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Spring 2017

ASCP 81000: Introduction to American Studies: The Rise and Fall of the Prison in the United States, Thursday, 4:15-6:16pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Lucia Trimbur, [35013]. Crosslisted with MALS 73200 

Today in the Unitd States, seven million adults are under custodial supervision–in prisons and jails or on probation and parole. More African American adults are under this system of control than were enslaved in 1850. In some postindustrial cities, young black men are more likely to be in prison than are able to access wage labor or enroll in high school and higher education. And the US currently incarcerates more people than any country in the world. Though many argue that crime, or what Nils Christie called, "unwanted social acts," is responsible for this expansion of incarceration. But in general, crime rates fell as incarceration rose. How do we explain this dramatic shift?

The expansion of prisoners is often referred to as the "prison industrial complex," and increasingly scholars locate its roots in the long-standing anti-black racism of slavery that continued through Jim Crow and urban segregation. This course examines the prison industrial complex from its beginnings in slavery through to our contemporary moment of mass incarceration. We will consider the relationship of the prison industrial complex to other US institutions as well as whether or not our current patterns of imprisonment and punishment are a new expression of older systems of racial capitalism or something different. We start by examining the role of punishment during plantation slavery and move to other serious penalties, such as convict leasing and the penitentiary. Then we move to the rise of the carceral state in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, paying special attention to the role of political change and economic transformation in driving prison expansion. We conclude by alternatives to the prison.

ASCP 82000: Narratives of New York: Global Antiquity in Gotham, Thursday 4:15-6:15pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis, [35014]. Cross listed with MALS 70100

As the quintessentially modern metropolis, New York City is often defined by the skyscrapers that dominate its skyline. Towering office buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens–offer an easy metaphor for the city’s self-conscious striving, technological progress, and financial power. Yet underneath and, in a sense, undergirding the imposing high-rises are many older, usually squatter, more classically inspired buildings and public monuments. This interdisciplinary course explores how antiquity—primarily the art, archaeology, and architecture of Classical Antiquity, Ancient Egypt, and the Ancient Near East—influenced the architecture of New York City, from the city’s inception to the present day. Specifically, this course considers why American patrons, architects, and city planners re-interpreted, modified, and deployed ancient forms in the construction of major buildings and monuments in New York City by examining the built environment, as well as architectural texts, literature, and art.  The course introduces students to reception studies, its theoretical framework and methodologies. This course uses New York City as a classroom to explore and understand the influence that ancient civilizations exerted on New York’s architecture and which resulted in the creation of many of New York City’s iconic buildings, such as Grand Central Terminal and the New York Stock Exchange, to the forgotten masterpieces, such as the Gould Library. The course is composed of a series of seminars that will meet at the Graduate Center and walking seminars where the class will visit specific monuments and buildings.

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/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