Place Courses

American Studies 110 AC California Detectives

  • day and time MTuTh 9:00-11:30
  • location 9 Lewis
  • instructor R. Hutson
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 11515

The figure of hard-boiled detective who emerged in California in the 1930s represented a significant reinvention/revision of the classic English version of the master detective. While the stories featuring Sherlock Holmes emphasized the unsentimental rational, quasi-scientific road to solving mysteries in the English countryside, the novels of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler that founded the genre were politically charged commentaries about class and power and they represented California (and by extension America) as an urban dystopia. By the 1980s, a number of crime fictions were exploiting the hard-boiled formula to explore the history and culture of California from the perspective of women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans.
After a glimpse of Hammett and Chandler, this course will emphasize the plots, characters, themes, methods and politics of a number of later hard-boiled American detective fictions (novels, film, television) focusing on the comparative representation of gender, race and ethnicity in post WWII California.

Special Courses of Interest

American Studies 110 Visual Autobiography

  • day and time MTuTh 3:00-5:30
  • location 310 Hearst Mining
  • instructor H. Sweet Wong
  • 4 Units
  • Class # 11510

While visual and literary studies have been seen historically as separate disciplines, we will use theories from each to study those forms of self-representation that defy disciplinary boundaries, what we are calling “visual autobiography.” Visual autobiography encompasses a wide range of self-representations and self-narrations: conventional books in which images are integral to the whole, rather than mere supplementation or illustration; pictographic (picture-writing) ledger books; photo-biographies; artists’ books (individually handmade textual art objects); story quilts; graphic memoir (comics); electronic personal narratives; and other visual forms. We will examine what W.J.T. Mitchell refers to as imagetexts (in forms ranging from textual pictures to pictorial texts).

This course emphasizes practice. Students will both “look”/”read” and “make”/”write” as a more complete and reciprocal method of interpreting and representing personal experience and the history, culture, and community that shape it. As part of this studio emphasis, student work will be presented and discussed regularly in the form of in-class critiques; these will be supplemented with written assignments and exercises. Students will read a variety of primary and secondary materials; participate in class discussions, exercises, and critiques; keep a visual/verbal journal; produce two visual/verbal projects and a major final project. At the end of the term, there will be a public showing/reading/performing of student work.

American Studies 170 AC Race and Representation in US Culture

  • day and time W 11:00-12:00
  • location 180 Tan
  • instructor M. Cohen, B. Piatote, L. Raiford
  • 3 Units
  • Class # 11520

This course will explore the history of race, ethnicity and representation across the 20th century by considering the overlapping histories of African Americans, Native Americans and Whites through the study of film, photography and art, and humor. This course satisfies the American Cultures requirement by combining the following 1-unit courses:
American Studies 181B – Race, Photography, and Art
American Studies 180D – Race and American Humor
American Studies 184I – Race and American Film
Mandatory discussion section W 11:00-12:00, 213 Wheeler CCN: 11525
American Studies 180D – Race and American Humor – MW 3:00-5:30, 155 Donner Lab
American Studies 181B – Visual Culture in American Society- TuTh 12:00-2:30, 180 Tan
American Studies 184I – Race and American Film – TuTh 3:00-5:30, 155 Donner Lab

American Studies 180 D Race and American Humor

  • day and time MW 3:00-5:30
  • location 155 Donner Lab
  • instructor B. Piatote
  • 1 Units
  • Class # 11530

In his famous essay, Indian Humor, Vine Deloria, Jr., argued that no social movement could succeed without the use of humor. This course takes up that claim by asking how American comedians have used racial and ethnic humor to advance political claims, mobilize social actions, and create specific vocabularies for addressing social conditions. The production of racial and ethnic humor operates to both include and exclude populations. In addition to asking, Why is this funny?, the course will also explore who laughs and why. Designed to complement the courses on race and American film and race, photography, and art, the materials for the humor component will include satirical writings by Will Rogers; short stories by Sherman Alexie, including his revision of The Searchers in Dear John Wayne; stand-up comedy by Margaret Cho, Charlie Hill, Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Maz Jobrani, and others; and Spike Lees film, Bamboozled. Critical writings include selections from Vine Deloria, Jr., David Gillota, Laurie Stone, and Leon Rappoport.

American Studies 181 B Visual Culture in American Society

  • day and time TuTh 12:00-2:30
  • location 180 Tan
  • instructor L. Raiford
  • 1 Units
  • Class # 11535

This course aims to uncover the long history between race, gender, nation and the visual. Our particular concerns are how visual culturemodes of representation, artistic products and ways of seeingproduces meanings about African American, Native American and immigrant bodies. And, what do visual narratives tell us about national identity? Through the specific lenses of visual art (including but not limited to painting, sculpture, and installation art) and photography (both analog and digital), we will ask how have racial meanings and the visual modalities employed to express them changed over time? Readings include selections by John Berger, Michael Harris, bell hooks, and Leslie Marmon Silko.

American Studies 184 I Race and American Film

  • day and time TuTh 3:00-5:30
  • location 155 Donner Lab
  • instructor M. Cohen
  • 1 Units
  • Class # 11540

This course uses film to explore representations of race in American culture across the 20th century. By examining three films Birth of a Nation (1915), The Searchers (1956) and Do the Right Thing (1989) we will consider the cinematic expressions of three different racial formations from White Supremacy, the Civil Rights Era and Neoliberalism. Throughout this course we will consider the basics of film art and meaning, discuss how film has helped shape ideas and attitudes about race, and we will explore the larger history of cinema, looking at a wide range of clips from the silent era to contemporary science fiction.