What is America?
Radical Visions in American History and Culture
AMST 100, Spring 2011
Instructor: Dustin A. Abnet
Office Hours: Monday 3:45-4:45 Wells Library Cafeteria
If you have any questions about any aspect of the course, please feel free to contact me or come
to office hours.
If you cannot come at the time I have listed, I am happy to schedule an
appointment with you.
In this course, we will explore the role of “radicals” in shaping the ways in which Americans
have understood their country and its citizens. Beginning with the Revolution and concluding
with the modern Tea Party Movement, the course explains how a wide variety of people have
challenged and fought over the definition of their country and who was entitled to participate in
We will analyze this topic in two broad ways.
First, we will examine the cultural history of
several movements typically associated with radicalism in this country, particularly nativist,
racist, feminist, utopian, Marxist, ultra-conservative, and abolition/civil rights groups.
will pay close attention to how these groups have understood America and its history, their
visions of an ideal America, and their influence on the broader culture. Second, we will explore
the role of radicalism in American culture.
Here we will try to understand the relationship
between radicalism and American nationalism and the place of radicalism within American
popular and political culture. Ultimately, by analyzing films, speeches, literature, music, and a
variety of other kinds of sources in lectures and discussions, we will try to understand why and
how so-called radicals transformed the ways in which people have understood the United States.
In addition to helping students gain a better understanding of key themes in American history
and culture, this course hopes to assist students in the development of their analytical, writing,
and critical thinking skills.
All course work is designed to increase students’ abilities to think,
read, watch, and listen critically, analyze a wide variety of evidence, and process and explain
their thoughts, both in writing and speech, in a sophisticated but concise manner.
This course will achieve its goals through a combination of lectures, discussion, and outside
readings and assignments. Rather than designating particular days for discussion or lecture, each
day will combine elements of both.
Because of this, be sure to come each day prepared to listen
I have designed lectures to convey information and model how scholars ask
questions, analyze source materials, and construct arguments.
Because these lectures are meant
to be interactive, feel free to ask questions or make relevant comments during them.