Undergraduate Courses in American Studies

Spring 2022

Race, Gender, and the Urban Environment
Subject associations
AMS 312 / GSS 462 / URB 316 / ENV 314

This course considers how environmental racism shapes urban inequality. We will discuss how racial and gender bias have conditioned proposals for the future of cities and the planet. We will also address how people who have experienced racial and gender marginalization have formed relationships with land, water, and non-human life in response to crisis. We will address environmentalist work in geography, critical race studies, city planning, queer and trans theory, and disability studies along with novels, journalism, and film to analyze how ideas of race and gender and questions of urban and planetary futures have informed one another.

Instructors
Davy Knittle
Black and Indigenous Feminist Survival and Experimentation in the Americas
Subject associations
AMS 351 / GSS 443 / AAS 352

This course is designed to explore how centering Black and Native/Indigenous feminist epistemologies (ways of knowing), theories, methods, themes, cultural production, and decolonial and abolitionist struggle reorient the field of American Studies. If we orient American Studies around and through Black and Native/Indigenous gendered, sexualized, feminist and queer modes of survival and ingenuity; what themes, debates, and questions rise to the surface and become salient?

Instructors
Tiffany J. King
Creative Ecologies: American Environmental Narrative and Art, 1980-2020
Subject associations
AMS 354 / ART 355 / ENV 373

This seminar explores how writers and artists--alongside scientists and activists--have shaped American environmental thought from 1980 to today. The seminar asks: How do different media convey the causes and potential solutions to environmental challenges, ranging from biodiversity loss and food insecurity to pollution and climate change? What new art forms are needed to envision sustainable and just futures? Course materials include popular science writing, graphic narrative, speculative fiction, animation art, documentary film, and data visualization along with research from anthropology, ecology, history, literary studies, and philosophy.

Instructors
Allison Carruth
Isn't It Romantic? The Broadway Musical from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Sondheim
Subject associations
AMS 365 / ENG 365 / GSS 365 / MTD 365

Song. Dance. Man. Woman. These are the basic components of the Broadway musical theatre. How have musical theatre artists, composers, lyricists, librettists, directors, choreographers, and designers worked with these building blocks to create this quintessentially American form of art and entertainment? This course will explore conventional and resistant performances of gender and sexuality in the Broadway musical since the 1940s. Why are musicals structured by love and romance?

Instructors
Stacy E. Wolf
Advanced Seminar in American Studies: Elites in Democratic America
Subject associations
AMS 403 / SOC 403

The aim of this course is to provide you with the tools to think about elites within democratic societies. The course is divided into four modular units: (1) The Decline of Aristocracy, (2) Creating an American Elite, (3) Elites and Power, and (4) A New Elite. For each of these units we will spend one week reading a theoretical approach to understanding the theme, one week on an empirical case to put this theory in context, and one week reading a novel that works with the themes of the theory and research we have read.

Instructors
Shamus R. Khan
American Agrarians: Ideas of Land, Labor, and Food
Subject associations
AMS 419 / ENV 419

For agrarians, farms and fields are prized over boardrooms and shopping malls. Agrarianism values hard work, self-sufficiency, simplicity and connection with nature. For some today, it is a compelling antidote to globalization and consumerism. This course examines American agrarianism past and present and its central role in our national imaginary, tracing the complex and contradictory contours of a social and political philosophy that seeks freedom and yet gave way to enslaving, excluding, and ignoring many based on race, immigration status, and gender. A focus will be on new agrarianism and movements for food, land, and social justice.

Instructors
Tessa L. Desmond
Law and Public Policy in African American History
Subject associations
AAS 380 / AMS 382

This course explores how ideas and discourses about race shape how public policy is debated, adopted, and implemented. Black social movements and geopolitical considerations prompted multiple public policy responses to racial discrimination throughout the twentieth century. Despite these policy responses, discrimination persists, raising theoretical concerns about the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, political representation, the role of the state (meaning government or law) in promoting social justice, and the role of social movements and civil society in democratizing policymaking and addressing group oppression.

Instructors
Naomi Murakawa
Pluriversal Arctic
Subject associations
ANT 322 / ENV 342 / HUM 323 / AMS 422

Students will be introduced to anthropological and cross-disciplinary studies of multiple, divergent ways in which the Circumpolar populations experience, perceive and respond to environmental, political and socio-economic changes from within distinct horizons of knowledge & modes of sociality. By focusing on social and historical processes as well as current/emerging practices, worlds/cosmologies, the course will analytically evaluate such notions as Anthropocene, the Fourth World, indigeneity and decolonisation as well as examine attempts of various scholars to better understand complex interconnections of climate, environment and society.

Instructors
Olga Ulturgasheva
Are You For Sale? Performance Making, Philanthropy and Ethics
Subject associations
DAN 357 / AMS 358 / THR 357 / VIS 357

In this class we study the relationships between performance-making, philanthropy and ethics. How are performing artists financing their work, and what does this mean in relationship to economic and social justice? How did we arrive to the current conditions of arts funding? What is the connection between wealth and giving and when are those ties inherently questionable? What is at stake in the debate of public versus private support? Does funding follow artists' concerns or delimit them?

