Archive: American Studies Past Courses

AMERICAN STUDIES COURSE OFFERINGS 2018-2019


SUMMER 2018


USA403H1F: Topics in American Studies: American Tragedy: Guns & Mass Shootings in US History
Instructor: Jooyoung Lee
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:00 – 4:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 25

Columbine. Newtown. Aurora. Virginia Tech. San Bernardino. Orlando. Las Vegas. Parkland...Recent American history is filled with examples of deadly mass shootings.  How and why do these shootings seem to happen with such frequency?  What can be done to stop them?  And how do these tragedies redefine American identity and culture?  In this course, we’ll examine case studies of deadly mass shootings, the history of the gun control and gun rights debates, the American love affair with firearms, and the most promising policy ideas (from inside and outside of the US) aimed at preventing and eliminating mass shootings altogether. My goal is for you to leave this course armed with a critical understanding of the causes and consequences of mass shootings in the United States.

Prerequisite: At least two courses (2.0 FCEs) from the American Studies list of eligible courses, or by special permission of instructor.
Distribution Requirement: Humanities or Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Society and its Institutions


USA494H1F/S – Independent Studies / USA495Y1 – Independent Studies

Distribution Requirement: Humanities or Social Science
Breadth Requirement: None


Fall 2018


USA200H1F: Introduction to American Studies
Instructor: Alexandra Rahr
Thursdays, 12:00 – 2:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 60

Students in this course will examine the politics, history, and culture of the United States through a selection of “keywords” from the field of American Studies (i.e. nation, frontier, race, gender, memorials, etc.). Through a critical analysis of primary readings from American Studies scholars, as well as other academic and contemporary writing, we will interrogate and problematize the keywords in question. A central focus of our analysis will be the social, cultural, and political contexts surrounding our keywords, as well as their representation in mediated texts. The instructor will also provide a material “object of the week” which functions as a fun and engaging entry point into the issues and debates related to the week’s topic. The object and its significance will be discussed and debated by the students in conjunction with the instructor.
USA200H1F Syllabus

Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Society and its Institutions (3)


USA310H1F / HIS389H1F (L0501): Approaches to American Studies: Mass Incarceration in the United States
Instructor: Max Mishler
Wednesdays, 1:00 – 3:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 20 spots–American Studies / 25 spots–History (Total = 45)

The United States is home to five percent of the world’s population but twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners, including a disproportionate number of African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. This vast carceral archipelago generates significant profits for private corporations while exacerbating government deficits and wreaking havoc in those communities targeted by systematic policing and imprisonment. It has also provoked public and scholarly debates about the history, ethics, and function of incarceration in the United States. In this course, we will consider the rise of contemporary mass incarceration from an interdisciplinary perspective that draws upon history, sociology, and legal scholarship.

Sample Texts: Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010); James Forman, Locking up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (2017); Torrie Hester, Deportation: The Origins of U.S. Policy (2017); Laleh Khalili, Time in the Shadows: Confinement and Counterinsurgencies (2012); Khalil Muhammad, The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern America (2010).

Prerequisite: At least two half courses (1.0 FCE) from the American Studies list of eligible courses or USA300H1
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations


USA311H1F / SMC301H1: Approaches to American Studies: Trump and the Media
Instructor: Sam Tanenhaus
Thursdays, 3:00 – 5:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 30 spots–American Studies / 168 spots–SMC (Total = 198)

The election of President Donald Trump has transformed the relationship between the presidency and the press. But what has been the larger impact on American democracy? We will look for answers by examining a broad range of political journalism – legacy print publications, network and cable news, and newer forms of digital and social media.

Prerequisite: At least two half courses (1.0 FCE) from the American Studies list of eligible courses or USA300H1.
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations


USA313H1F / POL379H1: Approaches to American Studies: Civil Liberties in the United States
Instructor: Connor Ewing
Fridays, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 15 spots–American Studies / 55 spots–Political Science (Total = 70)

This course offers a survey of American constitutional law in the area of civil liberties. The general domains of doctrinal development to be covered include: fundamental rights; freedoms of speech, press, and assembly; freedom of (and freedom from) religion; rights to privacy and autonomy; the guarantees of due process and equal protection of the laws; sexual and familial rights; and economic and socio-economic rights (or their absence). To make sense of the jurisprudential developments in each of these areas, the course will also take account of broader trends in legal history, social transformation, and constitutional interpretation.

