American Studies 2001: Introduction to American Studies

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Course Description and Policies


This course introduces students to the broadly interdisciplinary study of US culture in all its various forms, from everyday life, historical memory, politics, and religion to art, literature, film, photography, and music. Our emphasis throughout will be on doing American Studies, which we will model during the course’s six tightly focused units. Students will then put this learning into practice for your semester project on American foodways. All along we will examine issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, transnationality, and citizenship that have shaped key moments in the history of American culture and society. This course consists of 2 lectures a week and a separate discussion section.

Readings and Viewings

Materials for this course will be posted on Neatline at Neatline is a digital tool set, developed at UVA, that generates interactive maps and timelines enabling us to locate the documents, images, sounds, and artifacts we will examine in both time and space. Workshops will be conducted in sections to teach you how to use this program.

Course Requirements, Grading, and Due dates

  • regular class attendance and participation; weekly reading, viewing, and listening assignments; and weekly written responses (see below): (25%)
  • semester-long project (25%): December 4
  • take-home midterm exam (20%): October 16
  • final exam (30%): December 14, 2-5pm

Weekly Response Paper

Students are required to submit a one-page, single-spaced reading response each week by 2pm on Wednesday. Your TA will explain in more detail how he or she expects you to submit these. The purpose of the responses is to make you think about the readings and other materials before class and to help you organize your thoughts in order to facilitate participation in sections. Please refer in your analysis to the materials assigned for that week (articles, books, photographs, songs, films, and other materials ). Use specific references to materials where possible, but no footnotes or citations are required.


Make-Up Late assignments will be docked one letter grade per day, except if you have prior approval from a professor or the TA.

AttendanceA critical aspect of fulfilling your obligations as a citizen of this class is being physically present. We all learn from each other, whether though discussion, by asking questions during lecture, or in conversation outside of class stimulated by what happens in class. The learning of all is therefore diminished by the absence of some. For this reason, if you acquire more than two unexcused discussion section absences, your attendance and participation grade will be lowered.

But attendance is about more than avoiding such a penalty. On the most basic level, we will present information in class and section that you get nowhere else. Attendance is first and foremost a self-enforcing proposition—those who skip class do poorly.


We do not allow the use of laptops or any other electronic devices during lecture. They are a distraction to yourself and others, and studies show they also impede good note-taking habits. We also ask that you refrain from using laptops, iPads, or the like in section for purposes other than accessing course materials.

Cell phone use, including messaging, is not permitted in class (of course!). If you are expecting an emergency call, you must notify us before class, and your phone must be on vibrate.


If you have a disability that might qualify under University guidelines for special accommodations, please contact the Student Disability Access Center (formerly known as the Learning Needs and Evaluation Center) for information on appropriate policies and procedures.


September 5 is the last day to add a class. September 6 is the last day to drop a course without the “w” (withdraw) grade. October 17 is the last day to withdraw from a course and receive the “w” (withdraw) grade.