Current Course Offerings

​​Spring 2019

AMST 265E / 375M Trump & Trumpism - with Kouross Esmaili

This course will introduce students to a range of disciplinary and intellectual tools for understanding the culture, society, and politics of the contemporary United States. The class seeks to understand and frame the Trump presidency as both symptom and agent of political and cultural shifts that are happening in the United States. We will look at the Trump period as emblematic of post-cold-war structural changes in the American political system, and we will also look at the specific rhetorical and ideological values expounded by Donald Trump and the effects that he has on America's domestic politics as well as internationally — particularly in relation to the Middle East. Specialists in the fields of rhetorical analysis, textual analysis, cultural studies, anthropology, critical media studies, political science, and political economy will expose students to a diverse body of theoretical and disciplinary tools. In order to do this effectively, the class will host a significant number of guest-lecturers from across departments at AUB and beyond. Confirmed lecturers include: Adam Waterman (English) Greg Burris (SOAM), Josh Carney (SOAM), Rayan El-Amine (Issam Fares Institute), Jessica Feldman (American U. in Paris), Rami Khouri (SOAM), David Landes (English), Karim Makdisi (PSPA), Pascal Menoret (Brandeis U.), Zeina Tarraf (SOAM), Adam Waterman (English).  Topics include a review of the history of electoralism and populism in the United States; the development of America's dominant political values in the post-cold war era; the political economy of what is understood as “neoliberalism;" the politics of globalization and anti-globalization; theories of media and the new media ecology; and the cultural formations that lie at the core of these converging factors.

The class is open enrollment and available to undergraduate and graduate students. Graduate students will not be expected to take any exams, but they will be expected to write a longer research paper and they will have the option to act as TA's in grading and leading discussion sections.

​​ENG 216 Drama: Modern American Theater​​ / AMST 275AK Modern American Theater - with Robert Myers

In this course we will examine various plays written by American authors in the 20thcentury. We will begin with canonical works from the first half of the century such as The Glass MenagerieDeath of a Salesman and Long Day's Journey Into Night. We will also read more recent works such as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and True West that employ techniques from the European avant-garde and the theatre of the absurd. In addition to analyzing the various forms and idioms that modern American playwrights have used, we will also focus on theatrical representations and critiques of American mythologies and themes related to ethnicity, gender, class and sexuality in Execution of JusticeRaisin in the SunTrue West and Joe Turner's Come and Gone.

​​AMST 275 / PSPA 251 Politics and Government: USA - with Danyel Reiche

The objective of this class is to reflect on the role of the U.S. in the world. The United States is the most powerful country in the world. Some authors argue that emerging countries like China are in the process of taking the place of the U.S. For this course, we will be focusing on two books. The author of the first book, Joseph Nye, argues that the American century is far from over and its military, economic, and soft power capabilities will continue to outstrip those of its closest rivals for decades to come. We will read Nye's book together and debate it chapter by chapter in class discussions. 

The authors of the second book, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, paint a different picture and argue that the United States under Trump is on the verge of collapse. In their book How Democracies Die, the authors show that most democracies do not disappear as the result of violent conflict but rather because of a subtle turn to authoritarianism that is set into motion by political parties and leaders. This process starts with condemning political opposition and is witnessed in a number of countries around the globe, such as Turkey and Venezuela. We will discuss these two diverging arguments during the semester in order to conclude together whether the “American century" is approaching its end.                                                               

In addition to the books, newspaper articles on current events in U.S. politics will be analyzed during the semester in the form of “press reviews". The professor has also invited a guest from the U.S. embassy to our class.​​

AMST 215 / ​​HIST 278A Introduction to American Studies - with Samar Temsah

In an attempt to answer the questions “What is America/an American?", we survey cultural encounters between the U.S. & others. The investigation starts with the colonial juxtaposition of Europeans, Native Americans & Africans leading up to subsequent encounters with Latinos, Asians & Arabs. Although cultural fictions & cultural exclusions, where the U.S. & its cultural producers have identified identities & ideologies in contrast to or in interaction with other nations & cultures, have helped sustain unity among many Americans, sub-national & transnational identities have continually called this unity into question. Taking this into account, we examine encounters/accounts of the idea of “America" & notions of what it means/it takes to be an “American" as they have evolved over time within the framework of themes that have been considered molding agents of the “American" identity."