Instructors
Miguel Gutierrez
Topics in 18th-Century Literature: The Red Atlantic and the Enlightenment
Subject associations
ENG 338 / HIS 318 / AMS 348

Anishinaabe writer Gerald Vizenor notes the word "indian" is a "colonial enactment" that "has no referent in tribal languages or cultures." But as a trope it has long provided Western culture with a vision of romantic primitivism, of savage cruelty, or of the doomed victims of colonial expansion. This course will examine eighteenth-century transatlantic representations of North American Indigenous people and consider the cultural functions of these representations and their role in settler colonialism. In addition to literary texts, we will also examine art and visual culture, collected objects, and philosophical writing from the period.

Instructors
Robbie J. Richardson
Global Novel
Subject associations
ENG 444 / ASA 444 / AMS 443

What happens to narrative when writers aspire to write the world? How has globalization transformed not only the way novels are produced but also the internal form of the works themselves? We'll read novels that overtly strive for a fuller picture of some social or conceptual whole (e.g., migration, climate change, labor, the Internet), especially where they thematize the impossibility of such a project. Students will learn interdisciplinary methods for reading literature's relation to society by examining how writers play with scale, link parts to wholes, and provincialize worlds while rendering the seemingly provincial or mundane worldly.

Instructors
Paul Nadal
Empire of the Ark: The Animal Question in Film, Photography and Popular Culture
Subject associations
ENV 357 / AMS 457 / GSS 357 / ENG 315

This course explores the fascination with animals in film, photography and popular culture, engaging critical issues in animal and environmental studies. In the context of global crises of climate change and mass displacement, course themes include the invention of wilderness, national parks, zoos and the prison system; the cult of the pet; vampires, werewolves and liminal creatures; animal communication, emotions and rights; queering nature; race and strategies for environmental justice. How can rethinking animals help us rethink what it means to be human? How can we transform our relations with other species and the planet itself?

Instructors
Anne McClintock
The Sixties: Documentary, Youth and the City
Subject associations
HIS 202 / URB 203 / AMS 202 / AAS 203

This seminar in history and documentary film explores personal narrative and how individual experience contributes to profound social change. We study 1960s youth through oral history, biography, memoir, ethnography and journalism. Trenton NJ is the case study. Themes include: civil rights & Black power; immigration & migration; student uprisings & policing; gender & sexuality; high school & college; churches & city institutions; sports & youth culture; labor, class & neighborhood; politics & government. Working with documentary narrative, the course asks how a new generation of storytellers will shape public conversations and policy.

Instructors
Purcell Carson
Alison E. Isenberg
U.S. Legal History
Subject associations
HIS 379 / SPI 362 / AMS 420

This class views legal history broadly as the relationship between formal law, popular legal culture, state governance, and social change in the U.S., from the colonial period to the present. We will examine changing conceptions of rights, equality, justice, the public interest. We also will consider questions about the operation of law in U.S. history: How is law made? What do people expect from law? Who controls law? How did that change over time? These questions open up a rich, layered past in which the law was a source of authority that mediated social and political conflicts, even as those conflicts ultimately changed the law.

Instructors
Laura F. Edwards
Archiving the American West
Subject associations
HIS 431 / AMS 432

Working with Princeton's Western Americana collections, students will explore what archives are and how they are made. Who controls what's in them? How do they shape what historians write? Using little studied collections, students will produce online "exhibitions" for the Library website, and research potential acquisitions for the Library collections. Significant time will be devoted to in-class workshops focused on manuscript and visual materials. Special visitors will include curators, archivists, librarians, and dealers.

Instructors
Martha A. Sandweiss
The History of Incarceration in the U.S.
Subject associations
HIS 459 / GSS 459 / AMS 459

The prison is a growth industry in the U.S.; it is also a central institution in U.S. political and social life, shaping our experience of race, class, gender, sexuality, citizenship, and political possibility. This course explores the history of incarceration over the course of more than two centuries. It tracks the emergence of the penitentiary in the early national period and investigates mass incarceration of the late 20th century. Topics include the relationship between the penitentiary and slavery; the prisoners' rights movement; Japanese internment; immigration detention; and the privatization and globalization of prisons.

Instructors
Wendy Warren
Latino Urban History
Subject associations
HIS 465 / LAO 465 / AMS 465

Using cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Miami as case studies, this course seeks to understand the history of Latinos in urban places. Casting a geographically broad net and focusing largely on the 20th century, this course will comparatively analyze Latinos of different national origins (e.g. Mexican Americans, Cuban Americans, Puerto Ricans, Dominican Americans). In addition, the course will look at a broad cross-section of the Latino community to get at changing understandings of gender, class, race, and immigration status. This course will include readings from traditional historical monographs and autobiographies.

Instructors
Rosina A. Lozano
Abraham Lincoln and America, 1809-1865
Subject associations
HIS 470 / HUM 471 / AMS 471

This course surveys aspects of mid-19th century American culture through the life of Abraham Lincoln. This includes the imaging, ideologies, concepts, visions of behavior, institutions -- and the means for disseminating these -- which abounded in American life between 1848 and 1877, and which intersected at various points with the life of Abraham Lincoln. It pays attention to the emergence of markets for the arts and the restraints which those markets and 19th-century technology placed on them. The purpose is to have you at 'the cutting edge' of Civil War-era and Lincolnian cultural history scholarship.