Prerequisite: At least two half courses (1.0 FCE) from the American Studies list of eligible courses or USA300H1.
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Society and its Institutions (3)


USA401H1F Topics in American Studies: Stormy Weather: Natural Disasters in American History and Culture
Instructor: Alexandra Rahr
Tuesdays, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 22

From the unprecedented 1927 Great Mississippi Flood to the ruinous Dust Bowl to Hurricane Maria’s recent devastation of Puerto Rico, American culture, landscape, law and history have been profoundly shaped by natural disaster.  This course will examine how the republic has imagined these catastrophes from the 20th century to today.  We’ll explore the consequences of how America represents storm and drought, considering what happens when they’re viewed as temporary aberrations or, alternatively, seen as a disturbing new normal in the long emergency of climate change. To get at these issues, we’ll draw on the deep cultural archive of American disaster narratives.  We’ll listen to Charley Patton sing the Mississippi Delta flood blues, look at Banksy’s graffiti art in post-Katrina New Orleans, read Philip Squarzoni’s innovative graphic novel Climate Changed, and watch The Rock rescue California in the blockbuster film San Andreas, all as we consider just how natural, natural disaster really is.

Prerequisite: At least two courses (2.0 FCE) from the American Studies list of eligible courses
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations


USA494H1F / USA 495Y1 – Independent Studies 

Distribution Requirement Status: Humanities or Social Science
Breadth Requirement: None


Winter 2019


USA300H1S: Theories and Methods in American Studies
Instructor: Alexandra Rahr
Thursdays, 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm, Tutorials 2-3 pm and 3-4 pm; Enrollment Cap: 60

This course, required for majors and minors, but open to all who have met the prerequisites, explores a range of approaches to the field of American Studies. Students will be introduced to some of the many ‘theories and methods’ that have animated the field of American Studies, including historical methods; formal analysis of visual and literary texts; and key concepts, such as commodity chain analysis; ‘race,’ ‘commodity,’ ‘gender,’ ‘diaspora,’ and ‘affect.’
USA300H1S Syllabus

Prerequisite: HIS271Y1/ ENG250Y1/ POL203Y1/ GGR240H1/ GGR254H1
Exclusion: USA300Y1
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations


USA311H1S: Approaches to American Studies: Monumental Controversies: American Public Monuments from the Confederate Flag to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Instructor: Alexandra Rahr
Tuesdays, 2:00 – 4:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 45

Cities across the American south have recently taken down statues of Confederate generals in the dead of night, with removal crews wearing masks to protect themselves against retribution.  As the republic grapples with conflicting histories, this course will examine the politics of memorialization.  We’ll ask what gets remembered, by whom, for how long, and what form public commemoration takes.  Reading statues, plaques, monuments and museums, we’ll consider the relationship between commemoration and amnesia as we explore how American memorials engage in both remembering and forgetting. To that end, we’ll consider the long and contentious history of American monument making: from the Mall in Washington D.C., America’s official memory palace, to the controversial Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Alabama’s new monument to victims of lynching, all as we consider how public memorialization makes and unmakes American history.

Prerequisite: At least two half courses (1.0 FCE) from the American Studies list of eligible courses or USA300H1.
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations


USA400H1S / HIS473H1S: Topics in American Studies: The United States and Asia since 1945
Instructor: Cindy Ewing
Tuesdays, 3:00 – 5:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 9 spots–American Studies / 9 spots–History (Total = 18)

This course examines the interactions and conflicts between the U.S. and Asia from the end of the Second World War to the present. Concentrating on East Asia and Southeast Asia, we will explore war, politics, money, violence, art, race, religion, sex and gender in the history of these relations with special attention to their global contexts.

Prerequisite: At least two courses (2.0 FCE) from the American Studies list of eligible courses
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations


USA403H1S / POL433H1S: Topics in American Studies: American Political Development
Instructor: Connor Ewing
Mondays, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 8 spots–American Studies / 16 spots–Political Science (Total = 24)

This course explores the substance and nature of American political development. It will begin by examining the methodology, mechanisms, and patterns of American political development from the founding to the present. Emphasis will be placed on divergent perspectives on the nature of political development, particularly narratives of continuity and discontinuity. The course will also address the following topics: the Constitution and the founding; political economy, trade, and industrialization; bureaucracy and administration; citizenship and inclusion; race and civil rights; law and legal development; political institutions; and political parties.

