GSI and Reader Openings


American Studies 10 – Everyday America  (4 units) – Class# 22005; Instructor: Christine Palmer

This course will examine significant aspects of the everyday and the ordinary in American life.  Through the analysis of multiple forms—from front porches to closets, from board games to playgrounds, from the remembered South to the end of the world, from the mixtape to the music video—this course provides an introduction to and a “toolkit” for the interdisciplinary study of American culture.

Building on concepts and methods of inquiry which “define” American Studies, this course will emphasize analyzing cultural meaning, knowledge, and values through the examination of a variety of cultural situations and productions—including the values, patterns of behavior, and even objects that most of us take for granted—in order to explore how individuals, groups, and institutions interact through the different ways they give “meaning” to experience.  Through close reading of diverse texts, we will work towards developing an approach that enables us to analyze critically the process involved in the ongoing creation, maintenance and transmission of cultural meaning within American society.  A student’s goal in this course is to learn close reading, critical thinking and writing skills that will enable her or him to be a self-conscious and thoughtful investigator of American culture. 

(Two GSI positions – pending budgetary approval)


American Studies 101, Sec. 1 - The Great Exhaling: Culture, Politics and History, 1946-1952; Instructors: Kathleen Moran and Greil Marcus

 1948 was the year that America—after the Great depression, after the Second World War, after sixteen years of the all but revolutionary experiment in national government of the New Deal—let out its collective breath. Finally, that great exhaling said, we can go back to real life but what was “real life?” Centering on 1948, but moving a few years back and a few years forward, this class will explore the sometimes instantly celebrated, sometimes all but subterranean experiments in American culture and literature that tried to raise and answer that question. The artists, writers, filmmakers, painters, musicians, poets, and social theorists who emerged to tell that national story included Miles Davis and Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Ross McDonald, J.D. Salinger and Ray Bradbury, David Riesman and Marshall McLuhan. This course will follow the traces of this explosion as well as contextualize the American that was being born. It will include films, popular music, Life Magazine, advertising culture and television as well as novels, poetry and discussions of visual images.

(One GSI position – pending budgetary approval)


American Studies 102, Sec. 1, Wall Street/Main Street - (4 units) – CC# 22010; Instructors:  Mark Brilliant and Stephen Solomon

As longstanding metaphors in American history and culture, “Wall Street” and “Main Street” typically refer to streets that intersect at right angles and places that represent the antithesis of each other.  In this rendering, Wall Street is home to nefarious big banks and greedy financiers, while Main Street is home to wholesome “mom-and-pop” shops patronized by ordinary people of modest means. What’s good for one is not good for the other. This course, which will be co-taught by a historian and corporate law professor, will examine critical junctures in the intersection of Wall Street and Main Street in American history and culture, how and why Wall Street and Main Street have been understood to point in opposite directions, the extent to which that understanding makes sense, and how and why the relationship between Wall Street and Main Street has evolved over time.

(One GSI position – pending budgetary approval)


American Studies 102, Section 2 – American Themescapes (4 units) – Class # 39409; Instructors: Kathleen Moran and Andy Shanken

From Disney to Las Vegas, Americans frequently encounter environments that are self-consciously themed, rather than unconsciously developed. These spaces have been dismissed as fake, artificial, evidence of postmodern alienation, even of the homogenizing effects of the global economy. This course proposes to expand the repertoire of themed environments in an effort to reevaluate their meaning in American life. Close attention will be paid to the obvious sites of theming: world’s fairs, consumer environments, and suburbs, but also to how theming has penetrated into film, advertising, “nature,” leisure, historic preservation, and museums.

(One GSI position – pending budgetary approval)



 American Studies 101, Sec. 2 - Race and Nutrition in the Progressive Era (4 units)- Class # 39408; Instructor: Jessica Kenyatta Walker

The Progressive era saw waves of new immigrant communities to urban centers, dramatic shifts in industrial manufacturing technology, and war. As such what it meant to be an American also shifted toward an emphasis on strenuous outdoor work, collective investment in morality, and new standards around food and nutrition. This course considers how the culture, politics and policies of this time reinforced a racialized standard for the ideal American body. We will investigate the historical contexts that give rise to the proper diet, the role of the USDA, and our modern concepts of nutrition. Importantly, we will also consider how these arise in conversation with the institutionalization of scientific racism, representations of the changing ethnic food landscape in America’s nascent urban centers, and the construction of the unhealthy and immoral “other.” We will draw from primary sources like dietary reports, USDA pamphlets, packaged food labels, and health and lifestyle manuals to understand the material world of Americans negotiating their food, classed, and raced lives.

(One reader position – pending budgetary approval)


American Studies 102, Sec. 3, Indigenous California History, Literature, and Art - (4 units) – Class #39445; Instructor: Hertha Wong

In this course, we will examine the indigenous history, literature, and art of California, with an emphasis on northern California. We will read primary works by Native California writers, look at the artwork of Native California artists, and learn about the history and cultures of indigenous people in California. In addition, we will schedule visits to the archives of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology and the Bancroft Library here on campus as well as historic sites and cultural institutions locally. We may also go on a field trip or two.

(One reader position – pending budgetary approval)


American Studies 102, Sec. 4, Staging California; Instructor: Shannon Steen

 This course takes our home state of California as the site through which to explore how cultural systems of performance help shape social systems of race.  We will consider the role a range of performance forms – theater, film, pageants, political protests – have played in shaping California’s unique cultural and racial topography.  From the theatricalization of Chinatown in Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song to that of urban riots in Twilight, from the staging of farmworker’s rights to the configuration of the region by Disney in its state-themed park, performance strategies have been used by a variety of agents towards a wide range of social and political goals.  We will use the histories of play productions, films, and para-theatrical performances to interrogate conceptions of California as a “post-racial” state.    

(One reader position – pending budgetary approval)