HENB01351U English - Elective 1, topic 1: Introduction to American Studies
In this valgfag course, we will take an interdisciplinary approach to aspects of American history, literature and culture. We will consider not only J. Hector St. John de Crevecouer’s famous question “What is an American?” (from 1782’s Letters from an American Farmer) but also “What is American studies”? In other words, we will study the United States through the (inter- and multi-disciplinary) lens of American studies, while also self-reflexively considering the history and methodology of American studies itself—a scholarly field which has changed considerably over the last few decades. In particular, we will consider (in the last few weeks of the course) the recent “transnational turn” in American studies.
Rather than focusing only on, say, (highbrow) literature and history, we will analyze and discuss a wide range of primary “texts” from different cultural fields: sermons, essays, speeches, political documents, autobiography, songs, poetry, novels, non-fiction, and film. These primary texts will be supplemented by “secondary reading” in scholarship from the core textbooks, as well as critical essays in American studies, literary studies, and other fields (these supplementary essays are available through the Royal Library’s electronic resources, and/or will be made available through Absalon). Our secondary reading will draw heavily on Campbell and Kean’s American Cultural Studies: An Introduction to American Culture, and Eric Foner’s Give Me Liberty!: An American History. These two texts have been chosen partly because they are both organized thematically (Campbell and Kean around various subthemes within American studies; Foner around the concept of “freedom”), and this thematic approach informs the structure of the course itself.
This course does not take a strictly chronological approach to “American literature” or “American history”; nor does it try to establish “the basics” in U.S. history or “the canon” of U.S. literature. Instead, the course will be divided into four sub-sections or sub-themes in which we will consider specific aspects of American literature, history and culture through both the primary texts (literature, historical documents, visual culture, etc.) and the secondary reading (the academic scholarship). Each of the four sub-themes will last for either three or four weeks. There will also be links between and across the four sub-themes.
Students are encouraged to see “Introduction to American Studies” as a course that will help to prepare them to take further American studies courses at both the valgfag and MA level.
- 7,5 ECTS
- Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assesment