American Dreams: Art, Culture, Performance and Politics (L61 1100)
Rooted in Jeffersonian ideals of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," the notion of the "American Dream" actually has a complicated history and its meanings are diverse and contested. This Ampersand course investigates how perceptions, representations, and meanings of the American Dream have changed throughout history-and how they live on in the contemporary United States. Rather than seeking definitive definitions or answers, we carefully and thoughtfully examine case studies of American culture and the arts-literature, theatre, film and painting-as the lens for understanding images of nation and identity. Utilizing an intimate seminar format to facilitate close reading and discussion of works in various media, this Ampersand course emphasizes both critical thinking and writing-and also requires students to execute a creative project of their own making as well. We also visit a variety of exciting performances and exhibits, both on and off-campus. Our primary goal is a compelling, interdisciplinary perspective on the American Dream, one that synthesizes the arts, performance and politics.
American Landscapes: Identity, Power, Place, and Meaning (L61 110A)
Look around at the landscapes you inhabit. Are they created by chance and happenstance? Or were they made for particular reasons and in particular ways? This course examines landscapes in American history and society. We look at landscapes as both literal and figurative--not only physical environments, but also cultural and artistic landscapes, the social, political, and historical formations where identities are shaped and lived. This Ampersand course introduces students to a wide range of interdisciplinary methods and theories to interpret physical and cultural landscapes in America. Students develop critical thinking skills to look at such topics as nationhood, ecology and natural resources, cities and urban life, conflicts over territory and contested spaces, the spatial dimensions of subcultures, the relationship of technology to landscapes, and the meanings of home. With case studies of the landscapes of Ferguson, political struggles over landscapes of gender and sexual identities, the rise of highways and automobiles, histories of immigration and contested borders, and the powerful role of the United States in a global world, this course fosters an appreciation for the complexities and contradictions implicit within the meanings of "America."