Arts In Context Electives

The following courses count towards the Arts in Context specialization. For more information, refer to the Major Requirements.

AMST 101(F)Artists Respond to Dangerous Times

This introductory studio art course focuses on how contemporary time-based artists engage their historical moment. We will look ways in which language, performance, and the moving image can be used to reckon with the forces that historical events and conditions press upon us as citizens, art makers, and living beings, and think about art-making as a dialogical social force that has the potential to press back. Students will develop their own video, performance, or written work in this vein. The course will give special consideration to particular forms of artist-made film and video: the essay film, activist/grassroots/social media, and performance-based and narrative media that reflect on historical events and the ongoing present. We will look at a variety of work, including: Fiona Banner, Catherine Bigelow, Wafaa Bilal, Nao Bustamante, Paul Chan, Adam Curtis, Jean-Luc Godard, Danny Glover, Dara Greenwald, Sharon Hayes, Spike Lee, Zoe Leonard, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Anna Deveare Smith, Lisa Steele, Agnes Varda, The Yes Men, Haskell Wexler, and collectives including ACT UP, Pink Bloque, TVTV, and Occupy Wall Street. Readings will include work by Margaret Atwood, Jerome Bruner, Judith Butler, Gregg Bordowitz, Joan Didion, George Lipsitz, Chantal Mouffe, Paul Virilio, David Foster Wallace, among others. [ more ]

Taught by: Silas Howard

Catalog details

AMST 108First-Hand America

Not offered this year

Gonzo journalism, the nonfiction novel, literary journalism, the "new journalism." Before "American Studies" was named and developed as an academic field the study of American culture thrived in the able hands of writers, reformers and amateur anthropologists whose works continue to form the basis of the curriculum. This course is an introduction to American culture through the eyes of extraordinary writers who work as public intellectuals, addressing a readership that reaches beyond the university. We will travel to Alaska with John McPhee, to Miami with Joan Didion, to Sing Sing prison with Ted Conover, and to the Hmong community of Northern California with Ann Fadiman, examining at every stop both the cultures in which these acute observers immerse themselves and their interpretive techniques. Works will be drawn from the following list of authors: Jane Addams, Zora Neal Hurston, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, Studs Terkel, John Edgar Wideman, Peggy Orenstein, Jon Krakauer, Susan Orlean, and Mitchell Duneier. [ more ]

AMST 156Thirteen Ways of Looking at Jazz

Not offered this year

Taking its title from the Wallace Stevens poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," which interprets the blackbird in different ways, this course similarly explores a more complex, multi-layered perspective on jazz, from jazz and American democracy to jazz in visual art. Accordingly, the course introduces students to several genres, including historical documents, cultural criticism, music, literature, film, photography and art. The course does not draw on a musicological method but rather a socio-cultural analysis of the concept, music and its effect--so students are not required to have any prior musical knowledge or ability. In this writing intensive course, students will write short close analyses of multiple types of media, ultimately building up to an argumentative essay. This EDI course explores the musical expressions of the culturally diverse peoples of African descent in the New World, as well as the myriad ways in which representations of jazz signify on institutional power, reaffirm dominant U.S. and/or European hierarchies of race, gender and class, and signal inequality in order to contest it. [ more ]

AMST 166Politics and Prose: Invisible Man in Historical Context

Not offered this year

"I am an invisible man." So begins Ralph Ellison's treatise on black life in the United States in the middle of the twentieth century. Ellison's book Invisible Man appeared in 1952, won the National Book Award, and secured a prominent place in the canons of both American and African American arts and letters. Often studied for its literary crafting and for the ways it echoes the work of classic American writers, Invisible Man iterates the black past as it affects its protagonist. This course examines the novel and its themes in historical context: debates among black ideologues and leaders; links between culture and protest; and effects of black migration and urbanization. In addition to the novel the course also includes readings in black sociology, anthropology, law, literature, political science, education, folklife, and music. [ more ]

