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Featured Courses

For the most up-to-date information about courses offered through Saint Louis University’s Department of American Studies, consult the College of Arts and Sciences Academic Catalog.

Featured Undergraduate Courses: Offered Fall 2021

ASTD 1000: Investigating America An Introduction to American Studies

Instructor: Ben Looker
Lecture: Mon/Wed 11:00 am – 11:50 am
Discussion: Fri 10:00 am – 10:50 am or 11:00 am – 11:50 am

What does it mean to be “American”? Who decides, and Who is included or excluded? Is “America” a nation-state, a geographical entity, or a citizenship status? Or is it a set of ideas like “democracy,” “capitalism,” or “the frontier”? How do race, gender, sexuality, and class shape American identity and culture? These are the central questions of this course, which are at the heart of the field of American Studies. We will take an interdisciplinary approach to exploring these questions, examining a wide variety of sources such as fiction, poetry, plays, films, music, photographs, advertisements, television, political debates, and much more. This course fulfills the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. requirement for the Arts and Sciences BA/BS Core and is a requirement for the ASTD major and minor.

ASTD 2700/AAM 2930/WGST 2930: Gender, Race, and Social Justice

Instructor: Heidi Ardizzone
Lecture: Mon/Wed 1:10 pm – 2:00 pm
Discussion: Fri 12:00 noon - 12:50 pm or 1:10 pm - 2:00 pm

This course examines the intersection of gender and race with other categories of analysis (such as class, religion, sexuality, and nation) in historical and contemporary social justice movements in the United States. Topics include the role of race in movements for gender equality, as well as the impact of gender on movements for racial justice. This course fulfills the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. requirement for the Arts and Sciences BA/BS Core and the Identities requirement for the ASTD major (for students who declared in Fall 2019 or later)

ASTD 3800/WGST 3650: Women's Lives Resistance and Representation from "Libbers" to Lizzo

Instructor: Emily Colmo
Tues/Thurs 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

This course examines the historical experience and literary production of women from diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds from the 1950s to the present. Students will survey various women’s movements including those around feminism and antifeminism, labor, control over the body, and sexuality. The analysis of television shows, films, novels, magazines, and other forms of popular culture will aid students in interrogating how women have been portrayed and represented through cultural forms, as well as how conversations about gender have played out in American society. Students will leave this class with a better understanding of the historical foundations of women’s activism and the ways in which American culture shapes and reinforces ideologies concerning women and gender. Pending approval, this course will fulfill the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. requirement for the CAS BA/BS Core; it fulfills the Identities requirement for the ASTD major (for students who declared in Fall 2019 or later).


ASTD 3050/MUSC 3930: American Soundscapes B-Boys and Riot Grrls: Rap, Punk, and the Sounds of Resistance

Instructor: Emily Lutenski
Mon/Wed 3:10 pm – 4:25 pm

Did you know that storied rap label Def Jam’s first release was a 7” punk record? That Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Fab 5 Freddy were friends involved in New York’s late-1970s visual art scene? That the Beastie Boys were a hardcore band before they turned to hip hop? That the Los Angeles venues like Club Lingerie hosted shows by both Black Flag and Afrika Bambaata? That Washington DC’s go-go artists, like Trouble Funk (sampled in Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”) and hardcore bands, like Minor Threat, played shows together? That in the 1980s, both punk and rap were targets of moral panic, censorship, and attack by groups like the Parents Music Resource Center? This class will explore these synergies and crosscurrents, seeing them not as accidental, but as radical youth music subcultures that emerged in tandem to critique late-capitalist politics, society, and culture during the long Reagan era. This course fulfills the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. requirement for the CAS BA/BS Core and the Practices requirement for the ASTD major (for students who declared in Fall 2019 or later).

ASTD 3030/FSTD 3930: History and Fiction U.S. History in Film

Instructor: Emily Dodson Quartarone
Tues/Thurs 2:15 pm – 3:30 pm

This class will explore the portrayal of U.S. history in film and television, with a particular eye toward how these representations affirm or challenge notions of American nationhood, an endeavor that includes investigating what it means for a tale to be “American” and considers who does and does not get to tell their stories in these visual media. We will view films in order to tease out how they serve to interpret the past and promote ideologies, as well as learn how unpack how genre and form shape historical representations. Along the way, we’ll also historicize film itself, considering how this visual media emerges from the cultural, political, and social forces active in particular time periods. Finally, we will consider how U.S. history is represented in international cinema, which enables us to compare the stories Americans tell about themselves and with those told about America abroad. Films under consideration may include Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991) and Lars von Trier’s Manderlay (2005). This course fulfills the Upper-Division Literature requirement for the CAS BA/BS Core and the Practices requirement for the ASTD major (for students who declared in Fall 2019 or later).

