Courses

Fall 2018

AMS 306         Issues in American Public Health 
                       
Leslie Gerwin
The study of public health is an interdisciplinary inquiry involving issues of politics, policy, history, science, law, philosophy, ethics, geography, sociology, environmental studies, and economics, among others. Students will examine the government's role in assuring and promoting health, through the exploration of issues on America's "public health agenda," such as epidemic response, tobacco use, the impact of weight on health, mandatory vaccination, disease prevention, and violence. In doing so, they will consider the impact of race, income, gender, place and environment, education, capitalism and democracy on health outcomes.

AMS  335/JDS 320       American Jews and Sexual Freedom
GSS 323/ENG 441      
Josh Lambert

For more than a century before #metoo, the histories of sexual repression and liberation in America were already strangely and persistently intertwined with the history of American Jews. This course surveys crucial texts and moments in U.S. literature, law, and culture, exploring the interventions of Jewish writers, lawyers, theorists, and activists in transforming the ways all Americans think about and express their sexuality. Topics addressed will include the roles played by Jews in literary censorship and debates about obscenity, the defense of reproductive rights, the Sexual Revolution, pornography, and the rights of sexual minorities.

AMS 356          Imagining New Orleans
             
           Jack Axcelson
The study of New Orleans offers much insight into American identity.  The city’s heritage is profoundly plural, incorporating elements of French and Spanish culture, the cultures of slaves and free people of color, of Native Americans—all folded after 1803 into possibilities of American experience.  We will look at various representations of New Orleans, considering literature, art, architecture, music, and film, and incorporating perspectives from within and from outside the city.  We will explore what makes New Orleans an American city, and think in turn about what New Orleans tells us about America.

AMS 403          Advanced Seminar in American Studies: American Properties
                        Anne A. Cheng; Hendrik Hartog
This is an experimental and collaborative seminar that will explore selected sites and episodes in the history of property relations in America.  We are as interested in hoarding as in wealth production, blood as well as land, cultural identities as well as corporations.  The focus is relentlessly interdisciplinary, bringing together legal cases, ethnographies, novels, poems, films, buildings, maps, and other cultural products.  The seminar will offer several opportunities for students to “do” American Studies through the lens of property law and property conflicts.

AMS 404/ASA 404      Advanced Seminar in American Studies: Race & Ethnicity in 20th Century
LAO 404/THR 404      Popular Performance
                                    
Brian Herrera
This course offers an intensive introduction to the particular tools, methods and interpretations employed in developing original historical research and writing about race and ethnicity in twentieth century popular performance (film, television, theater).  Through collaborative, in-depth excavations of several genre-straddling cultural works, course participants will rehearse relevant methods and theories (of cultural history, of race and ethnicity, of popular culture/performance) and will undertake an independent research project elaborating the course’s guiding premise and principles of practice.

ASA 347/AMS 347       The Asian American Family
ENG 426/GSS 358      
Paul Nadal
This seminar examines the emergence and transformation of the Asian American family as a social form.  We will investigate how U.S. labor demands and legal restrictions on immigration and citizenship militated against the formation of Asian American families, and how paper sons, military wives, refugees, adoptees, and LGBT family experiences eluded norms of kinship.  We will also study the significance of the intergenerational trope in Asian American literature, and how writers responded to neoliberalism’s remaking of the “Asian” family according to the model minority myth.

AAS 305/AMS 355       The History of Black Gospel Music
REL 391                       
Wallace D. Best
This course will trace the history of black gospel music from its origins in the American South to its modern origins in 1930s Chicago and into the 1990s mainstream.  Critically analyzing various compositions and the artists that performed them, we will explore the ways the music has reflected and reproached the extant cultural climate.  We will be particularly concerned with the four major historical eras from which black gospel music developed: Reconstruction, the Great Migration, and the era of Civil Rights.

AAS 322/LAS 301        Afro-Diasporic Dialogues: Black Activism in Latin America and the United
AMS 323/LAO 322      States
                                     
Reena N. Goldthree
This course investigates how people of African descent in the Americas have forged social, political and cultural ties across geopolitical and linguistic boundaries.  We will interrogate the transnational dialogue between African Americans and Afro-Latin Americans using case studies from Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico.  We will explore how black activists and artists from the US have partnered with people of color in Latin America and the Caribbean to challenge racism and economic inequality, while also considering why efforts to mobilize Afro-descendants across the Americas have often been undermined by mutual misunderstandings.

