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Courses offered by American Studies are open to all students.  Students do not necessarily have to be working toward the Certificate to take courses offered by the Certificate Program.

Fall 2019

ASCP 81500: Working in the Dark: Queer Takes on the Night, Tuesdays, 4:15-6:15pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Tyler T. Schmidt

Locating itself in critical conversation with Toni Morrison’s formulation of “playing in the dark” which investigates, in part, the roles race plays in creative practice, this course explores queer meanings and makings of the night, with particular attention to the labors of the nocturnal. Our collective definition of nightwork will also consider the epistemological challenges of working/writing in the dark, at the limits of understanding and on the edges of sense. Our encounters with nocturnal spaces, figures, and practices will draw from the following sources and sites: surrealist spectacle and dreamwork in Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood; the afterhours of Shane Vogel’s The Scene of Harlem Cabaret; James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room; Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake; the occult poetics of James Merrill; the eulogies of the New York School poets; the short stories of Tennessee Williams; Samuel Stewart; Samuel Delany’s The Motion of Light in Water; bathhouses and backrooms; Gary Fisher; punk-drag performance; Joshua Chambers-Letson’s After the Party; Juana María Rodríguez on queer nightlife; Fred Moten’s Black and Blur; and José Esteban Muñoz’s Disidentifications (in honor of its 20th birthday).

ASCP 82000: Voices of the City: accessibility, reciprocity, and self-representation in place-based community research, Thursdays, 2:00-4:00pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Tarry Hum and Prithi Kanakamedala.  Crosslisted with IDS 81620.

Scholars active in place-based or participatory action research are committed to documenting community narratives and neighborhoods. It is central to our work, rooted in social justice, that these communities are not just represented, but that they have equitable stake in the project. Yet practitioners across the city struggle with core issues of accessibility, reciprocity, self-representation, and equity within the communities they work with. Who do place-based researchers represent, and does our work empower communities to tell their own stories? What histories do we contest and perpetuate with this work? And, who gets to participate? This inter-disciplinary course combines best or effective practices in Public History, Oral History, and Urban Planning to consider a number of projects in New York City that seek to document communities and narratives about the city that are not traditionally represented.

Spring 2019

ASCP 81000: Introduction to American Studies: A Queer, Cold War: American Studies and the 1950s , Tuesday, 4:15-6:15pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Tyler T. Schmidt

As a way to better understand the conceptual tensions and methods of our own research in American Studies, this course will unearth connections and dissonances between key texts of the field from the 1950s and more recent American Studies projects that revisit the era in order to critique, reposition, or recover overlooked cultural sites that shape (and at times misinform) dominant conceptions of the “Cold War” and the “Fifties.” Our critical reading of Cold War formations of American Studies will begin with a timely re-evaluation of some of the era’s key research and criticism by F. O. Matthiessen, Alfred Kinsey and Gunnar Myrdal, and Raymond Williams. Using insights about American Studies--its ideological limitations and ways of working--gained from these foundational texts, the majority of the class will be spent discussing and evaluating critical race and queer interventions that deepen and complicate our understandings of the 1950s.
We will focus on a variety of cultural sites in order to better understand the era’s changing sexual and racial cultural practices, including the NYC downtown art scene, mid-century prisons, jazz performance, lesbian cinema, the Black avant-garde, confessional poetry, pulp thrillers, civil rights portraits, and feminist activism. Partial list of writers included in this investigation: Imani Perry, Penny Von Eschen, José Muñoz, Deborah Nelson, Regina Kunzel, Jodi Kim, Mary Helen Washington, David K. Johnson,  Robert Corber, and Roderick Ferguson. For their final projects, students will take some of the methods and/or ideas and theories about American cultures highlighted in the course and apply them to a period, cultural site, or archive-based project directly related to their research interests.

ASCP 82000: Multiethnic Graphic Narratives, Thursday, 2:00-4:00pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Caroline Hong

This course focuses on multiethnic graphic narrative as a cultural form and practice. Through in-depth analyses of a wide range of texts, we will develop a vocabulary for talking about comics as a medium and examine how that vocabulary is used in different contexts, to tell different kinds of stories for/about different kinds of communities. We will read both independent and mainstream comics by artists/writers such as Jessica Abel, Kyle Baker, Lynda Barry, Thi Bui, Will Eisner, Kate Gavino, the Hernandez brothers, John Jennings, Mat Johnson, Derek Kirk Kim, Henry (Yoshitaka) Kiyama, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, Scott McCloud, Aaron McGruder, Tony Medina, Miné Okubo, Kwanza Osajyefo, Greg Pak, Arigon Starr, Jillian Tamaki, Mariko Tamaki, Whit Taylor, Tak Toyoshima, Adrian Tomine, GB Tran, Wendy Xu, and Gene Luen Yang. We will study these works alongside theoretical and critical readings that deal with comics and visual cultures. We will think about how the hybrid visual-verbal form of comics, and these texts in particular, complicate our understandings of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, ability, and so on, while engaging intersectionality and the contested politics of representation and resistance.