AMST 168(F)1968-1969: Two Years in America

These two years were tumultuous ones worldwide. The escalation of the war in Vietnam, the Soviet invasion of Prague, the student uprisings in Paris and Japan, and the racial politics in the Summer Olympics held in Mexico City all had their counterparts that reverberated in the streets, college campuses, the halls of Congress, movie theaters, and concert halls and rock festivals in the United States. This first-year seminar will examine some of the major events of this time period in America: the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Democratic Convention in Chicago, as well as cultural trends such as the development of the anti-war movement, the push for curricular reforms on college campuses, and the rise of the "counter culture." [ more ]

AMST 205Chicana/o Film and Video

Not offered this year

Hollywood cinema has long been fascinated with the border between the United States and Mexico. This course will examine representations of the U.S.-Mexico border, Mexican Americans, and Chicana/os in both Hollywood film and independent media. We will consider how positions on nationalism, race, gender, identity, migration, and history are represented and negotiated through film. We will begin by analyzing Hollywood "border" and gang films before approaching Chicana/o-produced features, independent narratives, and experimental work. This course will explore issues of film and ideology, genre and representation, nationalist resistance and feminist critiques, queer theory and the performative aspects of identity.Through a focus on Chicana/o representation, the course explores a wide spectrum of film history (from the silent era to the present) and considers numerous genres. By introducing various interdisciplinary approaches and theoretical methods related to race, representation, and the media, the course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative's themes of critical theorization and power and privilege. [ more ]

AMST 215(S)Experimental Asian American Writing

Asian American literature did not begin in the 1980s with Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. Nor has the writing primarily been confined to autobiographical accounts of generational conflict, divided identities, and glimpses of Chinatown families. Asian American literature in English began with poetry in the late nineteenth century, and has encompassed a variety of aesthetic styles across the last century--from Modernism to New York School poetry to protest poetry to digital poetics. This course will explore Asian American writings that have pushed formal (and political) boundaries in the past 100+ years, with a particular focus on avant-garde writers working today. We will look at such authors as Jose Garcia Villa, Chuang Hua, Wong May, Theresa H., Cha, John Yau, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Tan Lin, Prageeta Sharma, Bhanu Kapil, and Tao Lin. [ more ]

AMST 219(S)Introduction to Asian American Literature

Asian people have been living in what is now called the US since before the founding of the nation, and there is a significant body of literature written by Asian Americans from at least the 19th century, with the rise of transpacific migration on a large scale. Yet the history of something called "Asian American literature" begins with the revolutionary movements of the late 1960s, and has been reimagined in dramatically different ways over the subsequent decades. In this course, we'll read some of the major texts on which various concepts of Asian American literature have been grounded, along with others that complicate the category in useful ways. Readings may include works by Carlos Bulosan, Shawn Wong, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Jessica Hagedorn, Hisaye Yamamoto, Jose Garcia Villa, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, HT Tsiang, Linh Dinh, Amitava Kumar, Cynthia Kadohata, Sesshu Foster, and Lynda Barry. [ more ]

AMST 220(F)Introduction to African American Literature

What does it mean, socially, culturally, historically, personally, and spiritually, to be African American? No single, simple answer suffices, but African American literature as a genre is defined by its ongoing engagement with this complex question. This course will examine a series of texts that in various ways epitomize the fraught literary grappling with the entailments of American blackness. Readings will include texts by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Amiri Baraka, Toni Morrison, and Ishmael Reed. [ more ]

AMST 229(S)Reel Jesus: Reading the Christian Bible and Film in the U.S.A.

In this course we examine some of the myriad ways that Christian biblical narratives have appeared in certain movies. What are the overt and subtle ways that these films seek to interpret and employ biblical texts? Why do they draw upon the texts they do and read them as they read them? What can cinematic interpretations of biblical texts reveal to us about how these texts are used in broader U.S. culture? How does an awareness of this scriptural dimension in a work of "popular culture" affect our interpretation of both the film and the scriptural text's meanings? How do varying interpretations of biblical texts help us to understand cinematic meaning? By assuming that we can read both biblical texts and films in multiple and contradictory ways, this class can use film as the occasion for interpreting, analyzing, and debating the meanings, cultural functions, and affective responses generated by biblical narratives in film. Finally, this course asks us to analyze how movies may interpret certain biblical texts in order to crystallize and reflect certain political, economic, ethnic, racial, sexual, and social parameters of U.S. cultures. Attention to the biblical imagination of U.S. cinema and the cinematic imagination of biblical texts will necessitate interdisciplinary study of text and representation and a concern with the implications of ways in which we read texts and films. While this course will read selected biblical and extra-canonical texts, including selections from canonical and non-canonical gospels, the letters of Paul, and the book of Revelation, our foci will be on the way that movies (and the people who make them and watch them) seek to make meaning out of and with reference to these biblical texts. [ more ]

