Introductory Courses

American Studies 10 "Frontiers" in American History and Culture

  • day and time TTh 9:30-11
  • location 141 McCone
  • instructor C. Palmer/M. Brilliant
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 18860

Sec. 101: T 12-1, 238 Dwinelle
Sec. 102: T 1-2, 115 Kroeber
Sec. 103: Th 2-3, 238 Kroeber
Sec. 104 Th 3-4, 238 Kroeber

Few, if any, concepts in American history and culture resonate more powerfully and reverberate more persistently than the “frontier.” This course will explore multiple manifestations of the frontier in United States history and culture, from the nineteenth century western frontier, to the early twentieth century overseas frontier associated with U.S. expansion abroad, to the mid-twentieth century’s “crabgrass” (or, suburban), “atomic,” and “final” (space) frontiers, to the late twentieth century’s “digital” / “electronic” frontier.  Each of these frontiers will serve as a lens through which we will introduce students to the concepts and methods of American Studies.

Time Courses

American Studies 101 P.T. Barnum and Other Scams

  • day and time MW 10-12
  • location 115 Kroeber
  • instructor S. Gold McBride
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 18863

What can we learn about American culture by studying its scams? In this class, we will closely examine the scammers, grifters, tricksters, and con artists that began to terrify urban Americans in the nineteenth century. As the United States grew more urban, more industrialized, and more structured around capitalism and consumerism, interactions with strangers became a part of daily life for the first time in the nation’s history. From the confidence men who haunted American cities to the “humbug” peddled by showmen like P.T. Barnum, deception seemed to lurk around every corner, and many Americans felt increasingly anxious about their ability—or inability—to tell truth from fiction. Our examination of American scams will focus especially on the middle decades of the nineteenth century (1830–1870), an era during which the nation’s population tripled, Barnum opened his American Museum in New York City, and Herman Melville published his final novel, The Confidence-Man. As we grapple with questions about popular culture, spectacle, consumption, the media, art, violence, race, and the body, we will also consider the resonance and residue of nineteenth-century scamming in our contemporary world.

American Studies 102 East Bay Revolution

  • day and time MW 10:30-12:30
  • location TBA
  • instructor S. Saul
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 22367

Environmental Design 109

APPLICATION REQUIRED –APPLICATIONS ARE NOW CLOSED AND COURSE IS FULL. 

NOTE: This course satisfies either the TIME or PLACE requirement, but not both.

This course delves into the history of the East Bay in the 1960s and 1970s, with particular attention to the emergence of countercultural and social-movement communities. In this project-oriented course, students will work in teams as they reconstruct and analyze particular sites of protest and culture-making across the East Bay, from Berkeley to Emeryville and Oakland. Students will develop their own multi-media digital history projects, which will add significant new dimensions to the platform (The Berkeley Revolution) built by previous Cal undergraduates.

American Studies C 111 E Culture in the Age of Obama

  • day and time MW 5-6:30
  • location 20 Wheeler
  • instructor S. Saul
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 22367

Englsh C136

The course traces, across many forms of American culture, what might be called the “Obama effect.” Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has suggested that the election of Obama prompted a renaissance of black writing, in part by stimulating “curiosity about the community he had so consciously made his home and all the old, fitfully slumbering questions he’d awakened about American identity.”

In this course, we’ll examine how a wide range of imaginative writers, in a wide spectrum of genres, took on those questions, often offering “counternarratives” to conventional myths of American innocence, achievement, and glory. We’ll also explore works of music, film, and theater that, like Obama’s autobiography, rewrote the romance of America — whether, say, by adding hip-hop accents to the story of the country’s founding (Hamilton), turning a story of interracial romance into a horror tale (Get Out), or creating an Afro-futurist, queer-inflected story of slave revolt (Janae Monae’s Metropolis saga).