ASCP 82000: History of American Theatre: Shifting Constructions of American Identity in 20th Century U.S. Theatre, Monday, 4:15pm-6:15pm, 3 credits, Professor Annette Saddik. (crosslisted with THEA 86100)
This course will cover the work of key playwrights and theatre movements in the United States in the context of changing social, cultural, and political developments from the 1920s to the present in order to examine shifting representations of American identity in U.S. theatre, or what it means to "be American" on the stage in terms of gender, social class, sexuality, ethnicity, race, and the concept of family.  The course will begin with the work of the Provincetown Players, and explore the role of social class and gender relations in plays such as Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape (1921) and Susan Glaspell's The Verge (1922).  We will go on to discuss how playwrights responded to negotiations of identity during depressed economic times, the growing struggles of the individual under postwar industrial capitalism after World War II, and the oppression of basic freedoms during the McCarthy era.  Finally, we cover the changing dramatic styles that ushered in the 1960s and beyond, as the U.S. theatre embraced an era of diversity and inclusion that destabilized the notion of fixed identity and questioned the nature of reality, responding to the political events that shaped the nation. The course will include the work of Eugene O'Neill, Susan Glaspell, Elmer Rice, Clifford Odets, Tennessee Williams, William Inge, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, María Irene Fornés, Adrienne Kennedy, David Mamet, Sam Shepard, Paula Vogel, John Guare, Tony Kushner, August Wilson, John Patrick Shanley, Naomi Wallace, and Lisa D'amour.  Assignments will include two essays and an oral presentation.  Essay #1 (7-10 pages) will be worth 30 percent; Essay #2 (10-15 pages) will be worth 40 percent; and the in-class presentation of 20-30 minutes will be worth 30 percent.
ASCP 81500: Mediating Race: Technology, Performance, Politics, and Aesthetics in Popular Culture, Wednesday, 2:00pm-4:00pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Cathy N. Davidson and Professor Racquel Gates
Futures Initiative course – IDS 81630
What does it mean to be “cool,” to be “fierce,” or to “slay”? This course focuses on technologies, techniques, performance, and style (including fashion) as components contributing to our ideas, representations, conventions, and stereotypes of race. More specifically, this course asks how cinematic and media aesthetics have contributed to how we identify and “read” blackness in popular media. Rather than treat film, television, and new media as straightforward reflections of social realities, this course will analyze how the media established, and continues to shape, our understandings of what blackness “looks” like. This course asks how popular culture has created the aesthetic vocabulary for how media consumers “read” blackness in all of its various incarnations.
This is an ideal course for anyone in the humanities and social sciences, for those interested in traditional and new media, and for anyone looking for sophisticated, critical, and original approaches to issues of race, racism, and representation in American popular culture.  In addition, the course will be using a number of active learning pedagogical techniques that will both make this a lively “workshop” of ideas to which every student will contribute and will offer anyone who is teaching, at any level, a new set of methods, activities, and ideas about active learning and the teaching of controversial, difficult, and complicated subject matter.
ASCP 81500: Afrofuturism—Race and Science Fiction, Wednesday, 11:45am-1:45pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Jonathan Gray and Professor Joy Sanchez-Taylor
Futures Initiative course – IDS 81640
In 1994 Mark Dery defined Afrofuturism as “speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the contexts of twentieth-century technoculture,” locating its origins in the early work of Samuel Delany (and O. Butler? and Sun Ra?). Our seminar takes Dery’s definition as a point of departure to examine the fiction, films, graphic narratives and music videos produced in the sub-genre of Afrofuturism. Because Afrofuturist expression runs the gamut from literary (science) fiction to popular music, it is incumbent for graduate students interested in African American and Africana literature and culture, American Studies, popular culture studies, and science fiction and fantasy to engage in the necessarily interdisciplinary inquiry that Afrofuturism demands. Indeed, the question of Afro-futurity informs recent creative work (Junot Diaz’s “Monstro,” HBO’s Westworld) and technical innovation (Black Twitter) that would seem to fall outside of an Afrofuturist paradigm. Thus, our exploration of this topic will problematize our understandings of speculative fiction (also known as science fiction or sci-fi), question how the imbrication of technology into our lives transforms human subjectivity, and survey literary theory to arrive at an understanding of how Afrofuturism has developed since the mid-20th century and how it promises to propagate itself into the future.
This course is grounded in student participation. Students in the course will thoroughly investigate primary and secondary sources on Afrofuturism and will play an active role in the course by taking turns as facilitators of class discussions and through the completion of a class project with a digital humanities component.
ASCP 82000: Critical Race Scholarship: Theories and Pedagogies, Thursdays, 11:45am-1:45pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Michelle Billies and Professor Soniya Munshi
Futures Initiative course – IDS 81650
In this interdisciplinary course, graduate students will engage with critical race scholarship to build from and integrate this scholarship into their own research and pedagogy. Readings will span an expansive array of critical race theories and methods. Scholarly traditions will include transnational and diasporic feminisms; Black geographies and Caribbean philosophies; indigenous studies and critical ethnic studies; critical whiteness studies; queer studies; disability studies; activist scholarship; and, literature addressing pedagogical approaches in these areas. Students will use course readings to craft a writing project useful in their research or teaching. They may deepen an understanding of a particular theorist or body of work; rewrite the philosophical or theoretical underpinning of their research; create a course, syllabi and/or set of teaching plans; collaborate with another student to generate theory or a team-taught course; examine internalized dominance or internalized racism and its relationship to their scholarly work or teaching; or another project they propose. Students will be invited to contribute a reading to the syllabus.
Contemporary challenges in the academy and society at large confirm the crucial need for intellectual engagement with critical theories of race and intersectionality that address systemic, historic racism. This graduate course is a means of proliferating knowledge and critiques of race in and out of the academy while developing strategies for furthering this work in the undergraduate classroom.  The pedagogical approach will foster open discussion of personal relationships to the readings as well as experiences of race and ethnicity.
ASCP 81500: Reading and Speaking Race, Mondays, 4:15pm-6:15pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Juan Battle and Professor Sigmund Shipp
Futures Initiative course – IDS 81660
This course will provide students with a deeper understanding of contemporary academic and public discourses surrounding race and ethnicity. Grounded in a sociological approach, students will read key social scientific texts on the meaning of race from both historical and contemporary perspectives. This class is different than a traditional race and ethnicity graduate course because it asks students to not only understand academic discussions of race and ethnicity but also work to make these complex arguments accessible to wider audiences. With journalists and publics becoming increasingly interested in nuanced discourse about the influence of race in the Post-Obama era, the class presents a unique opportunity to help emergent scholars hone their voices and analysis.
The contemporary political environment necessitates a language and nuance that helps articulate an increasingly diverse yet still unequal world. Weekly discussions will be facilitated by rotating members of the class. Students in the course will be expected to develop three written products: 1) an op-ed targeted at a major news publication such at the New York Times or a national news publication; 2) an article for Contexts magazine, The Conversation or a similarly public facing publication; and 3) a book review for an academic publication. The course will draw primarily from two texts: Beyond Black and White: A Reader on Contemporary Race Relations edited by Zulema Valdez and Going Public: A Guide for Social Scientists by Arlene Stein and Jessie Daniels. We plan to incorporate guest speakers who specialize in public facing work including a journalist, an editor from public facing publication, and academic with high profile success engaging publics.
Instead of producing the usual long lists of courses that will count towards the certificate, we have set up a new system:
Students taking courses offered through other units that are appropriate to ASCP 81500/Key Questions in American Studies or ASCP 82000/Research Practices in American Studies, may have them counted toward completion of the certificate program by sending the course details (name, title, instructor(s), and course description) to