AMST 240(S)Latina/o Language Politics: Hybrid Voices

In this course we will focus on issues of language and identity in the contemporary linguistic practices and literary production of various Latina/o communities. We will ask: How are cultural values and material conditions expressed through Latina/o language and literature? How does Latina/o identity challenge traditional notions of the relationship between language, culture, and nation? In what ways might Latina/o literary and linguistic practices serve as tools for social change? Building on an overview of common linguistic phenomena such as code-switching (popularly known as "Spanglish") and Latina/o English, we will also examine bilingual education, recent linguistic legislation, and the English Only movement. Throughout the course we will survey texts culled from a variety of literary genres, including theatre, autobiography, novels, and poetry by writers such as Sandra Cisneros, Junot Diaz, Martin Espada, Victor Hernandez Cruz, Dolores Prida, Richard Rodriguez, and Michele Serros, among others. Both directly and/or indirectly, these texts address Latina/o language politics, as well as the broader themes of power, community, ethno-racial identity, gender, sexuality, class, and hybridity. [ more ]

AMST 264(F)American Art and Architecture, 1600 to Present

American art is often looked at as a provincial version of the real thing--i.e., European art--and found wanting. This course examines American architecture, painting, and sculpture on its own terms, in the light of the social, ideological and economic forces that shaped it. Special attention will be paid to such themes as the Puritan legacy and attitudes toward art; the making of art in a commercial society; and the tension between the ideal and the real in American works of art. [ more ]

AMST 265Pop Art

Not offered this year

The use of commercial and mass media imagery in art became recognized as an international phenomenon in the early 1960s. Items such as comic strips, advertising, movie stills, television programs, soup cans, "superstars" and a variety of other accessible and commonplace objects inspired the subject matter, form and technique. This course will critically examine the history and legacy of Pop Art by focusing on its social and aesthetic contexts. An important component of the course involves developing skills in analyzing visual images, comparing them with other forms, and relating them to their historical context. [ more ]

AMST 272(S)American Postmodern Fiction

American fiction took a turn at World War II: the simplest way to name the turn is from modernism to postmodernism. The most obvious mark of postmodern narration is its self-consciousness; postmodern books tend to be about themselves, even when they are most historical or realistic. Already a paradox emerges: why would World War II make narratives more self-reflexive? The first book in the course, and the best for approaching this paradox, is Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Subsequent books: Nabokov's Pale Fire, Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, Morrison's Beloved, DeLillo's White Noise, Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Johnson's Jesus' Son. [ more ]

AMST 300Lessons of 'The Game': The Wire and American Culture

Not offered this year

The critically acclaimed television program, The Wire, ran for five seasons on Home Box Office (HBO) between 2002 and 2008. Set in "inner city" Baltimore, the program addressed a wide array of topics, including, but not limited to, the urban drug trade, law enforcement, local city politics, labor unions, education, and the newspaper industry. Though a work of "fiction," sociologist William Julius Wilson has called the show an important and instructive portrayal of the "deep inequality in inner-city America." By contrast, some scholars and critics have decried the series and indeed, courses like this one, as examples of mainstream America's fascination with and acceptance of African American drug use, criminal tendencies, and corruption. In this course, we will not deconstruct The Wire per se, but use select episodes from the series to explore key issues in Africana Studies, ranging from political geography to a history of Baltimore and the "War on Drugs." Students should have some familiarity with the show. Africana Studies will show select episodes during Winter Study. Readings will include texts about African American urban life, such as Elijah Anderson's Code of the Street and Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader for a Day. Due to its attention to crime, drug addiction, violence, and urban decay, this course is a part of the Gaudino Danger Initiative. [ more ]

