2020 has been a very eventful year, with the pandemic, widespread protests connected with Black Lives Matter, and a contested election. There have been many attempts to chart the contemporary United States by scholars and cultural critics. For example, Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada’s What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era looked at the literature about the presidency to chart current political and intellectual divisions in the United States.
I want you to write a 5-6 page paper that uses American studies methods to analyze and make an argument about the current moment (you can define that moment broadly, say the last four years or so). You might focus on what a particular piece of media, such as a book, film, song, video game, or theater production, tells us. You could focus on particular political, social, or cultural controversy or event. You are free to be creative. Just think about the kinds of things that get written about in American Quarterly.
For this you’ll want to use some outside sources, which you should cite using Chicago style. You will want to provide historical context for whichever topic you choose to address. Be sure to also explicitly frame your arguments theoretically. You want to explain what kind of analysis you are doing. Is your paper drawing on popular culture studies methods, and if so, which scholars are you drawing on? Does your paper build on American Studies understanding of race and ethnicity? Is your work pointing us to questions about American Studies originally raised in the Myth and Symbol school? Frame your work in an American Studies context.
This can be on anything; here are some examples of potential topics:
Exploring what the decline of movie theaters and the rise of streaming distribution for films says about American notions of community.
The controversy over race and representation in the novel American Dirt.
Writing about the responses religious communities have had to the pandemic and what this tells us about religious identity in the United States.
You will be writing:
An approximately 5-6 page paper.
Format should be font size 12, serif font, regular 1-inch margins, double spaced.
Please cite in Chicago style (17th Edition), and include a works cited.
You are welcome to send me a draft. However, I may take up to 72 hours to get back to you.
Papers are due through the assignments tab on Collab before the start of class.
Make sure you have a clear thesis. Any paper you write should always be making an argument.
Use examples from the course reading to support your points. Particularly explain your theoretical framework.
Proofread, and get someone else to read through your work too.