ASTD 3040/THEO 3930: Religion and U.S. Global Activism

Instructor: Kate Moran
Tues/Thurs 12:45 pm – 2:00 pm

What does it mean to be a global citizen? To pursue social justice abroad? To bring religious faith and commitment to the task of building a better world? These questions have motivated Americans for generations, and they continue to do so today. This class invites students to explore the U.S. history of faith, transnational activism, and non-governmental organizations from the nineteenth century to the present. We will examine the aims, experiences, and ideas of U.S. reformers, missionaries, human rights activists, and relief workers: topics include African American missionaries in the nineteenth-century Congo, Jewish relief programs in World-War-I Europe, American adoption agencies in Korea during the Cold War, and current debates about global feminist advocacy. Analyzing a variety of sources—from legal debates to advertising campaigns to material in SLU’s own archives—we will explore what a critical engagement with the past can teach us about today's humanitarian and activist goals. This course fulfills the Global Citizenship and 3000-Level Theology requirements for the CAS BA/BS Core, the Contexts requirement for the ASTD major (for students who declared in Fall 2019 or later), and is an elective for the Law, Religion, and Politics minor.

ASTD 3600: American Food and Cultures

Instructor: Robin Hoover
Tues/Thurs 9:30 am – 10:45 am

This course investigates American foodways through the lens of agriculture, labor, landscape, festivals, the body, ethnicity, ethics, and gender. Its goals are to teach students about the meaning of food and how the simple act of eating can reveal interconnections among so many diverse aspects of society and the environment. This course fulfills the Cultural Diversity in the U.S. requirement for the CAS BA/BS Core and the Practices requirement for the ASTD major (for students who declared in Fall 2019 or later).


Sample Graduate Courses

ASTD 5000: Perspectives in American Studies

Introductory graduate seminar offering a survey of major theoretical and methodological frameworks for the interpretation of American culture over time. In this course, first-year graduate students examine the intersection of history, text, and theory in the interdisciplinary study of the American experience, consider the historical development of American Studies as an academic field of inquiry, and engage with readings in areas such as Marxism, feminism, semiotics, post-structuralism, post-colonialism, cultural studies, critical race theory, and queer theory. Participants will leave the seminar with a strong understanding of selected major texts that have shaped the contemporary practice of American Studies and related disciplines. Offered every year. N.B.: First-year Ph.D. students will complete a SP18 qualifying exam on materials covered in ASTD 5000 and one other graduate course taken during the 2017-18 academic year. Required of first-year M.A. and Ph.D. students.

ASTD 5010: African American Politics, Culture, and Identity

This graduate seminar explores the connections and tensions between politics, culture, and identity in African American experiences and public movements. Covering the mid-nineteenth century through the contemporary period, we will focus on activism, issues of representation, and the multiple strategies within a diverse African American population, paying attention to issues of gender, class, religion, region, migration, and national identity.