AMST 305Cities of the Anglophone Chinese Imagination

Not offered this year

The current academic vogue for the "diasporic" and the "transnational" has shifted the emphasis away from viewing ethnic literatures solely, or primarily, as minority national literatures and towards reading them more "globally." Such a re-framing, while potentially exciting, raises new questions. For example, what exactly is shared by subjects in a given diaspora? Does the term "diaspora" necessarily invoke the specter of racial essentialism? What happens to concepts of of race, racialization and racism when one moves away from local and national politics? Is the idea of a diasporic subject much less vexing than the idea of a racially minoritized person? How important a role does the shared English language play in these diasporas? In this course, we will look at the works of a specific diasporic literary group, English-language writers of Chinese descent, living in England, former British settler colonies (the United States, Canada, Australia) and other sites in Asia formerly colonized by the British. We will consider how geographic sites function as material spaces and places of the imagination and how the English language is itself a material and imaginary space. [ more ]

AMST 307Experimental African American Poetry

Not offered this year

Contemporary African American poets in various cities and towns across the nation--from New York City, Providence, and Newark to Durham, Chicago, and Los Angeles--are currently producing a vibrant and thriving body of formally experimental work, yet this poetry is largely unknown to readers both within and outside the academy. Formally innovative African American poetry defamiliarizes what we normally expect of "black writing" and also pushes us to question our assumptions and presumptions about black identity, "identity politics," experimental writing (is the avant-garde implicitly raced?), formalism, socially "relevant" writing, the (false) dichotomy of form versus content, the black "community," digital poetics, and other issues of race and aesthetics. This course will examine the work of living poets who range in age from 30's to 80's, including Amiri Baraka, Ed Roberson, Nate Mackey, Will Alexander, Harryette Mullen, Tyrone Williams, John Keene, Fred Moten, Erica Hunt, and Renee Gladman. We will also look at the work of some of their avant-garde predecessors in the twentieth century (such as Bob Kaufman, Gwendolyn Brooks, Norman Pritchard, Russell Atkins), as well as critical work by Mackey, Moten, and Aldon Nielsen, among others. [ more ]

AMST 314Groovin' the Written Word: The Role of Music in African American Literature

Not offered this year

In an interview with Paul Gilroy, Toni Morrison once said, "Music provides a key to the whole medley of Afro-American artistic practices." Morrison is not the only one who believes that music speaks to numerous aspects of the African American experience. From Sterling Brown and Zora Neale Hurston to John Edgar Wideman and Suzan Lori-Parks, many African American authors have drawn on music to take political stands, shape creative aesthetics, and articulate black identity. In this course, students will explore the work of these authors and more, investigating music's ability to represent and critique African American culture in their literature. Texts will cover a range of literary forms including poetry, plays, short stories and novels alongside theoretical and critical essays. Students will discuss such key issues as assimilation into mainstream culture, authenticity claims on black music, and music used as a tool for protest. Additionally, class assignments will include musical examples in spirituals/gospel, blues, jazz, and rock/rhythm and blues. While this class requires students to practice in-depth literary and performance analysis skills, students are not required to have technical musical knowledge. [ more ]

AMST 315Blackness 2.0: Race, Film and New Technologies

Not offered this year

Media theorists have raised three key questions regarding representations of race (or the lack thereof) within contemporary media forms: (1) Is race a liability in the 21st century where utopian forecasts suggest a race-free or `post-race' future" (2) Is there more to new media and race than assumptions about a 'digital divide'? (3) Are race distinctions truly eliminated with digital technologies? In this course we will respond to these questions by investigating the nuanced ways that race becomes constructed in popular media forms. Although we will largely focus on representations of blackness in modern film, we will also explore the implications of `new' medias and technologies upon the categories of race, gender, and sexuality. We will, for example, consider how avatar-based social and entertainment medias become viable forums for conceptualizing race, and whether or not these formats are somehow `better' spaces in which racialized `bodies' can exist. Additional discussion topics may include: how racial discourses in the `real world' are (or are not) reshaped and redefined in the virtual world; blogosphere politics; social networking; gaming and the virtual world; activism on the web; and fandom in the twitter era. [ more ]

