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American Studies
Fax: 202-885-1837
Mary Graydon, Room 327

Nitzberg, Laura Ann
Sr. Administrative Assistant-MSC

American Studies
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016-8012


New 2015 American Studies Courses


Death Penalty and American Culture (AMST 296 002)
In this course students learn the history of the death penalty and consider the legal, political, ethical, medical and moral issues which relate to the imposition of capital punishment and the method of executions. Recent cases and developments in the death penalty as well as the historical, philosophical, and fairness issues surrounding capital punishment are considered. Students look at the edited case files of people who were sentenced to death, including the facts of the crimes for which they were accused, their trials, punishment phases, appeals and the circumstances around their executions. This course will be taught by Michelle Engert, who taught the class The Wire and American Society for the American Studies program in fall 2013.

Nineteenth Century Culture: Couture, Cuisine, and Citizenship (AMST 320 001)
19th-century fashion and cuisineThis course explores a diverse range of cultural phenomena in the nineteenth century United States including fashion and food as well as interior design, beauty practices, child rearing philosophies, travel, and more. All of these practices reflect major social and political issues prevalent in the nineteenth century, such as nation- and empire-building, immigration, and changing understandings of gender, race, and sexuality. This course is taught by Katharina Vester. Professor Vester was a radio journalist and newscaster before she attended grad school. Trained in Germany, she joined the American University faculty eight years ago and was for the last 4 years director of the American Studies Program before Tristan Cabello.

War on Drugs (AMST 320 002)
This seminar introduces students to the concept of the war on drugs — broadly interpreted — and surveys America's history with mild-altering substances and efforts to control or prohibit the same. America's battle with addiction has both greater longevity and importance than is generally appreciated. Beginning with the role of commodities like coffee, sugar, tobacco and alcohol in forging global trade routes and colonial empire, the course examines America's experience with drugs, alcohol, temperance movements, crime and law enforcement from the early republic into the twentieth century with the birth of the modern drug war. Students are presented with American social, cultural and political history "through the saloon door," and examine how taboos and attempts at prohibition have been historically contingent and how the issue of drug and alcohol use has often been the site of profound political and social conflicts, many with lasting implications. This course will be taught by Matthew Pembleton from the Department of History.

Politics, TV Series & Ethics (AMST 330 003)
Political television shows such as The West Wing, House of Cards, and Scandal have garnered critical acclaim and strong ratings, while sparking dialogue at times of low voter turnout and political engagement. This course examines the interplay between politics, ethics, and the media. Topics explored include government corruption, media bias, the politics of race and gender representation, journalistic integrity, and the influence of political series on American popular culture. The course relies on academic texts, online resources, videos, and guest speakers. This course will be taught by Stef Woods, full time faculty member for the American Studies program. Woods has taught classes such as The Hunger Games: Class, Politics and Marketing, Sexuality and Social Media, and The 50 Shades Trilogy for the program.