ASTD 5020: Frontiers and Borderlands: Contact and Conquest in the American Imagination
In 1893, historian Frederick Jackson Turner announced the westward frontier was the defining process of American history. He insisted that confrontation with environmental wilderness and indigenous people had resulted in a unique American culture and identity. Intellectuals and artists since have interrogated this famous thesis, at times embracing it, at times rejecting it, and at times reconceptualizing it to give it new meanings. Exploring these turns, this course asks the following questions: What are the differences between "frontiers," "borderlands," and "the West?" Are these places, processes, or symbols? How have they been represented, contested, and mobilized? Why are they salient for American Studies? We will take an interdisciplinary approach to exploring these questions, examining a variety of sources and methods: literary, historical, and visual.
ASTD 5700: Metropolitan America
Introduction to the study of American urban and suburban life. Course examines American cities, their cultures, and their built environments as these change over time. Students engage scholarship, develop visual literacy for "reading" the metropolis, and analyze the ways in which built environments shape and reflect American cultural meaning.
ASTD 5900: The Practice of American Studies
The goal of this course is to prepare graduate students to become practicing members of the interdisciplinary humanities community, whether inside or outside of the higher-education industry, and to enable them to engage thoughtfully and critically with the social, political, and economic forces currently reshaping the various institutions in which humanities labor takes place. Over the course of the semester, participants will learn and practice a variety of practical skills, cultivate a broadened awareness of professional options available to them, and consider contemporary debates over an array of issues in higher education, including academic freedom, institutional governance, labor practices, evolving curricula, and political engagement. Required of all American studies Ph.D. students during the second or third year of study.
ASTD 5930: Chicana/o Literature and Culture
This course uses Mexican American literature in conjunction with other cultural forms—such as film, music, and visual art—as a point of departure for the study of major topics in Chicana/o culture and history, including indigeneity, language, borders, immigration, labor, gender, and colonialism.
ASTD 5930: Cultures of American Religion
According to a recent American Quarterly article, American studies has had a "long, self-conscious, and productive engagement with the very category of 'religion' itself, as a category no less simple or transparent than 'race,' 'nation,' and other organizing themes of our work." This course will introduce students to that scholarship: to religion as a topic and category of analysis in the study of modern U.S. history and culture. We will begin by exploring definitional and theoretical questions: what is this thing we call "religion"? What are the kinds of things we might be able to say about it? We will also analyze some of the major grand narratives scholars have produced about American religious history. What is the shape of the story they tell about religion in the United States? What are the major question, themes, and turning points? What is included, what gets left out, and how has this changed over time? And, finally, we will explore some of the most exciting recent scholarship on religion and American culture, focusing in particular on the currently vibrant themes of race, gender, sexuality, material culture, religious pluralism, medicine, capitalism, the law, and the state.
ASTD 5930 / WGS 5930: Women of Color and Feminism
In 1851, former slave Sojourner Truth spoke to a crowd of both supporters and hecklers at the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio. There, she pointed out that the nineteenth-century ideology of femininity-inflected by purity, piety, domesticity, and submissiveness-was also a racialized discourse that excluded African American women under a regime of slavery. "That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages. ... Nobody ever helps me into carriages...!," she pointed out, reportedly rhetorically asking, "And ain't I a woman?" For more than 150 years since, not only black women, but also Latinas, Asian American women, Arab American women, Native American women, and third-world women have continued to experience, theorize, and subvert this intersectional "matrix of domination," at times at odds with feminist thought that tends to be dominated by whites, and with civil rights and ethnic nationalist discourses that tend to be dominated by men. In doing so, women of color have produced a heterogeneous body of feminist thought to express their diverse perspectives, explain their experiences of oppression, enrich their communities, and empower themselves while working towards social justice for all people. This course will examine this genealogy, its contexts, and its contours, with particular attention to the time period after the civil rights and women's liberation movements.
ASTD 5930-01: Ideas and Intellectuals in Twentieth Century America
Over the past century, the United States has been riven by debates in which intellectuals and their ideas have played starring roles. This seminar will explore such debates in the United States, from the late nineteenth century to the present. Topics will include: debates about the relationship between the self, the community, and the state; about the future of the nation in a globalizing world; about the intersections between religious and secular authority; about the politics of difference and the discourse of rights; and about the very definition of intellectual work itself. This course will focus in particular on new scholarship.
ASTD 5930-02: What Makes a Man? Manhood and Meaning in American Culture
From dueling among Southern "men of honor" to fistfights on the floor of Congress, from the "self-made men" of the frontier to the boxing ring of the "Fight of the Century," from the frontlines of warfare to icons like Ernest Hemingway or James Dean, and from fraternity rushes to the National Beard and Moustache Growing Championships, this course takes the question "What makes a man?" seriously by examining the contested sites of manly conduct throughout American history and among American cultures.
ASTD 6000: Mythbusting and Mythmaking in Recent American Studies Scholarship