AMST 317Black Migrations: African American Performance at Home and Abroad

Not offered this year

In this course, students will investigate, critique and define the concepts migration and diaspora with primary attention to the experiences of African Americans in the United States and Europe. Drawing on a broad definition of performance, students will explore everything from writing and painting to sports and dance to inquire how performance reflects, critiques and negotiates migratory experiences in the African diaspora. For example, how did musician Sidney Bechet's migration from New Orleans to Chicago to London influence the early jazz era? How did Katherine Dunham's dance performances in Germany help her shape a new black dance aesthetic? Why did writer James Baldwin go all the way to Switzerland to write his first novel on black, religious culture in Harlem? What drew actor/singer Paul Robeson to Russia, and why did the U.S. revoke his passport in response to his speeches abroad? These questions will lead students to investigate multiple migrations in the African diasporic experience and aid our exploration of the reasons for migration throughout history and geography. [ more ]

AMST 323Comic Lives: Graphic Novels & Dangerous Histories of the African Diaspora

Not offered this year

This course explores how the graphic novel has been an effective, provocative and at times controversial medium for representing racialized histories. Drawing on graphic novels such as Jeremy Love's Bayou and Ho Che Anderson's King: A Comic Biography, this course illustrates and critiques multiple ways the graphic novel commingles word and image to create more sensorial access into ethnic traumas, challenges and interventions in critical moments of resistance throughout history. Students will practice analyzing graphic novels and comic strips, with the help of critical essays, reviews and film; the chosen texts will center on Africana cultures, prompting students to consider how the graphic novel may act as a useful alternate history for marginalized peoples. During the course, students will keep a journal with images, themes and reflections and will use Comic Life software and ipads to create their own graphic short stories based on historical and/or autobiographical narratives. [ more ]

AMST 331New Orleans as Muse: Literature, Music, Art, Film and Theatre in the City

Not offered this year

This course will look at the representation of a city and how it has influenced artists. Students will read, listen to, and view a selection of the literature, music, film and art that represent the city from both pre-flooding and current re-building. Reading selections will include examples such as Harper's Weekly (Lafrcadio Hearn), The Awakening (Kate Chopin), A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams), New Orleans Sketches (William Faulkner), The Moviegoer (Walker Percy), A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy O'Toole), Why New Orleans Matters (Tom Piazza), One Dead in the Attic (Chris Rose). Film examples such as A Streetcar Named Desire, An Interview with a Vampire, The Curious Case of Benjamin Briton, When the Levees Broke, Treme, Waiting for Godot (in the 9th Ward). Music selections from examples such as Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, The Meters, Kermit Ruffins and the Rebirth Brass Band. Art selections will come from a variety of sources such as THE OGDEN Museum of Southern Art and Prospect 1, 2, & 3. [ more ]

AMST 338(F)The American Renaissance

The mid-nineteenth century was evidently a good time to be an American writer. Thoreau's Walden and Melville's Moby-Dick, Emerson's essays, Hawthorne's and Poe's fiction, abolitionist writings by Harriet Jacobs and Harriet Wilson, and the groundbreaking poetry of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson were all produced around this time. We will read through this essential period of American literature by asking how key authors imagine the relationship between the self and its community. Does the individual exist in splendid isolation? Or are we terrifyingly open to the people around us? These texts will help us explore the politics of belonging as they played out in a nation headed toward Civil War and conscious of its fractures. We'll see how much we can make this past work speak to our present moment. And we will jump in to arguments among scholars about who belongs in the canon of great American literature, whether it's a good idea to categorize texts by time and place, and what we should be reading literature for. [ more ]

AMST 346(S)Latinas/os and the Media: From Production to Consumption

As Latina/o Studies and Media Studies scholars have long noted, the media plays a key role in the construction of (trans)national identities. As such, this interdisciplinary course will focus on the areas of advertising, print media, radio, internet, television, media policy and audience studies in an attempt to answer the following: How do Latinas/os construct identity (and have their identities constructed for them) through the media? How are Latina/o community practices shaped by the media, and vice versa? What research methodologies best capture the complex relationship between consumer, producer, and media text? How are Latina/o stereotypes constructed and circulated in mass media? Where do issues of consumer agency come into play? How might media provide a means for affecting social change at both the local and global levels? In what ways do popular media impact our understanding of ethno-racial identities, gender, sexuality, class and nation? Readings include works by scholars such as Arlene Davila, Juan Gonzalez, Stuart Hall, Henry Jenkins, America Rodriguez, Joseph Torres, and Angharad Valdivia, among others. [ more ]

