Ivied American Studies

, Malcolm A. Kline, 1 Comment

Perhaps a former vice-presidential candidate was right when he said that there are two Americas. From what we’ve found, there is the one we live in, and the one that is studied in academia.

That the two bear little relation to each other can be seen in what passes for American Studies in some Ivy League colleges and universities. For example, Yalies can explore:

  • US Lesbian and Gay History
  • American Captivity Narratives
  • Los Angeles, City of Migrants
  • Gender and Sexuality in Media and Popular Culture
  • Politics and Culture of the US Color Line

Meanwhile, at Columbia, undergraduates can take:

  • Feminist Sexual Political-History
  • Historical Approaches to Feminist Questions
  • Bodies and Machines 1750-1939
  • Equity in Higher Education
  • Museums, Memory & Pub Culture

Not to be outdone, undergraduates at Cornell can take:

  • Space Cowboys: The 60s Hero
  • Race, Gender and the Internet
  • Popular Culture in the United States, 1900-1945
  • Popular Culture in the United States, 1950 to the present
  • The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692
  • Black History topics through film
  • The Road Trip in American History and Culture
  • The U. S.-Mexico Border: History, Culture, Representation
  • Introduction to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies
  • Cultures of the Cold War
  • Culture and Politics of the 1960s
  • Environmental History: The United States and Beyond
  • Racial and Ethnic Politics in the U. S.
  • America’s Multicultural Origins to 1754
  • Inequality and American Democracy
  • Discovering Hip-Hop: Research and the Cornell Hip-Hop Collection

Students at Brown can study:

One wonders, with all the rethinking that goes on in academia, do they take the basic step of thinking first?

Princeton offers:

  • In the Groove:Technology and Music
  • Women’s Leadership in Modern America
  • Race and Religion in America
  • Religion and Culture: Muslims in America
  • Crime and Punishment in American Culture
  • Dramaturgy Workshop: Hoodwinked
  • The Environment Can Be Funny

 

  • Starling

    You seem to deem these curricula “un-American” on the basis of their course titles. What would be a more “American” set of courses? Perhaps, some may object the focus on “popular culture” in these programs. However, in an “American studies” curriculum, it does some altogether appropriate to study the general American public’s tastes, behaviors, and consumption of culture.
    Some of the other titles also suggest very productive courses.
    Is the U.S.-Mexico Border region not one of the most hotly contested and extensively discussed tracts of American soil in today’s political climate? As a historian of this region, I can assure you, we can learn much about the history of the United States through how this nation has defined, controlled, and viewed its southern borderlands over the last two centuries, and any informed debate on this issue should draw on an understanding of this region’s history. Are gender and sexuality constantly at issue in media culture? Does the United States have a historical color line? Did the United States not experience several “crises in capitalism” (surely you recall all the ‘panics’ of the nineteenth century)? What is the objection to these course topics, other than the fact that they seem to suggest the existence of a degree of – dare I say – diversity in the American experience. Do these courses lack gravitas? Perhaps the titles seem so suggest so in a few cases. The way I see it, any course can be academically demanding – or lack rigor. Many a college student has walked away from a “jazz, rock, and hip-hop” or “contemporary sci-fi literature” course in disgust after learning that the course demands ten readings and major term paper. Without an evaluation of the syllabi, coursework, and content; this list of course offerings says little about the current state of American Studies.