Along the way, we’ll consider two of the social movements that coalesced and gathered force during Obama’s presidency: Occupy and Black Lives Matter. We’ll investigate how these movements challenged the limits – political, economic, moral – of the “age of Obama” through art and political action, and looked to create new forms of radical community while protesting inequality and state violence.

History 136 A The History of Women in the United States Before 1900

  • day and time TTh 12:30-2
  • location 145 Dwinelle
  • instructor S. Jones-Rogers
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 31147

This course is a survey of the history of women in America from the pre-colonial period to the turn of the twentieth century. It examines the significant cultural, economic, and political developments that shaped the lives of American women, but places gender at the center of historical analysis. The course also stresses the variety of women’s experiences, acknowledging the importance of race, ethnicity, and class in shaping female lives.

Place Courses

American Studies 102 Oakland | City

  • day and time TTh 2-3:30
  • location 110 Barrows
  • instructor J. Winet
  • $ Units
  • Class # 18864

The 2020 edition “Oakland | City” renews an active investigation of the unique dynamics of the Bay Area’s third largest city, closest to the Campanile, and home to many Cal students.

In concert with in-class lectures and presentations highlighted by visits from civic and community leaders, students will direct individual and collaborative public digital humanities research in areas to include but not limited to the City’s sports teams, film scene, political activists, cultural organizations, museums, DIY initiatives, galleries and music clubs, library, police department, neighborhood business improvement districts, advocates for the homeless, and city government.

Class activity will also include working on audio, video, photography and website production.

Integral to the class are one or two field trips to Oakland, and final public and online multimedia research presentations.

 

 

American Studies 102 The American Southwest: The Construction and Mediation of Identity

  • day and time MW 12-2
  • location 214 Haviland
  • instructor A. Craghead
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 21061

This course explores the relationship between imagination and place in the region we call the “Southwest.”  We will interrogate how the region has been defined through geographic strategies of control, representation in art, literature, and film; mediation of everyday life through material culture; and several other means. Examples include the development of national parks and tourist economies; the creation of regional aesthetics and architectural styles; and depictions of the Southwest in novels, Hollywood films, and contemporary streaming television. How are place-based identities formed? Who defines a region, and to what ends? How do ideas shape places, and places in turn give shape to ideas? Class activities include both lectures and in-class discussions, weekly reading responses, a research paper, one midterm, and a final exam.

American Studies 102 East Bay Revolution

  • day and time MW 10:30-12:30
  • location TBA
  • instructor S. Saul
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 22367

Environmental Design 109

APPLICATION REQUIRED –APPLICATIONS ARE NOW CLOSED AND COURSE IS FULL. 

NOTE: This course satisfies either the TIME or PLACE requirement, but not both.

This course delves into the history of the East Bay in the 1960s and 1970s, with particular attention to the emergence of countercultural and social-movement communities. In this project-oriented course, students will work in teams as they reconstruct and analyze particular sites of protest and culture-making across the East Bay, from Berkeley to Emeryville and Oakland. Students will develop their own multi-media digital history projects, which will add significant new dimensions to the platform (The Berkeley Revolution) built by previous Cal undergraduates.

Pre-1900 Historical Requirement

American Studies 101 P.T. Barnum and Other Scams

  • day and time MW 10-12
  • location 115 Kroeber
  • instructor S. Gold McBride
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 18863

What can we learn about American culture by studying its scams? In this class, we will closely examine the scammers, grifters, tricksters, and con artists that began to terrify urban Americans in the nineteenth century. As the United States grew more urban, more industrialized, and more structured around capitalism and consumerism, interactions with strangers became a part of daily life for the first time in the nation’s history. From the confidence men who haunted American cities to the “humbug” peddled by showmen like P.T. Barnum, deception seemed to lurk around every corner, and many Americans felt increasingly anxious about their ability—or inability—to tell truth from fiction. Our examination of American scams will focus especially on the middle decades of the nineteenth century (1830–1870), an era during which the nation’s population tripled, Barnum opened his American Museum in New York City, and Herman Melville published his final novel, The Confidence-Man. As we grapple with questions about popular culture, spectacle, consumption, the media, art, violence, race, and the body, we will also consider the resonance and residue of nineteenth-century scamming in our contemporary world.

