HENB01098U English - Elective 1, topic 2: Introduction to American Studies

Volume 2016/2017



In this 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.

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, autobiographies, songs, short stories, poetry, novels, films, and photography. These primary texts will be supplemented by secondary reading in scholarship from the core textbooks, as well as critical essays in American studies and related fields.

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 three or four sub-sections or sub-themes—for example, freedom and race; the U.S. South; the 1960s; globalization and the “transnational turn” in American studies--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will consider specific aspects of American literature, history and culture through both the primary texts (literature, historical documents, visual culture, etc.)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.

Texts: (NB: final selection for fall 2016 to be confirmed): Neil Campbell and Alasdair Kean, American Cultural Studies: An Introduction to American Culture (2016); Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty!: An American History (2014); James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room (1956/2007); Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (2013). 

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Preparation
  • 162,75
  • Total
  • 204,75
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assesment