AMS 344 Case Study in American Studies: Visual Culture and the Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance is one of the most popular artistic movements in the African American cultural tradition, and visual culture figures prominently into it. One of the motivating factors in the development of the movement was a response of images of African Americans in the larger culture, mostly created by individuals who were not African Americans and who did not acknowledge the humanity, let alone the creative potential, of the descendents of Africans. So, much of the visual cultural production of this artistic movement engages the impact of existing images of American blacks. Even as we discern the recurrent debates among African American artists regarding the direction and content of the Renaissance, we will also consider how white American, European and other cultural influences impact those artists. This course takes an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural exploration of this artistic movement through the lens of visual culture. It will make extensive use of the Aaron Douglas exhibit at the Spencer Art Museum. Texts include Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance (Richard Powell, ed).
AMS 550 Research in American Studies: Speculative Fiction in American Culture
The American Studies research seminar explores research methods through which knowledge is produced about “America” and “American” peoples American studies. This semester, the course will use the theme of speculative fiction to explore various facets of American culture. Speculative fiction, which includes the genres of fantasy, science fiction, mystery and horror, are often set in improbable settings, but almost always reflect social issues in American society. These genres are linked by one premise: what if? Using fiction, films, and television series, this course will explore how shifts in American culture inform speculative fiction. Texts include Looking Backward (Edward Bellamy). Films include The Day the Earth Stood Still, Them!, Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run, Alien, Minority Report, Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, Blade Runner, Animatrix: Second Renaissance I and II. Television series include Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, X-Files, and The Twilight Zone.
AMS 802: Theorizing America
Drawing from a broad range of perspectives (cultural, social, and literary and visual theory), this course will introduce students to theoretical approaches often used in American Studies as well as relevant theoretical debates circulating in the field. Not only will students explore the major theories across disciplines that impact the study of American culture, they will also learn to apply these theoretical tools to their own research.
Mclaughlin, Becky and Bob Coleman. Everyday Theory
Easthope, Antony and Kate McGowan. A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader
Mirzoeff, Nicholas. The Visual Culture Reader
AMS 998: Seminar in The Post Soul Aesthetic
Trey Ellis’s groundbreaking 1989 essay, “The New Black Aesthetic,” echoes the sentiments of Langston Hughes’ 1926 essay regarding the goals of young black artists. Like Hughes, Ellis declares that “cultural mulattos…,[individuals] educated by a multi-racial mix of cultures…no longer need to deny or suppress any part of our complicated and sometimes contradictory cultural baggage to please either white people or black.” In this course, we will explore the phenomenon known as the post-soul aesthetic, also known as the new black aesthetic, by focusing on contemporary novels, visual culture and criticism aimed at examining the contours of this new cultural movement. We will explore how the new black aesthetic differs from the old and interrogate the ways that contemporary writers and artists articulate new parameters to black culture, explore relationships with other ethnic groups and negotiate their relationship to the larger culture.
Neal, Mark Anthony. Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic.
Dent, Gina (ed). Black Popular Culture
Beatty, Paul. The White Boy Shuffle
Ellis, Trey. Platitudes
Senna, Danzy. Caucasia
Whitehead, Colson. Intuitionists
Ayo, Damali. How to Rent a Negro