English 130 A American Literature Before 1800

  • day and time TTh 11-12:30
  • location 140 Barrows
  • instructor K. Donegan
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 22168

This course surveys the literatures of early America, from the tracts that envisioned the impact of British colonization to the novels that measured the after-shock of the American Revolution. Throughout, we will consider colonial America as a place of encounter—a place where diversity was a given, negotiation was a necessity, and transformation was inescapable. We will read broadly in the many genres of writing produced in the colonial and early national era, keeping our eyes trained both to literary form and to the world beyond the page. Our topics will include contact and settlement, “translations” of Native American culture, religious and social formations, captivity narratives, natural history, print culture, the Atlantic slave trade, the writing of revolution, and the contested ideals of the new republic. Throughout, we will pay special attention to how writing operated to forge new models of the self that could withstand and absorb the tumult of colonial lif

English 133 A African American Literature and Culture Before 1917

  • day and time MW 5 -6:30
  • location 129 Dwinelle
  • instructor B. Wagner
  • Class # 30376

This course explores African American literary history from its beginning in the eighteenth century to the turn of the twentieth century, interpreting major works in the context of slavery and its aftermath. We will reflect on the complex relationship between literature and political activism by examining the genres and formal devices through which African Americans responded to the demand for individual and collective self-representation. Course themes include authorship and authenticity, captivity and deliverance, law and violence, memory and imagination, kinship and miscegenation, passing and racial impersonation, dialect and double consciousness. Works by authors such as Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, and W. E. B. Du Bois are supplemented by readings in history, theory, and criticism. Two essays, two exams, and weekly writing. This course satisfies the university’s Historical Studies breadth requirement. See also https://english.berkeley.edu/courses/6300

History 136 A The History of Women in the United States Before 1900

  • day and time TTh 12:30-2
  • location 145 Dwinelle
  • instructor S. Jones-Rogers
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 31147

This course is a survey of the history of women in America from the pre-colonial period to the turn of the twentieth century. It examines the significant cultural, economic, and political developments that shaped the lives of American women, but places gender at the center of historical analysis. The course also stresses the variety of women’s experiences, acknowledging the importance of race, ethnicity, and class in shaping female lives.

Senior Thesis Seminars

American Studies 191 Senior Thesis Seminar

  • day and time M 2-4
  • location 35 Evans
  • instructor S. Gold McBride
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 16049

American Studies 191 Senior Thesis Seminar

  • day and time Tu 2-4
  • location 115 Kroeber
  • instructor M. Cohen
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 16050

American Studies 191 Senior Thesis Seminar

  • day and time W 2-4
  • location 35 Evans
  • instructor S. Gold McBride
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 16051
  • Spring 2020

American Studies H 195 Senior Honors Thesis Seminar

  • day and time W 10-12
  • location 104 GPPB
  • instructor C. Palmer
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 18517

Honors Seminar

American Studies H 110 Standing in a Crooked Room Speaking God’s Language: Memory, Creation, and Fiction

  • day and time W 2-5
  • location 236 Evans
  • instructor C. Palmer
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 30343

Note: consent of instructor required.