AMST 372 T(F)American Modernist Fiction

Modernism among writers began in the second half of the nineteenth century and continued through perhaps World War II; we shall concentrate on fiction from around the 1920s, by such writers as Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Toomer, Cather, and Stein. Modernism tends to be difficult and elitist, though such writers as Fitzgerald and Hemingway tried to make popular careers out of its methods. Its reception has always been controversial and paradoxical: modernism either unleashes revolutionary thinking or displaces it (and either alternative may be its value); it either allows expression to repressed forms of sexuality or re-represses them; it either registers new racial realities or is specifically designed to keep racial structures in place. In this tutorial we shall address both American modernist fiction and its reception, and thus will conduct a continuing investigation of the relation of obscure meaning and imputed historical significance. [ more ]

AMST 391(S)American Portraits

We've all seen pictures of ourselves that we thought got it right, and others we've rejected as wrong. What exactly makes the difference? This class will weigh the powers of words and pictures to represent persons, asking how artists in each medium try to define and convey something that feels like the truth of character. Is that truth hidden deep in our souls? Or is it the case that what you see, moment to moment, is all there is? We'll think through these aesthetic and psychological questions with a range of (mostly) nineteenth-century texts and an array of visual media. We'll see, too, how portraits confer or deny political and social power. Our texts will give us examples of the deadly male gaze (Poe), the mania for phrenology, the potential for daguerreotypes to reveal a villainous heart (Hawthorne), the existential and political consequences of passing (Larsen), the possibility that you are what you wear (James), and the promise of fingerprinting to prove who's who (Twain). These instances of fixing or manipulating identity will show us how slippery and how potent the concept of identity has been -- and still is -- in American culture. The class will participate in the college's Exploring Diversity Initiative by encouraging students to be critically aware of the stakes and the consequences of one's visibility or invisibility, to explore the intertwined history of misperception and subversive camouflage, and to reflect on the uses of different versions of selfhood. [ more ]

AMST 403New Asian American, African American, Native American, and Latina/o Writing

Not offered this year

Critics reading minority writing often focus on its thematic--i.e., sociological--content. Such literature is usually presumed to be inseparable from the "identity"/body of the writer and read as autobiographical, ethnographic, representational, exotic. At the other end of the spectrum, avant-garde writing is seen to concern itself "purely" with formal questions, divorced from the socio-historical (and certainly not sullied by the taint of race). In the critical realm we currently inhabit, in which "race" is opposed to the "avant-garde," an experimental minority writer can indeed seem an oxymoron. In this class we will closely read recent work by Asian American, African American, Native American and Latino/a writers which challenges preconceptions about ethnic literature, avant-garde writing, genre categorization, among other things. The writing done by these mostly young, mostly urban, poets and fiction writers is some of the most exciting being written in the United States today; their texts push the boundaries of aesthetic form while simultaneously engaging questions of culture, politics, and history. Reading them forces us to re-think our received notions about literature. Authors to be read include Will Alexander, Sherwin Bitsui, Monica de la Torre, Sesshu Foster, Renee Gladman, Bhanu Kapil, Tan Lin, Tao Lin, Ed Roberson, James Thomas Stevens, Roberto Tejada, and Edwin Torres. [ more ]

AMST 403American Music

Not offered this year

One way to write the cultural history of music is to trace the authority with which different people can say "You are hurting my ears." So writes Carlo Rotella, one of the historians whose work we will read in this course as we approach American popular music as an object of cultural studies and the new, interdisciplinary field of sound studies. We will study particular performers and styles (e.g. Elvis, Billie Holiday, punk and hip hop) in the context of the histories of labor; social migration; political and economic shifts; racial ideologies; and the culture industry. Moving from the late-nineteenth-century to the present, and through agrarian to industrial to postindustrial social configurations, we will study music and extra-musical noise as a means of expressing resistance and accommodation, as the basis of community-formation and disruption. We will pay special attention to uses by American musicians and audiences of forms originating outside of American geopolitical borders in the context of global capitalism and American hegemony. Texts include works of history, cultural criticism, sound culture, and ethnomusicology; audio performance recorded in the field, in the studio, and in concert; and documentary and fiction films. [ more ]