It is widely known, if not always well understood, that many full-blown myths circulate in American culture, and that these mythic discourses often serve to obscure people's view of the histories for which those myths are substitutes. What's less well known is the precise role of academic scholarship in the career of such myths-sometimes in uncovering them, and sometimes in propping them up. In this seminar we will examine two areas of American mythmaking, one that surrounds the Vietnam War, and another concerning the Civil War and its aftermath. In addition, we will take a few detours to briefly visit other precincts of Mythland; and students will identify one mythic construct and carefully critique it with their own scholarship.
ASTD 6020 / POLS 6700 / WGST 5930: American Political Thought
This course focuses on selected ideas, issues, and institutions that have been central to the U.S. Constitution and the practice of American constitutionalism, from the founding era to the present. Readings emphasize seminal works in American political thought, which are supplemented by historical accounts, illustrative literature, and contemporary analyses.
ASTD 6100: Dissertation Colloquium
This course is designed to facilitate the dissertation-writing process. Seminar discussions will focus on peer review of student generated works-in-progress. Required of all Ph.D. students. May be repeated for credit at adviser's discretion.
ASTD 6400: Transnational America
This course introduces students to the history, intellectual trajectories, and institutional impact of the "transnational turn" in American Studies. Focusing on 19th and 20th century cultural, economic, political, and religious encounters in Africa, Asia, and Europe, participants investigate the varied manifestations and wide-ranging impact of U.S. global engagement.
ASTD 6930: Civil Rights Activism and Cultural Memory
In the last twenty years scholars have challenged almost every aspect of our collective narrative of the African American civil rights movement. Continuing debates over the roles of women, gender, class, race, religion, and region bring new interpretations and new definitions of what the boundaries of civil rights activism were. The Civil Rights movement is now "long"; or did 1955 mark something new? Was it a Southern phenomenon or also a Northern one? What about the Midwest? Did men lead and women organize? Should the Black Power movement be understood as a separate new movement or yet another shift in the ongoing Black Freedom Struggle? We will read both classic and recent scholarship addressing these questions, providing students with the opportunity to follow debates and "turns" in a vibrant and still-growing field. But we will also ask questions about the significance of both academic and popular narratives of civil rights activism: Why do these different narratives of civil rights activism matter? What roles do they play in recent political and social debates and how we view emerging protest movements? In addition to the historiography of the civil rights and Black Power movements, we will also look at scholarship on visual culture, popular history, and public memory to examine the significance of iconic images and narratives of civil rights.
ASTD 6930: The Harlem Renaissance 
The first decades of the twentieth century witnessed the beginning of the "Great Migration" of African Americans from the rural south to the urban north and west, where many hoped to find increased employment opportunities, and decreased prejudice, discrimination, and racialized violence. Cities like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles saw the establishment of vibrant black communities and a subsequent explosion in black visual arts, music, literature, and intellectual work. The most renowned of these sites was Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s, during what is now commonly known as the "Harlem Renaissance" or "New Negro Movement." This course will explore the literary arm of this movement and its intersections with the broader cultural history of the period, putting literature into dialogue with black politics, music, and visual and performing arts.
ASTD 6930-01: Visualizing Race
This seminar examines cultural depictions of race and racial otherness in visual images, primarily in the late nineteenth and twentieth-century U.S. Drawing on theories of visual culture and racial constructions, we look at the uses of racialized images as political speech, as cultural expression, and as entertainment.
ASTD 6930-01: The Cultural Studies Movement: Origins and Contemporary Practice
Seminar covers the rise of British cultural studies and its influence on scholarship in American Studies and related fields. Participants will examine the history of British cultural studies as an intellectual movement, with special attention to the Birmingham School of practice; they will become familiar with selected theoretical and methodological approaches that characterize particular phases of cultural studies research in North America, the U.K., and elsewhere; and they will engage with recent American Studies works that continue or challenge this intellectual tradition. Culminating projects will make sustained and deliberate use of contemporary cultural studies concepts and methods to analyze specific artifacts or aspects of recent U.S. popular culture. Open (with instructor permission) to graduate students from any humanities or social science department.
ASTD 6930-02: Many Midwests: Race and Citizenship in the American Heartland
The Mid-West as a region has received relatively little attention in the historical and cultural study of race, citizenship, and civil rights. The early to mid-nineteenth century regional divide between North and South over the issue of enslavement has shaped a much broader academic study of race and region into the present. Scholars of the West have added that region's different ethnic, economic, and political patterns to the North-South model, most recently arguing for the centrality of Western states in twentieth-century reconstructions of race, civil rights, and citizenship. Where does this leave the Mid-West? Much work has been done that focuses on these issues in Midwestern locations, but little of it considers or theorizes the heartland as a region. We will look first at regional studies that examine the "Mid-West" as a geographic and cultural entity with ambiguous borders. We will examine several local studies of developing race relations, civil rights movements, and other struggles around citizenship in specific Mid-Western cities and states. Of the city-studies, Chicago and Detroit are arguably over-represented in publications; this unit will emphasize scholarship on smaller cities (e.g. Indianapolis, Cleveland) as well as on cities and states further west (Milwaukee, the Dakotas, Kansas, etc.). Much of the available scholarship also focuses on African Americans, particularly emphasizing the civil rights movement, but other ethnic groups will be included as well. Our final unit will focus on "border" or ambiguous locations to consider the usefulness and limits of considering them within or against the Mid-West.