In her 2011 Sister Citizen, political scientist Melissa Harris-Perry suggested that the racial and gender stereotypes that confront Black women place them in “a crooked room, and they have to figure out which way is up.”  In this course, we will explore how a wide range of artists, across a variety of genres and forms, have figured out how to stand in the crooked room or shattered its ceiling and walls by wielding what Toni Morrison, in 1996, called “God’s language”—the movement from memory to creation to narrative and back to memory.  We will also examine music, film, sculpture, poetry, and prose that reconceive womanhood, imagination, the rural south and the urban north, freedom, and the American dream—whether by recasting troubling history (Robin Coste Lewis’s poetry collection Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems); celebrating femme decadence (Solange Knowles’s album A Seat at the Table); or turning a family drama into a story of haunting and lies (Kasi Lemmons’s film Eve’s Bayou).  Students are expected to engage, challenge, and assist one another as we think, speak, and write about how history, memory, narrative, and performance intersect with identity, power, place, culture, desire, imagination, and art.  Other course texts may include: Gwendolyn Brooks’s Maud Martha; Michelle Obama’s Becoming; Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed; Kara Walker’s monumental sculpture, A Subtlety; and other works by Lorraine Hansberry, Nina Simone, Zora Neale Hurston, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Audre Lorde, Janelle Monae, and Toni Morrison.  Additionally, students will have the opportunity to select texts for and lead discussions about issues relevant to their specific areas of concentration and life experiences.

Special Courses of Interest

English 130 A American Literature Before 1800

  • day and time TTh 11-12:30
  • location 140 Barrows
  • instructor K. Donegan
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 22168

This course surveys the literatures of early America, from the tracts that envisioned the impact of British colonization to the novels that measured the after-shock of the American Revolution. Throughout, we will consider colonial America as a place of encounter—a place where diversity was a given, negotiation was a necessity, and transformation was inescapable. We will read broadly in the many genres of writing produced in the colonial and early national era, keeping our eyes trained both to literary form and to the world beyond the page. Our topics will include contact and settlement, “translations” of Native American culture, religious and social formations, captivity narratives, natural history, print culture, the Atlantic slave trade, the writing of revolution, and the contested ideals of the new republic. Throughout, we will pay special attention to how writing operated to forge new models of the self that could withstand and absorb the tumult of colonial lif

English 133 A African American Literature and Culture Before 1917

  • day and time MW 5 -6:30
  • location 129 Dwinelle
  • instructor B. Wagner
  • Class # 30376

This course explores African American literary history from its beginning in the eighteenth century to the turn of the twentieth century, interpreting major works in the context of slavery and its aftermath. We will reflect on the complex relationship between literature and political activism by examining the genres and formal devices through which African Americans responded to the demand for individual and collective self-representation. Course themes include authorship and authenticity, captivity and deliverance, law and violence, memory and imagination, kinship and miscegenation, passing and racial impersonation, dialect and double consciousness. Works by authors such as Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, and W. E. B. Du Bois are supplemented by readings in history, theory, and criticism. Two essays, two exams, and weekly writing. This course satisfies the university’s Historical Studies breadth requirement. See also https://english.berkeley.edu/courses/6300

English 166 The Literature & Art of Incarceration

  • day and time MWF
  • location 11-12
  • instructor G. Padilla
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 22175

This is a course on the literature of incarceration variously defined and experienced across a range of control systems that attempt to stunt the entire human being. I want to think about the forms of suppression, confinement, and the humiliations of control systems imposed not only on the body but on the mind and heart by the “new” prison system. We will want to concentrate on the ways human beings find the strength to survive conditions of subjection to voice their intellectual, emotional, and spiritual presence. We will open with theorizations of incarceration: chapters from Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison; perhaps chapters from Reiman and Leighton’s The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison; letters from George Jackson’s Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters. We will study documentary film on the steep, orchestrated rise in incarceration and the politics of prison as a racial, ethnic, gendered, class control system (13th; Babies Behind Bars; Broken on All Sides). We will read prison narrative/poetry—Jimmy Santiago Baca’s memoir/poetry (A Place to Stand), Kenneth Hartman’s autobiography (Mother California)—and women’s prison poetry and memoir (Wall Tappings), but we will also consider other forms of incarceration: Latinas incarcerated in the “domestic sphere” in Cisneros’ House on Mango Street or the tale of an affluent white woman driven to insanity, or perhaps an alternate sanity, in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. We will consider the forms of incarceration entire communities have been subjected to en masse: Native Americans dispossessed of their tribal homes, imprisoned for resisting or writing about their confinement in U.S. society; tens of thousands of Japanese Americans (loyal Americans) sent to detention centers during WWII (Wakatsuki’s Farewell to Manzanar); thousands of Chinese immigrants who, often detained for long periods at Angel Island (in San Francisco Bay), carved poems of rage, loneliness, imagined retribution on the wood barrack walls of their “prison” in the early 20th century. In addition to textual forms of expression, I hope also to survey some of the films, art, and photography of/on incarceration. Course assignments: You will write two papers of 6-8 pages, and you will also work in discussion groups offering in-class presentations. There will be brief, unannounced quizzes on the material of the day. These cannot be made up. When class meets, I will provide more specific instructions for course assignments, essay grading rubrics, small group project work, and presentations. See also https://english.berkeley.edu/courses/6320

