Courses

Current Courses

AMERICA THROUGH EUROPEAN EYES

The purpose of the course is to examine how European travelers and writers – from Columbus to the present – looked at America as the Europe’s “other,” creating myths about the New World. At first, America stood for a new opportunity, a Promised Land, then it was perceived as a great experiment in democracy but as America aged, European observers more often mixed admiration of some aspects of American life and society with criticism of others.

AMERICAN ART

The lecture is an introduction to American art. Illustrated with slides, it chronologically presents the development of American painting from the colonial period to the present, discussing the most important artists, trends, schools and achievements.

AMERICAN DRAMA

This course provides a survey of major American drama, focusing upon twentieth-century luminaries such as O’Neill, Williams, Hellman, and Hansberry, among others.  The plays are examined as both literary and socio-cultural artifacts (with an emphasis on the former).  The course emphasizes the development of a firm sense of national identity and investigates the ways in which the plays reflect, distort, criticize, and/or praise the distinctively American attitudes with which they deal.

AMERICAN HISTORY

This American history survey course is a lecture that covers the origins of colonization of America, the history of English settlement in North America, the War of Independence and the creation of the United States, the evolution of political institutions and development of American constitutional democracy, the country’s territorial expansion, and the key social, economic and cultural transformations from the Revolution to the end of the 19th century.

AMERICAN FILM

The course surveys the American film history (early cinema, the silent era, the studio system, New Hollywood, indie film making, and the contemporary period) and concentrates on the major styles, genres, directors and stars. It introduces students to American movie classics such as Citizen Kane, Out of the Past, The Searchers, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Last Picture Show among others. Students examine these films through genre theory and historical contexts and analyze them as reflections of American culture.

AMERICAN LITERATURE SURVEY

This is a seminar type course whose purpose is to familiarize students with the chronology, principal names and canonical texts  of American literature from the colonial times to the end of WWII.  The course combines short introductory lectures with text study and discussions. Together, they should give students a sense of American literature as an intellectual and artistic debate that was started in the  Puritan times and that has continued ever since as each new generation of authors endorsed or polemized with the ideas of their predecessors.  Special attention is devoted to those literary innovators –  H.D.Thoreau, W. Whitman, H.Melville, E. Dickinson, Ezra Pound, L.Hughes –  who pushed that debate onto new tracks.

AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE AND MASS MEDIA

The course surveys the American film history (early cinema, the silent era, the studio system, New Hollywood, indie film making, and the contemporary period) and concentrates on the major styles, genres, directors and stars. It introduces students to American movie classics such as Citizen Kane, Out of the Past, The Searchers, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Last Picture Show among others. Students examine these films through genre theory and historical contexts and analyze them as reflections of American culture.

AMERICAN PROTEST

This one semester course is devoted to protest as voiced and practiced in America. It offers reflection on various historical and contemporary reasons for American discontent ( political and racial situation, capitalist economy, wars, the situation of women, American way of life, globalization, environmental degradation, etc.) and on various forms which protest has assumed:  from public action, marches, and demonstrations, to literature, song,  film, performance, etc. The goal of the course is to give students a sense of how central protesting is to American experience and character,  and how protest is viewed not only as every American’s birthright but also moral obligation.

AMERICAN SHORT STORY

This seminar course is devoted to the development of the American short story. We will study selected works of best practitioners of the genre from the early 19th century to the present. We will analyze these stories with regard to their artistic form, trying to discern how general literary trends and theories of fiction have affected the evolution of this genre. We will also endeavor to locate these stories within the historical context of their creation and reception.

AMERICAN SOCIETY IN THE 20TH CENTURY

The class covers the most important social, political, economic and cultural developments in the U.S. in the 20th century decade by decade, from the 1920s through the 1980s. Students prepare powerpoint presentations on selected topics. Between presentations general discussions are held based on the individual study of texts from the reading list.

AMERICAN SOUTHERN RENAISSANCE

This course is designed to acquaint the student with the major figures of the twentieth-century American Southern Renaissance:  Faulkner, Welty, O’Connor, Williams, Hurston, and others.  Various genres will be examined, cultural contexts explored, and distinctive qualities of modern Southern literature defined.

THE AMERICAN WEST

The course – based on video materials and lectures − gives students an opportunity to explore the topic of the American West. It emphasizes the special role of the West in American history and in the development of contemporary American society. The course covers topics such as: exploration and discovery, westward expansion, the frontier, lawlessness, the American Indians, cowboys’ life, nature and landscape, and many others.

CANADA: CULTURE AND LITERATURE

This is a course meant to sensitize students to the fact that „America” and the „USA” are not synonymous terms.  Four introductory  lectures focus on Canada’s geography and separate historical legacy: colonization patterns, the history of Quebec, the story of the Confederation, Canada’s economic growth in the twentieth century, the policy of multiculturalism, Quebec separatism and the situation of the First Nations. The following 11 classes are seminar-type, and are based on a selection of literary texts, documentaries and feature films, illustrating the major differences (yet also several similarities) between Canadian and American cultural traditions.

CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN LITERATURE

This course is an introduction to American literature after 1945. Based on lectures, discussions of preassigned material, and student presentations, the seminar focuses on the main developments in American poetry and prose in the last 60 years. Emphasis is put both on the innovative character of those developments and on their roots in American literary tradition. Discussion of contemporary poetry focuses on themes such as the conflict between the traditionalist and the experimental approaches, the Confessional and feminist traditions, the ethnic impact upon the form and content of poetry written today, place and role of poetry in contemporary American culture. The prose of the period is viewed in the context of political, social, and cultural transformations of the USA; the topics covered include: major postwar writers, postmodernism, women’s and ethnic writing, new realism and others.

CONTEMPORARY U.S. IN LITERATURE

The goal of this course is to present and analyze key problems of contemporary American society as reflected in literature. The course is divided thematically into major categories (e.g. “Racial issues,” “Gender,” etc.). Each category then comprises several subcategories that deal with more specific issues (e.g. Native American literature, Chicano/a literature, etc.). These parts are introduced by a brief lead-in part (in the form of a lecture) and/or a film depicting a particular problem. Then we will analyze how these issues are presented in contemporary literature.

CULT LITERATURE AND FILM

The term “cult” is very imprecise and basically implies lengthy and often irrational devotion to an author or book. The aim of the course is to introduce students to authors who belong to this category. What makes them cult figures? Is their writing an artistic or merely sociological phenomenon? Who are their followers? These will be among the questions discussed during classes. The list of the writers discussed includes: Richard Brautigan, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, Leonard Cohen, Chuck Palahniuk, Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, and Hunter S. Thompson. The course will be based on a variety of audio and visual materials.

CULTURAL REGIONS OF THE USA

The aim of the course is to familiarize students with different cultural regions of the United States, their history, traditions and society. The course, based on video and reading materials, will include discussions of: New England, the Middle Atlantic States, the South, the Midwest, the West, the Southwest, and the Pacific Northwest.

ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN LITERATURE AND THE ARTS

This M.A. seminar is a continuation of the course offered in 2010-2011. With the students working already on their M.A. theses, it is  organized as individual tutorials tailored to  each student’s specific needs. All M.A. topics are related to the seminar’s umbrella topic; they  explore  the work of American and Canadian authors – H.D.Thoreau, E.Abbey, S. Bellow, R. Dickey,  K.D.Moore, M. Atwood, F. Herbert – who make the relationship between people and the environment their concern.

HEMINGWAY AND HIS CONTEMPORARIES

This course examines representative works by Ernest Hemingway, one of the most significant (and most often misread) of twentieth-century American writers, as well as selected works by his major contemporaries.  The Hemingway texts include The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, and a generous selection of his short stories.  Among the contemporaries examined are Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hurston.

KEY CONCEPTS OF AMERICAN CIVILIZATION

The course familiarizes students with the history and character of the major media outlets in the USA: the press, radio, television, movie industry, the Internet, music industry, videogame industry. It also focuses on issues such as media concentration, copyright, media bias and advertising. Simultaneously, it examines American popular culture and its broad appeal in the last 100 years.

POPULAR CULTURE

The multimedia (powerpoint, audio and video) lecture is an introduction to the history of music in America. It presents the Native American and European roots of American music and discusses the most important directions in its historical development, genres and forms, and composers and performers.

RACIAL AND ETHNIC GROUPS IN THE USA

This course will examine America’s racial and ethnic diversity, comparing the historical experiences of Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and whites. We will concentrate on changes in “American” national identity from the late nineteenth century to the present. This course is mostly based on literary sources (both fictional and documentary).

WHO AM I?/WHO ARE WE?-CHICANAS IN SEARCH OF IDENTITY

This research seminar is designed to teach students about the specific situation of the Chicano/a community in the U.S., with a particular focus on Mexican American women. In addition, during the seminar students will learn how to set up, research, and complete a diploma paper. The first part of the seminar will focus on the examination of the situation of Chicanas in the U.S. on the basis of selected texts, poems, and films on/by Chicana authors. The second part of the seminar will be devoted to students’ diploma projects. The seminar offers a wide selection of thematic areas for the diploma projects, including such issues as the formation of Chicana identity, redefinitions of paradigms and archetypes controlling Chicanas’ lives, roles and behaviors, contemporary reconstructions of Chicana/o family and community, etc.

 

Course Archive

 

 

Visiting guests

Every year the Department of American Literature and Culture and the Department of American Studies host lectures by visiting American scholars, critics, and writers, who are invited to speak or read at MCSU on a variety of topics. Arranged either by way of the generous support of the Cultural Unit of the American Embassy, the Polish-US Fulbright Commission, or by personal network and effort of department members, these lectures have become a distinctive part of American Studies program. American Studies specialists from other countries, including Germany, England, Sweden, Canada, and Japan, have also been guests on campus.