Fall 2018

ASCP 81500: Race, Nation, & Narrative. Thursday, 2:00pm-4:00pm, Room 6421, 4 credits, Professor George Shulman
Sponsored by and cross-listed with Political Science (PSC 80301)

This course uses social analysis, political speeches, and artistic fictions to explore the relation of race-making, nation-building, and narrating  in the case of the United States. Our broadest premise is that collective subjects (nations, peoples, classes, religions, races) are formed and reformed through narratives joined to collective action. Our specific premise is that "American" nationhood has been formed by racial domination and opposition to it, as represented in and through contesting narratives. The first half of the semester therefore uses social theory to explore the intersections of settler colonialism, chattel slavery, and immigration restriction -and of social movements and counter-narratives opposing them- in shaping imagined (national) community and conceptions of democracy.
The second half of the course attends to and explores idioms of critique: what difference does it make to contest racialized nationalism by a scholarly treatise, by a political speech, or by a work of literary or cinematic fiction? What can and cannot be said (and thereby done) through these different genres of expression? How do we assess the rhetorical and literary dimensions of theoretical texts and how might we discern the theoretical implications of literary and cinematic fictions? Texts of theory include Michael Rogin, Glenn Coulthard, Mae Ngai, Loic Waquant, Hortense Spillers, Saidiyah Hartman, Frank Wilderson, Fred Moton. Authors include James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead, Claudia Rankine; Films include Bamboozled, GET OUT, and Black Panther.