History 133 A History of American Capitalism

  • day and time TTh 11-12:30
  • location 10 Evans
  • instructor C. Rosenthal
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 23895

What is capitalism? And when did it come to characterize the American economy? This course will explore the economic history of the United States, from the colonial period to the present. We will analyze the dramatic changes that catapulted a chain of colonies from the fringe of the global economy to its center. As the semester progresses, we will seek out the sources of this dramatic transformation, exploring a variety of overlapping and sometimes conflicting explanations. Is this primarily a story about ideas and economic outlook? Is it about entrepreneurship and innovation? Or about exploitation and expropriation? What role did the government play? What role the individual? Major themes will include the rise of the factory system, slavery and emancipation, immigration and labor, the development of banking and finance, and economic inequality. In addition to building their knowledge of American history, students will gain theoretical familiarity with three subfields of history: business history, economic history, and labor history. We will explore the ways each of these fields has generated different narratives that celebrate and/or critique American capitalism. And at every turn we will consider how these different narratives alternately highlight and minimize the important roles played by business elites, enslaved people, laborers, women, and immigrants. Rarely was the “invisible hand” colorblind or gender neutral. The course will discuss both famous businessmen and largely-forgotten workmen, women, and slaves. We will examine capitalism both from above and from below, seeking to understand the causes and consequences of economic change for different groups of Americans.

History 137 AC The Repeopling of America

  • day and time TTh 3:30-5
  • location 155 Dwinelle
  • instructor D. Henkin
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 22955

Though there are many ways to imagine a nation (a land, a polity, an ethnic group, a culture), America has also been identified, since its inception, with the process and prospect of people arriving from elsewhere. What is the historical basis for this idea? This course surveys the history of the United States between 1790 and 2001 through the lens of immigration and from the perspective of immigrants. Course requirements include regular participation in weekly discussion section, one close reading of assigned primary sources, one research paper, two in-class exams, and a final exam.

 

Music C 138 Art and Activism

  • day and time W 9-12
  • location 250 Morrison
  • instructor T. Roberts
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 23159

Cross-listed with LS C138

This course explores the intersections between aesthetic practice and social change. Students will investigate—in both theory and practice—the capacity of art making to cultivate transformation of themselves, their relationships, their practices, their institutions, and the larger economic and socio-political structures in which they function, locally and globally. Focusing on historical and contemporary artists and political issues, we ask: 1) How is art impacted by social change? 2) How has art been used toward social change? and 3) How can we, as course participants, use art to bring about social change? Rooted in interdisciplinary scholarship, students will engage theoretical debates and historical analyses regarding the role of the arts in social change and examine the particular capacities of the arts to negotiate across and between cultures, languages, and power-laden lines of difference. Taking a broad view of activism, we will consider the ways in which artistic practices foster radical imaginations that can expand our sense of the possible. Case studies will span media including visual arts, theater, dance, poetry/spoken word, literature, and music.