AMST 275 AF Special Topics in American Humanities: Introduction to American Popular Culture & Theories - with Samar Temsah

“Love it or hate it, over the past few decades American popular culture has risen as an inescapable force penetrating most aspects of both Americans & other people's lives. In an attempt to understand the relationship between the “American" culture & the “popular", we look at popular representations of the American culture using theories within popular culture & critical tools. Within the American culture, we mainly consider the re/presentation of factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, class, counterculture, subcultures/youth & ideology by & in popular culture & we study primary texts, such as TV series, film, documentaries, popular music, sports, fashion, artwork & magazines with forays into other types of pop culture like news media, toys, graffiti, social media, phone apps, brochures, holidays, advertisements & websites."

​SOAM 293E Digital Ethnography & Filmmaking​ - with Kouross Esmaili

​(This is a Media Studies course and is not cross-listed with AMST)

This is a practice-based course meant to both introduce students to the possibilities and problematics of documenting human social phenomenon through digital technology, and to challenge them to think actively and critically about their use of digital tools for documentary and ethnographic purposes. The course will first provide an overview of the ethnographic documentary tradition; it will then explore the practical and ethical questions that digital devices and the internet present as both tools and sites of studying human societies and sociality; finally, the course will challenge students to use digital tools (smart phones, cameras, sound recorders, the internet) to gather and produce digital documentation on an ethnographic topic. The course works best for students with some understanding of their interests and ideas who will use digital methods and field sites to further their projects. Possible final projects could be: a video documentary, an ethnographic audio soundscape, an ethnographic study of an online community, the internet as a component of multi-sited fieldwork, or a critical analysis of a case of the digitization of social or institutional processes.

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Fall​​​​ 2​​018​

ENGL 225 / AMST 275K American Literature (1900-1960) – with Robert Myers

​In this course we will examine various novels, films, plays, and stories written and created by American authors in the 20th century. We will begin with two canonical texts from the first third of the century, A Farewell to Arms, by Hemingway, and The Great Gatsby, by Fitzgerald. We will also screen a film adaptation, directed by Martin Scorsese, of Edith Wharton's novel Age of Innocence, which was written in 1920 but set in the late 19thcentury. In addition, we will read Steinbeck's Depression-era classic Of Mice and Men; Richard Wright's explication of racial and political divides in 1930s Chicago, Native Son; and As I Lay Dying, by Faulkner, about the rural American South in the early 20th century. We will view a film version, with Halle Berry, of Zora Neale Hurston's novel about a black town in Florida, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and the film Patton, written by Francis Ford Coppola. Other readings will include Tennessee Williams' play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, poetic texts by T. S. Eliot, Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, and Gwendolyn Brook, and essays and stories by Salinger, Baldwin, Ellison, O'Connor and others. In addition to analyzing the various genres, forms and idioms that American writers and artists used between 1900 and 1970, we will also focus on the ways in which literature and culture provide a window into specific historical moments—e.g. World War I, the Jazz Age, the Depression, etc.—and significant issues in American culture—e.g. urbanization, racial discrimination, disparities in wealth, gender relations, etc. The course will culminate with the CASAR conference, 1968: A Year of Transformation in America and the World.

AMST 215 / HIST 278A Introduction to American Studies - with Samar Temsah

In an attempt to answer the questions “What is America/an American?" we survey cultural encounters between the US and others. The investigation starts with the colonial juxtaposition of Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans leading up to subsequent encounters with Latinos, Asians, and Arabs. Although cultural fictions and cultural exclusions (wherein the US and its cultural producers have identified identities and ideologies in contrast to or in interaction with other nations and cultures) have helped sustain unity among many Americans, sub-national, and transnational identities have continually called this unity into question. Taking this into account, we examine encounters/accounts of the idea of “America" and notions of what it means/it takes to be an “American" as they have evolved over time within the framework of themes that have been considered molding agents of the “American" identity.

AMST 275 AI U.S. Politics on America's Big and Small Screens - with Samar Temsah

As hallmarks of the entertainment industry, films and TV series have been a part of the US's society for almost a century now. Primarily thought of as a source of entertainment for both domestic and international audiences and as of great profit to filmmakers, however, they have been used to help people learn about the political world around them. This course is neither a traditional film course nor a course about politics. It is, however, a course that investigates the US's political culture and its representation in popular culture as well as how these representations reinforce that political culture, while specifically looking at film and television series and will analyze the various tendencies in representations of politics and political life with a primary focus on the last 25 years.

