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Lecture.Notes.1stHalf.Semester

Lecture.Notes.1stHalf.Semester - AMST 301 Lecture 1 What is...

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AMST 301: Lecture 1 What is American Studies? What is the American character? What is democratic thinking? What is integrative thinking? What is your relationship to America, the West, California, Southern California, Los Angeles? Good Morning. I’m Thomas Gustafson, and Welcome to "America, the Frontier, and the New West," a course that will draw upon literature, history, politics, and even some music and movies to study and reexamine American culture and history, with a special emphasis given to studying the region, the place, that is our home, or where we live and study: The West, California, LA, USC. I. Search for the American Character (or multiple personalities of the USA ) At the heart of this course, and of American Studies as a major discipline, is the question: What is the American national character? What is our personality and what, if anything, makes us a unique place among the countries of the world? And we will study the American nation and national character in its glory and pride— and in all its weirdness and strangeness, in all its schizophrenia and dysfunction, with all of its contradictions. Hey, if you think your parents are some mix of cool and embarrassing and messed up, just wait until we take a closer look at our founding fathers. Damn, we thought it was a scandal when Bill Clinton was getting his cock sucked by Monica Lewinsky in the White House, but our dear Thomas Jefferson was knocking up a slave woman, Sally Hemings, when he was president, and we now have DNA proof about this. No greater contradiction has marked America than the fact of slavery in this place dedicated to liberty, and this course will consider reasons for America to have some humility as well as well as pride. Indeed, unlike some of the ways you have been probably taught history in the past, this course will not be a hymn to the glories of America or focus on what makes America great; instead it will be a course in critical thinking and questioning authority….and a reflection about what it means to patriotic. Is patriotism loving America blindly or flattering it or is patriotism engaging in a lover’s quarrel with America? Ask yourself: Should a lover of yours just flatter you and love you blindly or should a lover also be willing to offer in constructive criticism? But one of the things we will celebrate in America is that great, irrevent, democratic tradition of “sticking it to the man.” When we listen to the sound of America, we can’t just listen to “America the Beautiful” but to the America as represented in the School of Rock” and the school of punk, hip hop, and the blues.
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A. Facebook Profile for USA More simply: Imagine this course as a way to create a facebook profile for the America—a profile that will give us, through various forms of information, a key take on the personality, the soul, the character of this country. Let’s just play around with this for a moment. What might a facebook profile for the USA look like?
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