June 2nd, 2006


Right There, Right Then

The ever-erudite robotnik has posted a description of what sounds like one hellacious cool class in American Studies over at his blog. Basically ... well, I'll let him tell it:
I designed American Studies 200 as a kind of anti-survey. I tried to think of the course as an anthology instead of a narrative, a road trip rather than a bird’s-eye-view. Rather than stepping back to survey the nation as a whole, we zoomed in on very specific times and locales. Rather than a sweeping chronological narrative, I offered several staccato portraits. Of course, I hoped and planned for larger themes to emerge, but I banished any pretensions of completeness, any illusions that we would somehow cover it all....
Instead, I had the luxury to take up a really rather narrow question—what has “America” meant to different people in different times, and what consequences have those meanings had? Each week we examined a different place and a different historical moment where America and what it meant was constructed, contested, or otherwise up for grabs.

What locations did our hero select? Hey, follow the link and find out. But he does ask for more suggestions, so herewith, a patriotic thirteen milieux that he didn't get to this time around (or at least, not as specifically):

* The New England Frontier, 1675-1676
King Philip's War establishes the default American response to attack, and to the Indians.

* Pennsylvania, 1776-1779
From Declaration to Valley Forge, and George Washington working the clock.

* The Natchez Trace, 1787-1816
America's toughest frontier, and the making of Andrew Jackson.

* Oregon, 1803-1860
A utopia of fur and farming. Seen as the 'virtuous alternative' to California, well, to the present day.

* The Mississippi River, 1835-1861
The setting for the Great American Novel.

* Utah, 1847-1896
Building an American religion ... and deciding if it's American.

* Nickajack Country, Tennessee, 1861-1865
Pro-Union yeomen in the heart of Dixie.

* Chicago and Oak Park, 1880-1909
The invention of American architecture and urbanism.

* Mars, 1894-1936
From Lowell's canals to Northwest Smith, the creation of a purely fantastic new frontier.

* North Africa, Sicily, Britain, Normandy, and the Ardennes, 1942-1945
Americans measure themselves against the mother country.

* Route 66, 1945-1957
Postwar vacationland, sunshine Beats, the last naive commercialism. Are we local or are we efficient?

* Cislunar Space, 1947-1973
Dammit, there's got to be a frontier around here somewhere.

* Silicon Valley, 1971-2000
The birth of the most recent American combination of democratization, excess, invention, self-aggrandizement, and capitalism.