CC 325 D - American Identities

3-4 Credits
Professor Graber
TR 8:30 - 9:45 am
Fulfills diversity requirement.

What is America? It may seem like a simple question but take a look at the motto on an American coin and watch the complications proliferate——E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one. So is there one America or are there many, and if there were such a thing as a unified American character, where would we look for it? It turns out that while we often speak as if American identity simply exists, it has always been a topic of rich debates—involving literature and art as much as politics. Beginning with the Revolutionary period, this course will follow the contesting voices of these debates as they played out through the Civil War era and “the American century” to resound finally in our own time of increasing globalization. As we hear Frederick Douglass talk back to Thomas Jefferson, and Toni Morrison reconsider Huckleberry Finn, students will also be introduced to interdisciplinary studies of American culture that have developed around the questions, quandaries, and quagmires of American identity.
The course will familiarize students with three major cultural themes that have informed core discussions and conflicts over American identity and that have also drawn the interest of generations of American studies scholars: “Starting Revolutions,” “Liberating Slaves,” and “Crossing Borders.” Within these thematic parameters we will be exploring key works of American literature, visual art, political expression, cinema, and scholarship. In addition to participation in class discussions and short assignments, students will be required to write a short formal essay for two of the three units and a final major project.