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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 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