America in Translation: History, Culture, Theory (Foundations in CTLWS)

Fall 2020
Winter 2021
Class Size: 50
25% Reserved for Freshmen
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

Vuslat Katsanis
writing, comparative literature, film and visual culture
Bradley Proctor
U.S. history, African American history, American studies

This program combines U.S. history, cultural studies, comparative literature, and media studies. It explores the history of diverse groups of American people and the making of American culture through the framework of translation: how Americans translated the stories of their lives to each other, how they translated ideas about Americanness to new immigrants or foreign audiences, and how they translated stories of non-Americans to an American audience. In this regard, the program will pay close attention to rhetoric, aesthetics, and politics of America as a work in translation.

The program will analyze popular culture—fiction, plays, poems, films, and music—that diverse Americans created, consumed, exported, or influenced from the 1800s to the present. Examples will include slave narratives, frontier tall tale stories, print advertisements, Broadway musicals like The King and I and The Music Man , science fiction, foreign films like Good Bye, Lenin! , and broadcast sit-coms like The Simpsons .

Program activities will include weekly readings, analytical writing projects, close reading exercises, and workshops on the various ways scholars study the humanities. Readings will include primary source documents, first-hand accounts, and works of historical analysis and critical theory. This will include the works of activists, writers, and scholars like Frederick Douglass, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Roland Marchand.

Historical topics will include the political struggles and everyday lives of diverse groups of Americans in the United States from the 1800s to the present, including settler colonialism, immigration, slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, industrialization and the development of market capitalism, American participation in World Wars I and II, the Cold War, and the economic and political realignments of the early twenty first century. Topics in comparative literature and critical theory will include settler colonialism, postcolonial critique, critical race theory and the social construction of race, discussions of intervention and appropriation, narrative voice and position, translation as transformation, and analysis of genre, audience, and context. Common themes will include how ordinary people approached politics, how categories of identity were shaped and changed by different lived experiences—particularly those of race, class, gender, and sexuality—how these identity categories were used to exclude people from political power, and how people have translated their lived experiences into popular culture and/or political claims to reshape the nation and world.

This program serves as a foundational program for the Culture Text and Language in World Societies (CTLWS) Path of Study. As such it will introduce students to methods of academic inquiry within humanities fields as well as preparing them for more advanced work. 


To successfully participate in this program, students will need a computer, internet access, microphone, and webcam (preferred). Students can expect our remote teaching to be around 6 hours of synchronous (scheduled) coursework per week, using Canvas and Zoom. Students will have access to alternatives to synchronous participation if conditions require.

Greener Foundations:   This program will incorporate Greener Foundations, a holistic course designed for first-time, first-year students. Faculty and staff collaborate to bring study skills, academic planning, health and wellness education, advising, and more into the classroom. More information can be found on the college website at  Greener Foundations  . 

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

Comparative literature, education, higher education, history, cultural studies, media studies


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Fall Complete Online Learning - This offering delivers all of its instruction online.
  • Winter: Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.
Class Standing: Freshman–Senior
Class Size: 50
25% Reserved for Freshmen

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Monday, January 4, 2021 - 10:00 am
SEM 2 E2105 - Workshop

Located in: Olympia

2020-08-05This program is now fully remote for fall