AMST 145 A-Z - Special Topics in American Studies
Semester Hours: 3
Every Other Semester
An exploratory course analyzing American culture through the works of American writers. Each semester centers upon particular themes, ideas or topics broad enough to permit the student to become acquainted with the diversity of America’s past and present.
Current Special Topics
AMST 145E: Literature, Trama & Climate Crisis
This course centers on an urgent question: since we know the climate crisis will mean global catastrophe unless we very quickly mount a meaningful response, why have we so far utterly failed to do so? We’ll approach that question in light of the growth, over the past few decades, of a cultural interest in trauma, especially the development of “trauma theory” and of what we might call the literature of trauma. This will help us consider, for example, what kind of knowledge is at stake when we say we “know” that catastrophe will follow from inadequate action; what does it mean, that is, to become aware of reality if such awareness challenges your capacity to process what you see? We’ll read some trauma theory (from, for example, Cathy Caruth’s Unclaimed Experience and Roger Luckhurst’s The Trauma Question), but will focus mostly on works of literature. For the most part, these won’t engage climate change per se, but will be texts that struggle with trying to give shape and meaning to experiences that seem, by definition, to defy such attempts. In addition to selections from trauma theory, possible readings include W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, D. M. Thomas’s The White Hotel, and Art Spiegelman’s Maus (texts that grapple with the problem of representing “the Holocaust”), Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (grappling with how to represent a nuclear apocalypse, and the consequent climate change), and Toni Morrison’s Beloved (grappling with how to represent knowledge of slavery). We’ll also compare such attempts to formulate traumatic knowledge with the sort of widespread representations of climate change that construct it in the public sphere.
Cross-listed with ENGL 198L (93639).
Two of the following: ENGL 070 , 071 , 072 , 144 ; HIST 013 , 014C , or permission of the instructor. Course may be repeated for credit when topics vary. Specific titles and course descriptions for special topics courses are available in the online class schedule. (Formerly 145; Readings in American Studies.)
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