Prerequisite: At least two courses (2.0 FCE) from the American Studies list of eligible courses
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Society and its Institutions (3)


CIN431H1S – The Revolution Will/Will Not Be Televised
Instructor: Nicholas Sammond
Mondays and Tuesdays, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm; Enrollment: 5 spots available for eligible American Studies students 

What were “the Sixties?” Were the 1960s a really colorful and trippy background for romantic love stories between beautiful young white people, rich in the drama of war and free love and easy drugs? (Think Across the Universe, 2007.) There are plenty of movies that say the ‘60s were just that, and we’ll watch some of them. But the ‘60s (1964-1974) were more than just a paisley rebellion powered by pretty people. The decade also produced profound changes in international relations, transformed understandings about the people’s participation in social and political life, and changed (for better and for worse) relationships between the people and their governments. And the Sixties were also a time when popular media—film, radio, television, magazines, the music industry—not only reflected these upheavals, but had to decide whether to further radical change or impede it. That is, there was a media revolution as well as a cultural and political one: popular media were seen as tools for articulating politics, and as having a politics of their own. This course explores the key issues of that era—racial equality, sexual pluralism, feminism, anti-imperialism—as they were mediated, and as they involved popular media in debates over freedom, equality, and law and order. We will look at a set of cases studies that take up the tension between the mediation of politics and the politics of mediation (with a fair amount of flowers and psychedelic lighting thrown in). This course is an opportunity to make connections across media—between film and music, between music and comic books, between radio and television—and to explore the unfolding of historical change through the ways that people experienced and produced that change in their own lives.

Prerequisite: At least 10 full-course equivalents, including CIN105Y1, CIN201Y1, CIN301Y1 or special permission of instructor. A 400-Level Seminar Enrollment Form must be submitted to the Cinema Studies Institute.
Distribution Requirement: Humanities
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations


 USA494H1S – Independent Studies

Distribution Requirement: Humanities or Social Science
Breadth Requirement: None


 

AMERICAN STUDIES COURSE OFFERINGS 2017-2018


SUMMER 2017


USA400H1F: Topics in American Studies: Gun Violence in America
Instructor: Jooyoung Lee
Mondays and Wednesdays 4:00 – 6:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 20

This course will introduce you to three iconic case studies in American gun violence. First, we will examine theories of school-rampage shootings, with a particular emphasis on the Columbine School Shootings. Next, we will look at a decades-long gang war between the Crips and Bloods in “South Central” Los Angeles. Third, we will revisit the Zodiac Killings, the most infamous unsolved serial murder case in U.S. history. These three case studies will provide the empirical foundations for in-depth analyses of guns, violence, masculinity, mental health, policing, and the lived experiences of victims. We will also think broadly about policies that could prevent these tragedies from happening again.

Prerequisite: At least two courses (2.0 FCEs) from the American Studies list, or by special permission.
Distribution Requirement Status: Humanities or Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations


USA494H1F/S – Independent Studies / USA495Y1 – Independent Studies

Distribution Requirement Status: Humanities or Social Science
Breadth Requirement: None


FALL 2017


USA200H1F: Introduction to American Studies
Instructor: Alexandra Rahr
Tuesdays, 2:00 – 4:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 60

Students in this course will examine the politics, history, and culture of the United States through a selection of “keywords” from the field of American Studies (i.e. nation, frontier, race, gender, memorials, etc.). Through a critical analysis of primary readings from American Studies scholars, as well as other academic and contemporary writing, we will interrogate and problematize the keywords in question. A central focus of our analysis will be the social, cultural, and political contexts surrounding our keywords, as well as their representation in mediated texts. The instructor will also provide a material “object of the week” which functions as a fun and engaging entry point into the issues and debates related to the week’s topic. The object and its significance will be discussed and debated by the students in conjunction with the instructor.
USA200H1F Syllabus

Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Society and its Institutions (3)


USA310H1F / HIS378H1F: Approaches to American Studies: America in the 1960s
Instructor: Michael Savage
Fridays 2:00 – 4:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 40 spots – History / 30 spots – American Studies (Total = 70)

A survey of one of the most turbulent decades in American history. Examines the political, social, economic, and cultural revolutions that transformed the face of America.
USA310H1F Syllabus

Prerequisite: At least two half courses (1.0 FCE) from the American Studies list or USA300H1
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations


USA311H1F: Approaches to American Studies: Globalization & Economic Development in the USA
Instructor: Shiri Breznitz
Wednesdays, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 45

This seminar challenges you to open your mind and ask crucial questions regarding economic development on the regional, state, and federal levels in today’s global economy. Students will acquire improved understanding and critical insight about different perspectives of economic development and the interpretation of economic development problems. The course will also examine national and international trends, including issues of competitiveness, technological change, and globalization that influence regional and local economic development. Ongoing concerns of job creation, quality of jobs, and equity in economic development will also be relevant to our discussion.
USA311H1F Syllabus

