The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color
- W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
This course is meant to provide an introduction to the interdisciplinary study of American culture: to ways of integrating, exploring and thinking critically about American experience in the past through literature, political rhetoric, painting, photography and other media. Our main goal will be to introduce students to some of the most exciting and innovative cultural forms emerging at the turn of the 20th century: to social documentary photography; to African-American folktales and fiction; to experimental realism in the hands of Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, and others. As a perhaps unusual starting point for our investigations, we will begin by cultural and imaginative representations of the institution of segregation in the years following the Civil War. But as some measure of the course's broader scope, we'll actually be asking what significance a color line had for social experiences and forms of cultural expression not customarily associated with it: with, for instance, the experience of recent immigrants (who found themselves discriminated against by grandfather clauses at polling booths); for women, who had often already been restricted from public spaces; for the arts themselves, where emergent artists of African American or Asian American descent discovered boundaries on what they could write or express. "Color line" is thus meant as a cultural metaphor which refers not only to the reorganization of social space, but to its effects on drawing, figuring or representation in the arts. Writers and artists who will appear in this course include Charles Chesnutt; Booker T. Washington; Kate Chopin; Sui Sin Far; Jacob Riis; Lewis Hine; Winslow Homer; Mary Cassatt; Charlotte Perkins Gilman; W.E.B. DuBois; Jean Toomer; and others.
You do not have to be an American Studies minor to enroll in this course. And while not a required course within the American Studies minor, either, this course may serve as both a starting point, and an introduction to interdisciplinary methodology, for pursuing this and other minors. Since this is an introductory course, no seniors may enroll except with permission of the instructor.
The following course texts are required:
Please do not buy the John Bullard book on Cassatt, or Mary Antin's The Promised Land, which were ordered only as backups.
As an experiment, I have also placed on reserve a CD-Rom American history text entitled Who Built America. (The bookstore has also managed to get a few copies, though it's now out of print for a time.) Aside from finding this a very useful text for historical background, you will have the option of using this CD for occasional classroom assignments and exploration. If you think you need background in American history--and, in particular, if you are an American Studies minor--working with this CD is recommended You may also benefit considerably by working with the WWW site links listed later on this syllabus.
Except when I tell you otherwise, any edition of these texts that you buy (e.g. used) or borrow from a library is fine. But always bring your text to class on discussion days.
I. SETTING THE COMPASS: Lines and Expositions
JANUARY19 Opening Day
A Few Links to Winslow Homer sites:
28 Discussion: Homer -2- GROUP VIEWING OF "BIRTH OF A NATION" O'NEILL 211 AT 7 PM
- Winslow Homer site at Syracuse University
- Links to Articles and Web Pages and Images
- Earlier Homer Exhibit at the MFA in Boston
- A Personal Collection of 24 Images
2 Discussion: DW Griffith, Birth of a Nation (1919) 4: Brief Lecture/Discussion: Charles W. Chesnutt Stories. Please read "The Goopher'd Grapevine," "Po' Sandy," "Mars Jeems's Nightmare" from The Conjure Woman, plus
the essay I hand out, "What is a White Man?"
9: Discussion: Chesnutt 2
II. New (White?) Women: Gender
11 Lecture/Discussion: Race, Domesticity, and Class
For this discussion, please read the assigned section
from Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
16: Discussion: Kate Chopin Stories (read the entire
set of stories in the Silk Stockings collection.
18: Discussion: Chopin 2
23 Discussion: Paintings of Mary Cassatt For this discussion, please read the assigned selections from Pollack, and the essay on Cassatt in the course Reader. 25 Discussion: Cassatt 2
A Few Links to Mary Cassatt sites:
- Web Images Produced by Mark Harden (which can actually connect you to many artists' work
- Access Indiana Teaching and Learning Center Guide to Cassatt
- Safran Site with Links to Other Images
III. New Migrants/ New Images
9 Lecture/Discussion: Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine
For this class please read the assigned sections of Riis's How the Other Half Lives: Chapters 1-6.
GROUP VIEWING OF "AMERICA AND LEWIS HINE"
O'NEILL 211 AT 7 PM MARCH 9
A Few Links to sites related to Hine and Riis:
11: Discussion: Riis and Hine (2) For this class, please read the essay
- An Exhibit of Lewis Hine's Child Labor Photographs
- Hypertext version of How the Other Half Lives
- A Quite Helpful Link Page on American Immigration, Connecting to Visual Images, Material on Jacob Riis, Ellis and Angel Islands
by Maren Stange (on Riis) in the Course Reader, and chapters 9,13, and 17 in Riis.
