The American Studies Forum
FORUM COURSE DESCRIPTION

Writing Lives: The History of Biography and Autobiography in America

Craig Howes

Self-Display in Our Technological Age: American Online and Digital Lives

Craig Howes

20th Century American Literature

Mark Helbling

The Harlem Renaissance and African American Identity

Mark Helbling

Etched in Acid: Scott Fitgerald and Hollywood

Barry Menikoff

Jewel in the Crown: The Modern American Short Story

Barry Menikoff

American Literary Orientalism: Then and Now

Mari Yoshihara

Contemporary American Issues

Deane Neubauer

 
 
 

Writing Lives: The History of Biography and Autobiography in America
by Craig Howes

From the earliest Western contact accounts to today's blogs and entertainment shows, Americans have been recording and communicating stories of people's lives. This talk will point out some highlights of this history of writing American lives - captivity narratives, stories of personal success, slavery and escape tales, biographical dictionaries of regions and the nation, spiritual autobiographies, muckraking exposés, immigrant narratives. My thesis will be that the eternal debate on who or what an American is, or should be, has always been conducted in part through the published lives of its people.

TOP

Self-Display In Our Technological Age: American Online and Digital Lives
by Craig Howes

One of the unanticipated consequences of the revolution in communications technology has been the explosion of “personal” content now suddenly available to the entire world. Whether in the form of a blog, a page on one of the many online communities (Friendster, Facebook), a comment on a list, or a conversation in a chatroom, lives are being presented to the world, often in veiled or even deliberately misleading forms. This talk will discuss the social, political, and personal impact of this geometrically expanding realm of access to the contents, often self-published, of American lives.

TOP

20th Century American Literature
by Mark Helbling

The American Dream remains a cultural marker (a central and continuing ideal, a moral and ethical center) that Americans use to celebrate, to criticize, and to understand the America they experience. In this lecture we will explore the American writer as well as American culture through this protean moral construct first voiced by J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur in Letters From An American Farmer (1782).

TOP

The Harlem Renaissance and African American Identity
by Mark Helbling

The artists, writers, and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance (also known as the New Negro Movement and the New Negro Renaissance of the 1920s) were especially self conscious about their construction and reconstruction of African American identity. We will explore this effort in novels, poetry, and art (slides) and then trace their significance for writers and intellectuals today.

TOP

Etched in Acid: Scott Fitzgerald and Hollywood
by Barry Menikoff

Fitzgerald spent the last four years of his life in Hollywood, focused on learning the craft of screenwriting in order to support himself, his small daughter, and his wife Zelda, who had been institutionalized for mental illness. He failed as a screenwriter and this period is commonly viewed as a disastrous end to a formerly glorious career. However, Fitzgerald was ever the artist, continually adapting new experiences for his major work, which was always prose fiction. Hollywood provided this gifted writer the opportunity to develop a new manner in his writing, and the material for an original expose of a dominant aspect of American culture. It was Fitzgerald's final phase.

TOP

Jewel in the Crown: The Modern American Short Story
by Barry Menikoff

Nowhere is twentieth century American prose fiction more dominant than in the form of the modern short story. If Americans did not invent the form (some say they were co-parents with the French), they unquestionably made it their own. In the nineteenth century, Poe, Hawthorne, Melville and James dominated in shorter fictional forms; but in the twentieth, every great and near great writer contributed to the genre, in the process exploring the range of cultural and social themes in American life. This lecture will show how the modern American short story, in the hands of its major practitioners, is not simply the jewel in the crown of prose fiction, but the revelation of twentieth century American life in all its breadth and depth.

TOP

American Literary Orientalism: Then and Now
by Mari Yoshihara

From Transcendentalist thinkers of the nineteenth century, and through modernist poets of the early twentieth century to the beat generation of the 1960s, American writers have used their ideas about "the East" in their works as both subject matter and form. This presentation will discuss the politics and poetics of such literary appropriation from the East, particularly East Asia, focusing on writers such as Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell, and Pearl S. Buck. Then, the presentation will address more contemporary expressions of Orientalism in American literature and other forms of art and culture, as well as how Asian American writers and artists in turn have responded to Orientalism.

 

TOP

Contemporary American Issues
by Deane Neubauer


The falling US dollar, immigration, contracting regional economies, energy costs and crises in the sub-prime housing market are all indications that social and economic issues in the United States are changing. As the country faces a general election in 2008, these economically focused issues are fore grounded by the dominant question of US involvement in Iraq, which has polarized the country. In this lecture we will examine some of these issues, seek to better understand the factors that underlay them, link them to the political process and ask the extent to which as issues they derive from the broad set of factors that we call globalization.

TOP

SUGGESTED READINGS