AMST 302 / ENGL 306N / MCOMM Theories and Methods in Transnational American Studies – with Kouross Esmaeli

This course is a graduate-level introduction to the history and the knowledge paradigms of the inter-discipline of American studies. This course will teach students the foundations of critically evaluating models of scholarship and methodologies in American studies and related disciplines. Since American studies borrows approaches from many other fields, we will carry out a study of methodologies in social sciences and the humanities - including political science, sociology, international relations, history, literary or cultural history, and cultural studies. By critically examining the field, we will learn about how American studies has served to (re-)define US identity, uphold Anglo-Saxon superiority over other groups, identify the elements of a uniquely US culture, wage the Cold War against Communism, advance identity politics or diversity, critique US imperialism, reassert the centrality of specific minority groups in American history, and grapple with the power and limits of the US nation state in an age of globalization.

Introduction to Digital Media – with Kouross Esmaeli

This course is an introduction to digital media, focusing on their cultural, political, economic and environmental dimensions. We will employ diverse perspectives in order to explore the role of digital media in media industries, professions and discourses that they produce; the ways in which digital circulation of media texts affects their meaning; and the role of digital media in our cultural constructions of gender and sexuality, class, race, ability and personhood. We will also investigate how people around the world in their digital media practices reconfigure identities, relationships, creativity, and political engagement. The purpose will be to broaden our notions of what counts—conceptually and geographically—in understanding the new regimes of circulation and power introduced by digital technologies.

AMST 275 / PSPA 251 Politics and Government: USA – with Danyel Tobias Reiche

The objective of this class is to reflect on the role of the US in the world. The United States is the most powerful country in the world. Some authors argue that emerging countries like China are in the process of taking the place of the US. The author of our textbook, Joseph Nye, argues that the American century is far from over and its military, economic, and soft power capabilities will continue to outstrip those of its closest rivals for decades to come. We will read Nye's book together and debate it chapter by chapter in class discussions. During this semester, midterm elections are taking place in the United States. This will be the second main focus of our class. The elections will take place on Tuesday, November 06, 2018. We will closely follow the elections. Each student is supposed to work on one presentation on a topic related to the elections. Possible topics include, among others: What is the role of Congress (House of Representatives and the Senate) and how are they elected? What roles do the President and Supreme Court play? The US is a federal state: what decisions can be made on state and federal levels? To what extent can interest groups, such as the oil industry, the military complex, or the Christian right, influence elections? In addition to the textbook by Joseph S. Nye and our presentations on the elections, newspaper articles on current events in US politics will be analyzed during the semester (“press review"). The professor has also invited a guest from the US embassy to our class.

AMST 265D / PSPA 288K Special Topics in American Society: Politics of Sports – with ​Danyel Tobias Reiche

This semester the “Politics of Sports" class will focus on issues around sport and nationality. It is within the architecture of international sports that countries compete with each other. To be eligible to compete for any given country in the Olympic Games and in almost all international sporting events, players must hold citizenship in that country. There are a few exceptions such as rugby, which only requires proof of at least three years residency to be eligible to play for the national team. However, in a globalized world, national allegiance is becoming more and more a fluid concept. Since the 1980s, countries have been increasingly willing to accept dual national players. This means, for example, that Mexicans who grew up in the United States can choose between representing the US or Mexico. Countries such as Qatar and Turkey are increasingly naturalizing foreign-born athletes who have no previous ties to the country. It is also common in Lebanon to grant citizenship to American-born basketball players. Some international sporting federations (IF), such as the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), have limited naturalizations (by only allowing one naturalized player in national teams), while other federations, such as handball, even allow players to represent various countries at different World Cups. Looking at the eligibility criteria of IF will be the main emphasis of the class. If the above-mentioned residence criteria in rugby spread to other sports, Palestinians living in Lebanon without citizenship could represent Lebanon internationally. So far, Lebanon has made excessive use of its large diaspora in international sports.

In addition to our discussions on sport and nationality, Professor Reiche will give presentations about other research he has conducted on the politics of sport, including Lebanon's sporting boycott of Israel, Qatar's motives behind hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022, and sports betting regulations in the United States. In order to situate the course within the context of our current political scene, students are expected to give a class presentation reviewing the press coverage of a topic at the intersection of sport and politics related to, for example, the Olympic Games, other mega-sporting events such as the World Cup, Super Bowl, or Asian Games, the role of sport governing bodies such as IOC and FIFA, or governmental interventions in the sport sector. A presentation, for example, could review press coverage about the anthem policy of the NFL or the awarding of the 2026 FIFA World Cup to the United States, Canada, and Mexico.​