AMST 410American Avant Garde Poetry Since 1950

Not offered this year

This course examines American poetry from what one critic has called "the other side of the century"--the lineage of poetry descending from two Modernist forebears, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. Focusing on experimental poetry since 1950, we will read poems and essays by those working in Black Mountain, New York School, Beat, Black Arts, Language, Conceptual, Flarf, and digital poetries and poetics. [ more ]

AMST 415Edward Said

Not offered this year

Edward Said (1935-2003), one of the major critics of the last century, is best known for his groundbreaking 1978 book Orientalism, which inaugurated the field of postcolonial studies, and for his activist work on behalf of the Palestinian peoples. But his intellectual interests were wide-ranging: from French literary theory to Vico to Middle East politics to Glenn Gould. A true public intellectual, Said was a rarity among university academics. Besides writing several important scholarly books, he also wrote for various non-academic publications, such as The Nation, Al-Ahram, and The London Review of Books; co-founded, with the musician Daniel Barenboim, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra; and, from 1977-1991, served as a member of the Palestinian National Council. In this course, we will focus on works that represent different, though interconnected, facets of Said's oeuvre: his more strictly literary critical work (Beginnings and The World, The Text, and the Critic), his work on society and culture (Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism), his writings on the Palestinian question and the Middle East (The Question of Palestine, Covering Islam, From Oslo to Iraq), his writings on music (Parallels and Paradoxes co-authored with Daniel Barenboim), and his late work (On Late Style). We will also examine criticism of his work--Orientalism in particular. [ more ]

AMST 462Art of California: Pacific Standard Time

Not offered this year

In this course, we will study the visual arts and culture of California after 1960 and consider the region's place in modern art history. We will focus on a series of recent exhibitions organized as part of a Getty initiative entitled Pacific Standard Time. Diverse in scope, these shows explored important developments in postwar art in California, including, feminist art, African American assemblage, Chicano collectives, Modernist architecture, craft, and queer activism. In this seminar, we will pursue research projects directly related to the art exhibitions we study, and examine southern California conceptualism, photography, performance, painting, sculpture (including, assemblage and installation), and video by artists both canonical and lesser known. Student projects will analyze the critical responses to the exhibitions, while also exploring the roles of archives, art criticism, and curatorial practice in contemporary art history. Class meetings and projects at the Williams College Museum of Art will provide the opportunity to see and study artworks first hand, especially with the exhibition Now Dig This!: Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960-1980, which will be on display at WCMA during the fall semester. This course fulfills the Exploring Diversity Initiative requirement as it offers students a comparative study of cultures and societies and provides various interdisciplinary perspectives on the art and visual culture of a specific region. [ more ]

AMST 465(S)Race and Abstraction

Minority artists--writers and visual artists mainly and, to a lesser degree, musicians--face a difficult "double bind" when creating works of art: the expectation is that they, like their racially marked bodies, will exhibit their difference by means of concrete signifiers (details, tropes, narratives, themes) of racial difference. Thus, the work is judged primarily in terms of its embodied sociological content (material, empirical) and not by "abstract" standards of aesthetic subtlety, philosophical sophistication, and so on. At the same time, in the popular and academic imaginary, minority subjects and artists poets occupy a single abstract signifying category--homogeneous, undifferentiated, "other," marginalized, non-universal--while racially "unmarked" (white) artists occupy the position of being universal and individual at once. The irony, of course, is that, say, an African American poet's being read as an abstract signifier does not mean that the black subject or writer is seen as capable of engaging in abstract ideas. This course will ask questions about the problem of race and abstraction by looking at the work of various African American and Asian American writers, visual artists and musicians--including Will Alexander, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, David Hammons, Yayoi Kusama, Tan Lin, Nathaniel Mackey, and Cecil Taylor--as well as critics. We will pay particular attention to formally experimental works. This course will ask questions about the problem of race and abstraction by looking at the work of various African American and Asian American writers, visual artists and musicians--including Will Alexander, John Keene, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, John Yau, Cecil Taylor, David Hammons, and Yoko Ono--as well as critics. We will pay particular attention to formally experimental works. [ more ]