AAS 363/AMS 362       Blackness and Media
                                     
Autumn Womack
Working across a range of sites (film, photography, literature, newsprint, music) this course thinks critically about media, blackness, and social life.  In the service of expanding our conceptions of media we will draw together unlikely titles and works from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.  How, we will ask, has media been the site where blackness gets communicated, created, negotiated, and re-imagined?  How does blackness operate as both a media and a medium?  And how do black writers, thinkers, and artists negotiate the formal limits of media, and what might this reveal about black aesthetics?

AAS 380/AMS 382       Public Policy in the U.S. Racial State
                                    Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
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.

AAS 499/AMS 499       Theoretical Approaches in Black Studies
                                      
Nijah Cunningham
This course stages a critical survey of key theoretical approaches and debates that have shaped the contemporary discourse of black studies. We will read recent works by scholars who take up what is casually referred to as "the study of blackness" from different vantage points such as black feminist theory, postcolonial criticism, afro-pessimism, queer-of-color critique, and black radicalism. The course particularly focuses on the question of criticism as it emerges within this discursive field and demonstrates how topics like the archive, citationality, and style provide alternate ways of thinking theory and the project of black studies.

ART 470/AMS 470      Exhibiting “Nature’s Nation”: American Art, Ecology, and Environmental History
                                    
 Karl Kusserow
This course explores the interface of American art, ecology, and environmental issues and attitudes concerning nationhood, development, species extinction, pollution, climate change, sustainability, and justice since the 18th century, when the foundations of ecology began to emerge.  We will also address conceptual and practical issues surrounding the mounting of a major traveling loan exhibition.

ATL 498/AMS 498       American Pop: A Masterpiece with a Missing Piece
                                     
Trip Pullman
Broadway Director Trip Cullman and Award-winning playwright and performer Eisa Davis lead an exploration into one of the final works of the late composer and writer Michael Friedman. American Pop examines the history of American popular music from 1846 to 1923, presenting a complex and engaging dive into the economics, cultural appropriation, and social constructs that defined early American popular entertainment. The course will include research into these rich topics as well as processing whether or not a work of theater can live and grow after the loss of its creator. Student performers, writers, and creatives of all types, as well as historians, researchers and musicologists are encouraged to enroll.

COM 431/AMS 431     BANNED: The Paradox of Free Speech in Cinema
                                   
   Erika Kiss
While the uniquely American right to free expression – for the sake of the democratic principle of pluralism – protects hate speech, when a group of people are demeaned by hate speech, the democratic principle of pluralism itself is harmed.  The fact that motion pictures only come under the First Amendment in 1953, does not mean that film from its birth was not in the very center of the controversy of free speech and civil rights – just think of Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915).  We will examine the paradoxical effects of local, state, market and self-censorship on filmmaking and cinematic innovation.  We will search for the aesthetic criteria that can separate propaganda film from genuine art through the close reading of some of the most scandalous films of cinema history.

ENG 401/AMS 396      Forms of Literature: American Short Stories
                                    
Lee Clark Mitchell
This course examine the development of American short fiction over two centuries, revealing the genre’s extraordinary variety and complexity.

ENG 408/AMS 418      Queer Literatures
GSS 408                      
Christina A. Leon
In this course, we will both read from various trajectories of queer literature and engage what it means to read queerly. We will consider the historical etymology of the term queer and think through its affiliate terms and acronyms: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans. We will investigate how discourses of power and institutions of normativity have come up against queer bodies, narratives, and politic--and how such encounters are historically situated. As the class reads through texts that range across both region and time, we will pay close attention to the ways in which desire, gender, and sexuality are queerly told.

ENV 357/ AMS 457     Empire of the Ark: The Animal Question in Film, Photography and Popular
GSS 357                       Culture
                                   
Anne McClintock
This course explores the current fascination with animals in film, photography and popular culture, engaging central issues in animal and environmental studies. Why has looking become our main way of interacting with animals? How does rethinking animals inspire us to rethink being human? How can we transform our relations with other species and the planet? Course themes include: wilderness, national parks and zoos; the cult of the pet; vampires, werewolves and zombies; animal speech, animal emotions and rights; nature, sexuality and race. Exploring planetary crises such as extinction and climate change, and positive strategies for change.

HIS 444/AMS 444        Commodity Histories: From Sugar to Cocaine
                                     
Bernadette J. Perez
What is a commodity? What does it do? Can it shape history? This course will introduce students to a recently popular genre of historical writing which concentrates on single commodities like cotton, sugar, bananas, and oil. We will consider how commodity histories offer a unique approach to rethinking the boundaries of history. Our readings will cross conceptual and geographic borders, raising questions about the relationship between the global and the local. Course themes will include: environmental change, imperialism/colonialism, capitalism, slavery, race, identity, consumerism, and the relationship between nation-states and corporations.

