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New American Studies Courses

Jeffery Pilcher

The American Studies Program has multiple new courses for fall 2014.

The Body in American Culture (AMST 296-001)
In the past century the body has become the main tool of expression for identity and social status in U.S. society. This course discusses ways in which we maintain and modify our bodies, such as tattoos, piercings, beauty surgery, dieting, and exercise. It also explores phenomena in which our bodies are beyond our control: death, birth, obesity, disease, and disability.

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 seven years ago and was for the last 4 years director of the American Studies Program.

Space, Imagination and Science Fiction (AMST 320-001)
This course examines the political and cultural impact of the U.S. space program. Beginning with the Cold War space race and ending with the retirement of the Shuttle program, students explore the representations of NASA and the space program in science fiction films and novels, as well as in journalism, graphic design and other forms of popular culture. The course will be taught by new AMST faculty.

Americans In Paris (AMST 330-001)
This course offers a survey of American writers who lived in Paris in the early 1900’s. Before World War I and during "the roaring twenties," Paris was at the center of many transnational avant-garde movements including Cubism, Futurism, Expressionism, Dadaism, Constructivism, and Surrealism. This course aims to explore the ways in which the radical innovation of these writers’ methods reflects the various movements of these years in painting, music, film and dance. We'll read selections from Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, Djuana Barnes, H.D., Sherwood Anderson, James Joyce, and Hemingway among others.

This course is taught by Linda Voris, an Assistant Professor in the Literature Department where she specializes in 20th and 21th century Anglophone literature, especially poetry. Professor Voris is a Stein scholar and has published several articles on the uses of a painterly analogy in interpretation of Stein's work. She teaches courses at AU on literary Modernisms and modern painting, and is interested in what we learn by understanding the painterly envy evinced by so many Modernist writers.

Black Popular Culture in Washington, D.C. (AMST 340-001)
This course will be discussing various American pop cultural formations including hip-hop, film, go-go, blues/jazz, speculative fiction, spoken word, crime fiction, politics, print news, and new digital media as they take shape within the very specific context of Washington, D.C., a city that's been majority Black for much of the 20th and 21st centuries. The course’s goal is to critically examine the concept of "blackness" as it appears in these various popular cultural formations and also consider the way Black people have influenced and engaged these genres in Washington, D.C. There will be several special guests throughout the course including D.C. politicians, radio personalities, artists, entrepreneurs, and authors. The class will also take around the city trips to explore "Black Popular Culture in Washington, D.C." The class is designed to allow students to engage with D.C. in a very tangible and exciting way.

This course is taught by Nikki Lane, a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at AU. She is a cultural and linguistic anthropologist who studies American popular culture broadly, Black queer studies, and urban anthropology. Her dissertation is about Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer women in Washington, D.C., particularly the leisure spaces that they inhabit and the way talk about and make use of the city's landscape.