Prerequisite: At least two half courses (1.0 FCE) from the American Studies list of eligible courses or USA300H1.
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations


USA312H1F: Approaches to American Studies: Man of the People: Populism and Demagoguery in the Age of Trump
Instructor: Alexandra Rahr
Thursdays, 12:00 – 2:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 45

Both The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have called Donald Trump a populist, while The Economist and Barack Obama have similarly deemed the president a demagogue.  But what do these terms mean—in both the American present and the American past? This class will examine the figure of the demagogue and the ideology of populism, considering how appeals to ‘the people’ mobilize rage and resentment in American politics. We will examine the historical and contemporary texts of these movements and leaders—both left and right—from Alexander Hamilton’s fears of demagoguery to Occupy Wall Street to Donald Trump’s speeches and tweets. Along the way we will interrogate the techniques which pit the common American against putatively corrupt institutions and privileged elites.
USA312H1F Syllabus

Prerequisite: At least two half courses (1.0 FCE) from the American Studies list of eligible courses or USA300H1.
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Society and its Institutions (3)


USA400H1F / HIS404H1F Topics in American Studies: Choosing War: U.S. Experiences
Instructor: Ronald Pruessen
Tuesdays, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 9 spots – History / 9 spots – American Studies (total 18)

The United States has gone to war regularly over the past two centuries and this course will consider how decisions to do so have changed — or not changed — over time. Key case studies will include the War of 1812, the Mexican War (1846-48), the Spanish-American-Cuban War (1898), World War I (1917-18), World War II (1941-45), the Korean War (1950-53), Vietnam (1954-73), and Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 21st century.
USA400H1F Syllabus

Prerequisite: At least two courses from the American Studies list
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations


USA494H1F / USA 495Y1 – Independent Studies 

Distribution Requirement Status: Humanities or Social Science
Breadth Requirement: None


WINTER 2018


USA300H1S: Theories and Methods in American Studies
Instructor: Alexandra Rahr
Thursdays, 12:00 – 2:00 pm, Tutorials 2-3 pm and 3-4 pm; Enrollment Cap: 60

This course, required for majors and minors, but open to all who have met the prerequisites, explores a range of approaches to the field of American Studies. Students will be introduced to some of the many ‘theories and methods’ that have animated the field of American Studies, including historical methods; formal analysis of visual and literary texts; and key concepts, such as commodity chain analysis; ‘race,’ ‘commodity,’ ‘gender,’ ‘diaspora,’ and ‘affect.’
USA300H1S Syllabus

Prerequisite: HIS271Y1/​ENG250Y1/​POL203Y1/​GGR240H1/​GGR254H1
Exclusion: USA300Y1
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations


USA401H1S: Topics in American Studies: Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination in America
Instructor: Renan Levine
Tuesdays, 12:00 – 2:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 20

How do stereotypes shape American views of minorities, especially African-Americans? Why did those stereotypes form? How extensively do they persist? To answer these questions, this interdisciplinary seminar will read from popular writing that influenced American perceptions of minorities, from the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass to one of the most commonly assigned books in American schools today, To Kill a Mockingbird. We will evaluate work from public policy and economics that explores why white and non-white Americans learned and lived separately for much of the 20th century, and conclude with recent work in psychology and political science that seeks to understand ethnocentrism and prejudice. Required assignments include a test, a reflective response paper, and an analysis of recent public opinion data.
USA401H1S Syllabus

Prerequisite: At least two courses from the American Studies list
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Creative and Cultural Representations


USA402H1S: Topics in American Studies: Finding Shelter: Reading Refuge in American Literature and History
Instructor: Alexandra Rahr
Tuesdays, 3:00 – 5:00 pm; Enrollment Cap: 20

From the days of the Puritans—America’s idealized ur-refugees—the republic has understood itself as a place of asylum. This class will consider the texts and history of refuge, asking what it means to designate certain populations as radically vulnerable, and to represent America as a perpetual zone of safety. We will consider diverse manifestations of American asylum from the Underground Railroad to the National Park Service to contemporary sanctuary cities for undocumented people to #DataRefuge—a project to download and preserve federal climate data initiated after Donald Trump’s election. Throughout the course we will examine the ideological stakes of American sanctuary, asking what constitutes threat, and who is deemed deserving of shelter.
USA402H1S Syllabus

Prerequisite: At least two courses from the American Studies list
Distribution Requirements: Humanities, Social Science
Breadth Requirements: Society and its Institutions (3)


USA494H1S – Independent Studies

Distribution Requirement Status: Humanities or Social Science
Breadth Requirement: None


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