Central to the American Literature and Culture major is the contested meaning of “America” itself. While the word “America” is often treated as synonymous with the United States, there are many different Americas, and all of them exist in complex relationships to the larger world. The American Cultures major examines “America” through a range of frameworks (local, regional, national, oceanic, hemispheric, global, interracial, multiethnic, and migratory). By taking a capacious view of “America,” the major aims to foster self-consciousness about the methods, assumptions, skills and intellectual frameworks that guide our inquiries. In so doing, American Literature and Culture foregrounds the diverse peoples, histories, and ideas of “America”—understood as a place, real and imagined.
Upper division courses in the American Literature and Culture major pursue the following areas:
Origins—Beginnings, Events, and Trajectories Study cultural texts related to the making of the U.S. and the Americas in their myriad beginnings, turning points, and orientations toward the future. Possible topics include indigeneity, imperialism, settlement, political founding, property, war, religion, slavery, abolition, suffrage, civil rights, and free speech.
Identities—Places, Communities, and Environments Study narratives about people and places across the diverse geographies of the Americas, both local and global. Possible topics include cities, suburbs, rural life, regions, borders, immigration, migration, oceans, wilderness, ecosystems, schools, churches, and prisons.
Media—Aesthetics, Genres, and Technologies Study the creative process as it manifests itself in aesthetic forms, artistic movements, and information systems. Possible topics include romanticism, transcendentalism, realism, modernism, post-modernism, science fiction, architecture, music, visual arts, performance, film, television, and the internet.