Instructors
Allen Carl Guelzo
Excavate/Illuminate: Creating Theater from the Raw Material of History
Subject associations
HUM 321 / THR 362 / AMS 331 / AAS 324

Excavate/Illuminate will guide students' archival research and collaborative exploration of US history, journalism, and performance, focusing on the pivotal Tulsa Race Massacre (1921) as a case study. We will read several examples of documentary theater to see how artists create theater from the raw materials of history. For the first half of the semester, students will work in small groups, exploring online resources in order to develop and perform original scripts in the style of Federal Theatre Project Living Newspapers. During weeks 7-12, students will select collaborators and historical topics of interest to devise final performances.

Instructors
Arminda F. Thomas
Catherine M. Young
Race Across the Americas
Subject associations
LAS 313 / ANT 313 / LAO 313 / AMS 305

This course explores transnational and diasporic formations of race in the Americas. Drawing on Ethnic Studies, Latin American Studies, and anthropological and historical approaches, we explore racial formations in Latin America and its transnational communities. A central goal for this course is to understand race and racial formations as culturally contextualized and situated within the politics of difference. How are U.S. racial-ethnic categories embraced, contested, or reconfigured across the Americas, and vice versa? Topics include multiculturalism, mestizaje, border thinking, transnationalism, and racial democracy among others.

Instructors
Alberto E. Morales
American Deaf Culture
Subject associations
LIN 215 / AMS 214 / GHP 315

This course explores the history, culture, and language of the Deaf in the United States. The first part of the course focuses on the history of Deaf people in the United States. The second part discusses various aspects of Deaf culture: language, literature, art, politics, etc. The third part critically examines different issues facing Deaf people here in the United States and around the world. These issues include audism, linguicism, ableism, intersectionality, disability rights, bioethics, and education. No American Sign Language knowledge required.

Instructors
Noah A. Buchholz
'Cult' Controversies in America
Subject associations
REL 271 / AMS 341

In this course we examine a variety of new religious movements that tested the boundaries of acceptable religion at various moments in American history. We pay particular attention to government and media constructions of the religious mainstream and margin, to the politics of labels such as "cult" and "sect," to race, gender, and sexuality within new religions, and to the role of American law in constructing categories and shaping religious expressions. We also consider what draws people to new religions and examine the distinctive beliefs, practices, and social organizations of groups labeled by outsiders as "cults."

Instructors
Judith Weisenfeld
Muslim America
Subject associations
REL 393 / CHV 393 / AMS 391

The course begins with the intertwined history of Muslims in America and America itself. We will then apply that foundation to topics in contemporary Muslim American life - for example, authority in mosques, fashion and coolness, and representation in movies. Students will encounter primary as well as secondary sources. For example, students will read an 1831 autobiography of an enslaved Muslim named Omar ibn Said and analyze a Chicago-based Ahmadi newspaper from the 1920s. We will use a range of media, including film and material culture, to emphasize the varieties of Muslim experience in America.

Instructors
Rebecca L. Faulkner
Reimagining the American Theatrical Canon
Subject associations
THR 223 / AMS 346 / ENG 253 / GSS 444

This course offers an intensive survey of ongoing efforts to revisit and revise the American theatrical canon and repertoire. Students will examine the economic, institutional and cultural forces shaping the landscape of new play production in the United States as they also read a broad selection of plays from the contemporary American theater. Working in partnership with McCarter Theatre's "Bard at the Gate" initiative, students will develop dramaturgical and other resources in response to this uniquely curated virtual platform for noteworthy but overlooked plays by BIPOC, female, LGBTQIA+, and disabled artists.

Instructors
Brian E. Herrera
Storytellers - Building Community Through Art
Subject associations
THR 313 / AAS 312 / AMS 387 / GSS 453

In this Princeton Challenge course, students will participate in building a relationship between a historically significant Black theater company, Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick, and the university community. Co-taught by Sydne Mahone, Director of play development at Crossroads 1985-1997, students will research the theater through its people and its art, while making the role of women in Black art-making more visible. Students will consider their own role in movements for change, and the role of storytelling as a call to action. Our work will culminate in creative responses and roadmaps for continuing community relationship.

Instructors
Jane F. Cox
Sydne J. Mahone
Decentering/Recentering the Western Canon in the Contemporary American Theater
Subject associations
THR 416 / AMS 416 / COM 453 / ENG 456

Why do some BIPOC dramatists (from the US and Canada) choose to adapt/revise/re-envision canonical texts from the Western theatrical tradition? While their choices might be accused of recentering and reinforcing "white" narratives that marginalize and/or exoticize racial and ethnic others, we might also see this venture as a useful strategy to write oneself into a tradition that is itself constantly being revised and reevaluated and to claim that tradition as one's own. What are the artistic, cultural, and economic "rewards" for deploying this method of playmaking? What are the risks?

Instructors
Michael W. Cadden

Previous Semesters