HUM 346/AMS 348     Introduction to Digital Humanities: Global Encounters and Perspectives
                                     
Nora Benedict
How can computational methods help us understand texts?  What do interactive digital maps tell us about our reading of Borges’s Fictions or Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude?  How can social network analysis allow us to visualize the relationships among characters or large bodies of text more clearly and in new ways?  This course will introduce students to key debates and approaches in the Digital Humanities from a global perspective.

HUM 350 /ART 302     Battle Lab: The Battle of Princeton
AMS 352                     
Nathan T. Arrington; Rachael Z. DeLue  
Revolution! Espionage! Alexander Hamilton! George Washington! Cannon fire on Nassau Hall! This fall, think outside of the classroom and explore the past in your own backyard: Revolutionary-era Princeton and the physical remains of the legendary battle between American and British forces on January 3, 1777. What happened on that day? Who died? Where are their bones? Why are lawyers fighting over the land? In this new, interdisciplinary course, you will undertake to answer these questions and help solve the longstanding puzzle of the Battle of Princeton. In the process, you will explore how events of the past persistently shape the present day.

MUS 260/ AMS 309     North American Music Traditions
                                     
Maria Josefa Velasco
From Native American song and colonial mission tunes, to catchy musical theater numbers, soulful blues, and modern hip-hop, the North American continent has a rich history and repertory of musical expressions.  This course will delve into the many historical themes, social issues, and musical aspects that arise from surveying and comparing the diverse musical traditions of Mexico, the U.S., and Canada.  We will focus particularly on comparing colonial traditions, examining the histories of musics of the U.S. South (blues, jazz), comparing protest musics of the 1960s, and exploring newer contributions to global popular music.  While mostly taking a historical, chronological approach, we will also examine questions and issues of authenticity, appropriation, oral tradition, and the music industry.

THR 385/AMS 385      Theater and Society Now
LAO 385/ GSS 385     
  Brian Herrera
As an art form, theater operates in the shared space and time of the present moment while also manifesting imagined worlds untethered by the limits of “real” life.  In this course, we undertake a critical, creative and historical survey of the ways contemporary theater-making in the United States –as both industry and creative practice—does (and does not) engage the most urgent concerns of contemporary American society.

WWS 385/AMS 350     Civil Society and Public Policy
                                    Stanley N. Katz
Civil society is the arena of voluntary organizations (churches, social welfare organizations, sporting clubs) and communal activity. Scholars now tell us that such voluntary and cooperative activities create "social capital" -- a stock of mutual trust that forms the glue that holds society together. The course will be devoted to the study of the history of these concepts, and to the analysis of their application to the United States and other societies. This will be an interdisciplinary effort, embracing history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and other disciplines.

WWS 387/AMS 387     Education Policy in the United States
                                      
Nathan Scovronick
This course will consider some of the major issues in education policy, with particular focus on attempts to secure equal educations opportunity.  It will include discussions of desegregation and resource equity, education for immigrants and the handicapped, school choice and school reform.

 

Additional courses in Latino Studies:

SPA 222/LAS 222        Introduction to Latin American Cultures
LAO 222                      
Javier E. Guerrero
This course offers an introduction to modern Latin American literature and culture.  It focuses on the complex ways in which cultural and intellectual production anticipates, participates in, and responds to political, social, and economic transformations in the 20th and 21st centuries.  Through a wide spectrum of sources (essays, fiction, poetry, film, and art) students will study and discuss some of the most relevant issues in Latin American modern history, such as modernity, democracy, identity, gender, memory, and social justice.

SPA 304/LAO 304       Spanish in the Community
                                   
   Alberto Bruzos Moro
This course explores the complexities of Spanish language in the United States.  Through a variety of readings, videos, and documents in Spanish and English, we will address a range of issues including the past and present of Spanish language in the U.S., the relationship between language and identity, and the tensions and hopes around the maintenance of Spanish in immigrant communities.

URB 202/LAO 232/      Documentary Film and the City
JRN 202                      
   Purcell Carson
This hands-on urban studies seminar in documentary film making and history focuses on Trenton's unrest of April 1968, when a black college student, Harlan Joseph, was shot and killed by a white police officer.   The course works outward from these events to examine the 1960's race, region, economy, memory, and media representation. Students produce their own short films and related research papers using their own field work and shared archive sources. Collaborative assignments will contribute to works of scholarship and a documentary produced by the professors. Includes public screening of student work. See www.thetrentonproject.com.