ASCP 82000: Seminar in a Dramatic Genre: African American Theatre and Performance, 1850 to the Present, Monday, 4:15-6:15pm, Room 3310A, 3 credits, Professor James Wilson
Sponsored by and cross-listed with Theatre (THEA 80200)

This seminar will focus on the artistic and political impact of African American theatre and performance from the nineteenth century to the present. Although we will examine performances and plays within their historical and geographical contexts, we will also consider the role of theatre as a tool for social change in the ongoing struggle for racial equality, representation, and activism. Some of the questions we will consider are: What effect did minstrelsy have on the development of drama, musicals, and performances by African Americans? What propagandistic and aesthetic functions are enhanced or limited by particular dramatic genres, such as the folk play, anti-lynching drama, satirical comedy, and Broadway melodrama? How do issues of class, gender, and sexual orientation intersect with the attempts to forge a national black identity? How has theatre and performance circulated within the African diaspora? A sampling of the playwrights and performers will include, but is in no way limited to: Ira Aldridge, William Wells Brown, Bert Williams, Angelina Grimké, Mary Burrill, Willis Richardson, Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, Ed Bullins, the Negro Ensemble Company, Efua Sutherland, Wole Soyinka, Adrienne Kennedy, Ntozake Shange, August Wilson, Suzan-Lori Parks, Tarell Alvin McCraney. We will also examine black pageants, diasporic folk dance concerts, and musical revues. Contemporaneous criticism and theoretical treatises will provide the tools for interpreting and historicizing the texts, and students will be asked to weigh these against recent multidisciplinary scholarship and theory in African American studies (including the work of Henry Louis Gates Jr., Paul Gilroy, Hazel Carby, Karin BaSeminar rber, Tavia Nyong’o, Harvey Young, and others). Course requirements include a presentation, two short written responses (one of which will be a book review suitable for publication), and an original 15-20 page research paper (which will be preceded by a prospectus, annotated bibliography, and an optional first draft). Students will share their research in a mock academic conference.

Courses that will fulfill Certificate requirements

HIST 75700: Immigration and Citizenship in US, Monday, 4:15-6:15pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor David Nasaw (can substitute for ASCP 81500: Themes in American Culture)
There is nothing new in the current debates on immigration, refugees, and paths to citizenship or the rancor, the anger, the fear that envelopes them.  Every nation on earth is defined by its immigration and citizenship policies.   Every nation on earth chooses, in one way or another, its future citizens.   In a representative democracy, these decisions are made through the political process.  

In this course we will examine how and why Americans have chosen to welcome or close this nation's mighty gates to those who sought to enter our nation and become our fellow citizens.   While attentive to European migrations from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries, we will focus on twentieth and twenty-first century border crossings from Mexico, immigrations from Asia and the Chinese exclusion acts, and the discordant and unintended consequences of post-World War II legislation.     

The readings will explore the separate but entwined historical literatures on “citizenship” and “immigration.”  I have designed them to be global in reach and interdisciplinary in perspective.   We will read works of history and sociology, as well as novels and memoirs written by authors who have immigrated to the United States in recent years, some with, some without their families. 
Students may be asked to write short papers in the course of the semester and a major final paper in the form of a “lecture” to undergraduates or civic groups on the themes and issues discussed in the readings. 
This is designed as a seminar, not a lecture course. 

Seminar in Musicology: Music in New York City: Between Wars (1918-1941)
MUS 86300 CRN 3CR
Room 3491
Prof Jeffrey Taylor

One of the benefits of studying at the CUNY Graduate Center is the ability to examine the rich cultural history of New York while being physically immersed in the city. This course investigates music in NYC from the end of WWI, through the “Roaring” 1920s, through the beginnings of the Depression, to the build up to war in Europe finally catalyzed by the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The course crosses boundaries of musical style and tradition, focusing on both “popular music” and “art music” traditions and the interactions between these traditions. Topics of race, class, gender, and sexuality will be frequent touchstones. Composers and musicians as diverse as Dane Rudhyar, Henry Cowell, George Gershwin, George Antheil, Edgard Varèse, Duke Ellington, Ruth Crawford Seeger, James P. Johnson, William Grant Still, Benny Goodman, Aaron Copland, Jerome Kern, and many others will be examined. The period’s obsession with technology (player pianos, radio, recording, film) will provide a central focus.


Students taking courses offered through other units that are appropriate to ASCP 81500/Themes in American Culture or ASCP 82000/American Culture: Major Periods, may have them counted toward completion of the certificate program by sending the course details (name, title, instructor(s), and course description) to