16: Discussion: Lewis Hine (3) Read the Trachtenberg essay in the Class Reader, from America and Lewis Hine, called "Ever the Human Document," (R)
18: Discussion: Mary Antin, a Selection from The Promised
Land, from the Heath Anthology 23: Discussion: Twain, Roughing It, selections which
will be handed out; plus selections from Ronald Takaki,
Strangers from a Different Shore
Link to Mark Twain Speech on the "Sandwich Islands"
Link to other Twain Materials on Hawaii
25: Discussion: Takaki -2- plus the short story by Sui Sin Far,
"In the Land of the Free"
30: Discussion: Far 2 Please read the
autobiographical essay by Sui Sin Far, "Leaves
from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian"
1 NO CLASS EASTER VACATION
6 Discussion: Far 3 For this day, please read for discussion:
"Mrs. Spring Fragrance" (the short story" and "The Inferior
Woman." For purposes of the final exam, please also
read: "The Americanizing of Pau Tsu," "The Smuggling
of Tie Co," "A Chinese Boy-Girl," and "Pat and Pan"
IV. MAKING AMERICANS: Gender, Race, Nation
8 Lecture/ Discussion: Toomer, Cane 13 Discussion: Toomer 2 15 Discussion Toomer 3 GROUP VIEWING OF "THE JAZZ SINGER" O'NEILL 211 AT 7 PM APRIL 15 20 Discussion: Discussion: "The Jazz Singer" 22 Lecture/Discussion Cather, My Antonia Link to Boston College's AMICO WWW site for finding images in Art History 27 Discussion: Cather 2 29 Discussion Cather -3-
4 LAST CLASS DAY COURSE EVALUATIONS AND EXAM REVIEW------------------------------------------------------------------------Six Conventions You Should Know For College Writing The Correction Code Used on Your Papers How to "Read Back" into Literary Passages
Some Links to Handouts from this Course:The Simplified MLA Citation System We're Using
Ten Pet Peeves of Mine About Your Writing
Other Useful Links in American Cultural Study
- Multicultural Bibliography
- Resources in African American Literature
- Hypertexts in American Literature
- 19th Century Women Writers Site
- Anti-Imperialism in the United States
- American Memory Project
- Andrew Carnegie Exhibit
- American Studies Web
- American Studies Resources from the United States Information Agency
- Mark Twain Link
- Guide to American History-Related Web Sites
- Web Page on the History of African-American Theatre
- Literary Resources in American Literature
1. Class attendance is required. You are allowed two cuts (hereby defined
as an "unexcused absence") without penalty. Absence in excess of this
two-cut maximum can lower your grade--and, in extreme cases, be grounds
for failing the course altogether. If there is a good reason why you have had
to miss a class, please don't hesitate to tell me. Bring a doctor's note for
2. Class participation can account for about 25% of your grade. Generally,
I try to use your class participation (including your work on panels or
"kick-off" presentations) as a measure of how well you have read and
understood the assignments. I use a sliding scale for class participation:
the better you do, the larger part of grade will reflect your participation.
The idea here is to encourage strong class participation, but not to
penalize unduly those who are silent or feel uncomfortable speaking.
If your participation reflects strong reading skills, consideration
for others' viewpoints, and frequent contributions to the flow of
discussion, your class "average" can be boosted considerably. It is
the case that poor class participation can make your overall grade
more dependent on the final exam.
3. Please note that the final exam will include identifications from the readings covered
over the semester--identifications from some of the more "marginal" moments in the texts
covered (that is, not necessarily material mentioned in class). The purpose of these identifications
is to reward those class members who have read carefully and closely over the course of the semester.
4. When you submit a paper, it should be neatly typed and double-spaced, as per the guidelines
handed out at the start of the course. Word-processed papers are fine, as long as the print is not
too "grainy" and the font is kept between 10 and 12. In addition, you are required to keep a "hard"
copy of the paper you hand in. That way, if your paper is lost, you can simply re-submit your hard copy.
5. Papers are due on the assigned dates. Generally, I allow 24 hours leeway without penalty; after
that, you will be penalized about 1/3 grade for every part of 24 hours the paper is late. The idea of this
"leeway" period is that you should never miss a class in order to type a paper; come to class, and turn the paper in later.
6. In a class like this, it isn't uncommon for students to feel, alternately, "over their head,"
unprepared--or, conversely, bored or unchallenged. The first remedy for any of these situations
is to come to my office for a conference, and to come early in the semester. There are easy ways to
invididualize class assignments, formats, and discussions to better suit your needs. If my office hours
don't fit your schedule, just talk to me in class about setting up another time. Please note: my
"voice mailbox" on my phone extension (552-3719) really operates more like a mailbox than a
"phone machine"--that is, I will try to respond to calls when I come into my office hours.
7. This course emphasizes improving your writing. To that end, I use a "correction guide"
which will be handed out in class. It goes without saying I would also be happy to discuss your
writing with you in conference.TAKE A LOOK AT THE Correction Code Used on Your Papers