American Studies Courses

Course Offerings in American Studies

In addition to the annual Scherer Center Seminar course for graduate students, the Center helps students coordinate programs of study on American topics. Please note: the course numbers for all American Studies classes are the same as the parent department, but simply substitute the AMER prefix. If you believe that a course should be cross-listed, but it is not listed below, please contact Nigel O’Hearn.

The following courses are cross-listed with American Studies for the Autumn 2019 term and beyond:

Autumn 2019

HIST 18703/AMER 18703 –– Early America, 1492–1815 

This course explores the development of American culture, society, and politics from the first contact between Native Americans and Europeans to the emergence of a stable American nation by the end of the War of 1812. It emphasizes the diverse experiences of the many kinds of Americans and the different meanings that they attached to the events in their lives. Topics include the meeting of Indigenous, African, and European peoples, the diversity of colonial projects, piracy and the Atlantic slave trade, the surprising emergence of a strong British identity, the coming of the American Revolution, the range of Americans’ struggles for independence, and the role of the trans-Appalachian West in shaping the early republic. This lecture course is open to nonmajors and does not presume any previous history coursework.

Spring 2020

ARTH 17908/AMER 17908 –– American Graphic Art and Commercial Culture: 1850-1960

Prof Neil Harris

This class focuses on widely distributed printed images, most of them with commercial, aesthetic, and/or political significance, along with the graphic design traditions and typography associated with them. While concentrating on American imagery, the context would be international, reflecting the condition of popular graphic arts in this country. Among other things it would treat book illustration, posters, advertising art, magazines and newspapers, cartooning, postcards, children’s literature, commercial paper, and trade catalogs. Necessarily, given this wide scope, it will be episodic in character, but it will also attempt to relate this visual explosion to larger artistic movements, major events, technological changes, and political trends. It would also explore, from time to time, the roles played by collecting, exhibition, and academic commentary in legitimating the subject, as well as the power of ethnic and racial stereotyping and the multiplication of trade and printing journals. The aim, in short, is to examine the flowering of a visual print culture that had its roots in the Gutenberg Revolution of the 15th century. There will be both class discussion and lecturing. This is art in context, emphasizing breadth and the introduction of figures, institutions, and movements nurtured by an expansive production and distribution network. The course will be hosted by the Special Collections Research Center at Regenstein Library, and will feature items drawn from the University of Chicago’s own collections.

A list of past course offerings is available upon request.