from a discussion of the “the field” and its major concepts to a focus on individual research projects. Along the way, we will discuss examples of place-oriented approaches about topics including nature in LA, slave plantation architecture, cultural landscape photography, and national park sites, and we will apply relevant approaches to our own research questions. We might ask for instance how different kinds of communities form. How does a particular environment or built landscape express institutional power? How does a person’s movements through it reflect their class, gender, or racial identity? How do representations of place affect its meaning? We will integrate our questions and methodologies through small group projects-creating “A Field Guild to American Studies at Notre Dame” – and by conceptualizing, researching, writing and presenting individual projects of at least 20 pages. There will be a field trip.
AMST 43909 – The Senior Thesis: Theory, Method, and Composition
M/W 9:30-10:45 am
The Senior Thesis Capstone provides a culminating experience for American Studies majors who are writing a Senior Thesis. It is only offered during fall semesters and should be followed in the spring by 3 credit hours of AMST 47910 Senior Thesis Writing with the thesis advisor. This course encourages students to think about how their coursework fits together as a whole and gives them an opportunity to put what they've learned as American Studies majors into practice. In this course students will be expected to demonstrate significant progress towards their senior thesis, a year-long experience developed with a faculty advisor that aspires to make an original contribution to the field. Class readings and discussions will address current issues and themes in the field of American Studies as well as how student theses will develop, support, or revise those themes. During the semester students will work on refining a topic and developing a supporting bibliography, conducting a significant amount of research (whether in libraries or in the field), situating their research among relevant secondary sources, writing an abstract or prospectus to guide further research and writing in the spring, and planning the project's final form (paper, exhibit, documentary, etc.). Specific expectations for each project/student will be developed in consultation with the course instructor and the student's thesis advisor. It is expected that each student meet at least twice with their thesis advisor during the semester. This course will be graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis.