Fall 2011, Winter 2012 and Spring 2012 quarters
- Samuel Schrager American studies, folklore , Chico Herbison African American studies, American studies , Nancy Koppelman American studies
- Fields of Study
- American studies, anthropology, community studies, cultural studies, history, literature, sociology and writing
- Preparatory for studies or careers in
- the humanities and social sciences, community service, journalism, law, media and education.
Here the most agonizing mystery sponsored by the democratic ideal is that of our unity-in-diversity, our oneness-in-manyness.
These words of Ralph Ellison's are the starting point for our inquiry. This program will explore diversity and unity in the United States through outstanding narratives by artists and scholars who, like Ellison, capture distinctive characteristics of the hybridity endemic to American experience. Students will use these studies to take their own fresh looks at American life and to become adept practitioners of the writer's craft.
The program involves close reading of literary, historical, and anthropological-sociological texts, and attention to traditions of story, music, film and humor. We will consider a range of group experiences-African American, Asian American, Jewish, working-class, place-based, queer, female, youth, differently-abled, and others. We will focus on understanding dynamics between historical pressures and legacies, and present realities and aspirations. How, we will ask, have race relations, immigrant experiences, and family life both expressed and extended democratic ideals, and both embodied and challenged a wide range of power hierarchies? What are the most compelling stories that this unpredictable culture has produced, and how have they nourished and articulated community? What will be the impact of emergent technologies on the increasingly permeable boundaries between human and machine, "real" and virtual, self and other, particularly for the making of democracy?
Fall and the first half of winter will feature intensive practice of writing in non-fiction, imaginative and essay forms. Research methods will also be emphasized: ethnographic fieldwork (ways of listening, looking, and documenting evidence to make truthful stories), and library-based scholarship in history, social science and the arts. From mid-winter to mid-spring, students will undertake a full-time writing and research project on a cultural topic or group in a genre of their choice, locally or elsewhere. These projects are akin to the kinds that students pursue with Individual Learning Contracts; students in Writing American Cultures will undertake them in community, with strong faculty support. The project is an excellent context for senior theses. In the final weeks of spring, students will polish and present their writing in a professional format. Throughout the program, dialogue about our common and individual work will be prized.
Among the fiction writers we may read are William Faulkner, Maxine Hong Kingston, Herman Melville, Toni Morrison and Ishmael Reed; essayists Gerald Early, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Albert Murray, Cynthia Ozick and Mark Twain; ethnographers Joan Didion, Zora Neale Hurston, Joseph Mitchell and Ronald Takaki; historians John Hope Franklin, Oscar Handlin and C. Vann Woodward. Films may include Chinatown , Do the Right Thing , Duck Soup, Gran Torino, Lone Star, Ride with the Devil and Vertigo. Music we'll hear may be by Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, and Tupac Shakur. Humor/comedy will be provided by Lenny Bruce, Margaret Cho, Richard Pryor, and others.
Students who are serious about becoming capable writers are warmly invited to be part of this program. Those who give their time and energies generously will be rewarded by increasing their mastery as writers, critics and students of American culture and society.
- Campus Location
- Online Learning
- Enhanced Online Learning
- Greener Store
- Required Fees
- $140 for a four-day field trip in fall.
- Offered During
|November 16th, 2011||Winter signature requirement updated.|