Fall 2023 Undergraduate Courses

Introduction to American Studies CAS AM 200
Tu/Th 11:00am – 12:15pm
Prof. Battenfeld

An exploration of the multi-faceted themes of American society and culture in selected historical periods using a variety of approaches to interpret such topics as American art, literature, politics, material culture, and the mass media. Required of majors and minors. Effective Fall 2018, this course fulfills a single unit in the following BU Hub areas: Critical Thinking, Research and Information Literacy.

Native American and Indigenous Studies CAS AM 220
Tu 12:30pm – 3:15pm

Examines diverse cultural expressions of Native peoples, from oral traditions to modern fiction, and their historic and political contexts. Employs interdisciplinary perspectives from Native American and Indigenous Studies to ask critical questions about the arts, identity, community, and creativity. Effective Spring 2020, this course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Aesthetic Exploration, The Individual in Community, Creativity/Innovation.

American Arts and Society CAS AM 250
MWF 10:10am – 11:00am
Max Clee

Investigates key issues and themes in American arts and letters. Topic for Fall 2023: The American Suburb 1945-Present. What comes to mind when you think of suburbia? Safety, opportunity, and family? Inequality, racism, and paranoia? Or something else entirely? Where do these associations come from, and how have we come to understand suburbia the way we do? This course aims to help you answer these questions, and to contextualize the suburbs historically, politically and culturally. We’re going to cast the net wide, looking at suburbs as near as Brookline and as far as Southern California through fiction, television, music, film, photography, and history books. By doing this, the course will also introduce you to the approaches and forms of analysis which make up the interdisciplinary field of American Studies. AM250 fulfills a single unit each in the Critical Thinking and Research and Information Literacy HUB areas.

Bob Dylan: Music and Words CAS AM 336
Tu/Th 12:30 – 1:45 pm
Prof. Yudkin

This course examines Bob Dylan’s music and lyrics from 1962 to 1975 in the context of his life, artistic influences, and milieu. We will explore the wealth of criticism and reaction his songs have inspired, paying special attention to questions concerning the nature of his art–for example, his dependence on musical tradition or the relationship between song lyrics and poetry–and past and current critical discussion about his legacy. Effective Fall 2021, this course fulfills a single unit in each of the following BU Hub areas: Writing- Intensive Course, Aesthetic Exploration. Meets with CFA MH 408

Material Culture CAS AM 367
Tu/Th 2:00pm – 3:15 pm
Prof. Bunschoten

Introduction to the theory and practice of the interdisciplinary study of material culture, which includes everything we make and use, from food and clothing to art and buildings. Topic for Fall 23: Thinking with American Pie. Things populate our everyday lives, and too often they are overlooked and unremarked. This course invites students to think about the world, the U.S., and their communities with an ordinary thing: pie. Sweet or savory, appetizer, entrée, or dessert, pie provides an exceptional opportunity to trace an American commonplace through its constitutive elements—recipes, ingredients, creative acts of making, and the critical act of eating. The class organizes itself around pie as an idea, object, and pathway to offer an intensive introduction to theories and practices of material culture.

The course is organized around three core themes: (1) The Idea of Pie, (2) Creativity and Construction, and (3) The Worlds We Eat. We begin with the pie itself as a unit to introduce thinking with and through things, food, and the particularities of pie. We orient ourselves to thinking with things and develop our scholarly theoretical toolkits to better discuss pie and its constituent parts. The second unit delves concretely into the construction of pies and the knowledges they require of their makers. The final unit, “The Worlds We Eat” explores what it means to ingest a thing and its history into the self in the act of eating. This unit plays with consumption on multiple registers to challenge students to imagine themselves as part of national and global food systems in the past and present. Also offered as CAS AH 367.

American Buildings and Landscapes CAS AM 385
Prof. Moore
Tu/Th 12:30pm – 1:45 pm

An introductory analytic survey of American buildings and landscapes within their historical and cultural contexts. Students examine forces that have shaped the American built environment. Topics range from Indian mounds to commercial strips, Spanish missions to skyscrapers. Also offered as CAS AH 385.

Special Topics in American Studies CAS AM 501
Prof. Craciun
Tu/Th 11:00am – 12:15pm

Topic for Fall 2023: Arctic Humanities. The Arctic world makes its presence felt throughout our planet. This class immerses students in the dynamic world of the circumpolar Arctic, a vast transcontinental region home to nearly 4 million people, with a focus on the North American Arctic (Canada, US, and Greenland). For too long defined by southerners as a lifeless, timeless, sublime, and remote wilderness or wasteland, the circumpolar North has played important roles in global economic and cultural exchanges for millennia, just as it has shaped the planetary environment long before the Anthropocene. In order to understand the North as a driver of climate change and geopolitics today, we will explore its long and deep significance as a source of powerful myths, resource extraction booms, aesthetic currents, colonial and postcolonial efforts, scientific and technological advances, Indigenous knowledge and belonging, and intense curiosity by outsiders. We will engage with Inuit culture (poems, novel, songs, material culture, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, film), European, North American, and African travel narratives and fiction, and the work of anthropologists, biologists, historians, political scientists, art historians, and geographers. We will provisionally take a day field trip to Bowdoin’s new Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum in Brunswick, Maine (failing that we will visit Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Anthropology). 

Places of Memory: Historic Preservation Theory and Practice CAS AM 546
Prof. Stevenson
Fri 11:15am – 2:00pm

Covers key aspects of the history, theory, and practice of historic preservation. Preservation is discussed in the context of cultural history and the changing relationship between existing buildings and landscapes and attitudes toward history, memory, invented tradition, and place. Also offered as CAS AH 546 and CAS HI 546

Boston Architectural and Community History Workshop CAS AM 555
Prof. Ahlstrom
Wed 2:30pm – 5:15 pm

Focuses on class readings, lectures, and research on a single neighborhood or community in Boston (or Greater Boston). Greatest emphasis is on using primary sources– land titles and deeds, building permits, fire insurance atlases and other maps. Explores places and sources that help assess and narrate the rich history of architectural and urban development.

Affiliated Programs

Students in the American Studies Program also take courses in other departments with affiliated faculty. Some of the courses commonly taken by students are listed below. For a detailed course list for each department, please consult the Undergraduate Bulletin.

African American Studies


Film and Television


History of Art & Architecture