Introduction to American Studies
Professor: Josh Roiland
Phone: 314-550-9156

Course Description
This course is a general introduction to American studies and its problems and contexts. Students will consider what and who defines America (and how) through interdisciplinary readings and discussions. Students will develop critical thinking and analytic skills to help them develop skills for interpreting American culture. This course fulfills a specialized valuing general education requirement.

Outcomes of the Course
The learning activities, assignments, and exams in this course assess your mastery of these learning outcomes. The primary objective of this course is to prepare each student to be able to analyze any aspect of American culture, past or present, through the variety of different methods available within the discipline of American Cultural Studies. The course emphasizes interdisciplinary thinking, close reading, and writing skills by analyzing primary and some secondary sources. We will explore how contrasting images of America emerge from literary and historical texts, visual images and material objects.

We will use a range of interpretive techniques to examine aspects of thought, expression, and behavior, placing particular emphasis on the diversity of experiences and conflicting perspectives that are brought together within the United States. In addition, you will develop a vocabulary to discuss the texts from a cultural studies perspective and be able to distinguish your interpretation from historical, literary, political, philosophical, and religious ones. Through course assignments, lectures, and discussions, we will have the opportunity to examine, analyze, and develop our own interpretations about these multifaceted and diverse cultural experiences and meanings.

Required Texts
American Cultural Studies: An Introduction to American Culture, 2nd ed., Neil Campbell & Alasdair Kean
A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
Nickel & Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara Ehrenreich

I will supplement these texts with photocopied handouts and website sources.

• Class Participation—20%
• 10 Reading Reflections—30% total
• Two Practice Assignments—15% total
• Midterm Test—15%
• Final Test—20%

Reading and Writing Schedule

Week 1
Class 1
Introduction, Syllabus

Week 2:
Class 2
David Foster Wallace, 2005 Commencement Address at Kenyon College
Alan McKee, “A Beginner’s Guide to Textual Analysis”
Class 3
American Cultural Studies, Introduction 1-18
Henry Nash Smith, “Can American Studies Develop a Method?”

Week 3
Class 4
David Foster Wallace, “Getting Away from Pretty Much Already Being Away From It All”
Reading Reflection 1 DUE
Class 5
American Cultural Studies, Ch.1
Richard T. Hughes, “Introduction” Myths America Lives By

Week 4
Class 6
American Cultural Studies, Ch. 2
Sherman Alexie, “This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, AZ”
Jhumpa Lahiri, “The Third and Final Continent”
Li-Young Lee, “Persimmons”
Class 7
Michael Paterniti, “Eating Jack Hooker’s Cow”
Reading Reflection 2 DUE

Week 5
Class 8
American Cultural Studies, Ch. 3
Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro”
Class 9
W.E.B. DuBois, from The Souls of Black Folks
Martin Luther King Jr. “Letter from the Birmingham Jail”
Reading Reflection 3 DUE

Week 6
Class 10
A Raisin in the Sun
Langston Hughes (selected poems)
Class 11
A Raisin in the Sun
Gwendolyn Brooks (selected poems)

Week 7
Class 12
WATCH: Do the Right Thing
Reading Reflection 4 DUE
Class 13
WATCH: Do the Right Thing

Week 8
Class 14
Peggy McIntosh, “White Privilege & Male Privilege”
Reading Reflection 5 DUE
Class 15
American Culture Studies, Ch. 7
Ta-Nehisi Coates, “American Girl”

Week 9
Class 16
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls, New York”
Charlotte Perkins Gillman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”
Sharon Olds, “Sex Without Love”
Louise Gluck, “Mock Orange”
Sharon Olds, “Monarchs”
Sylvia Plath, “Daddy”
Anne Sexton, “Her Kind”
Class 17
Practice Assignment 1 DUE

Week 10
No Class: Spring Break

Week 11
Class 18
Mark Rank, One Nation, Underprivileged, Ch.1, 2, 3
Reading Reflection 6 DUE

Week 12
Class 19
Nickel and Dimed
Class 20
Nickel and Dimed

Week 13
Class 21
Nickel and Dimed
Class 22
Nickel and Dimed

Week 14
Class 23
American Dream
Reading Reflection 7 DUE
Class 24
American Dream

Week 15
Class 25
Reading Reflection 8 DUE
Class 26
Gregory Mantsios, “Media Magic: Making Class Disappear”
Hunter S. Thompason, “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved”
Alice Walker, “Everyday Use”

Week 16
Class 27
American Cultural Studies, Ch. 8
Reading Reflection 9 DUE
Class 28
American Cultural Studies, Ch. 9

Week 17
Class 29
American Cultural Studies, Ch. 10
Reading Reflection 10 DUE
Class 30
Last Class
Final Test
Practice Assignment 2 DUE

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