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Mas Disciplines
A Wide Range of Disciplines
Courses in U.S. Constitutional Law, Political Economy, Religious Studies,
and Human Geography stand out as unique features of the MAS
Contact

Dr. Anne Sommer

Office hours:
Tuesdays, 3 - 4 p.m.
and by appointment

T: + 49 (0)6221 / 54 3713
F: + 49 (0)6221 / 54 3719

mas@uni-hd.de

 
News

MAS Newsletter 2/2016:
The American Dream Lives Large at the HCA

This edition features the HCA’s commencement celebration for the B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. classes of 2016. Current MAS student Jessica Hagen writes about her life alongside the MAS. Ana Maric-Curry (MAS Class of 2011) shares how her academic and personal life have evolved after the MAS. Finally, Zachary Holler, a current MAS student, reports about the first student conference at the HCA, where he participated in the panel discussion about the American Dream in the 21st century.

 
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Curriculum 2015/2016

American History

Prof. Dr. Manfred Berg

Mondays, 11am–1pm, History Department (Hörsaal)

Tutorial: Everett Messamore, M.A., Wednesdays, 9–11am, HCA (Stucco)

When the colonial subjects of British North America declared their independence from the mother country, they set out, in Thomas Paine’s famous words, “to begin the world over again.” The United States of America conceived of itself as a new nation based upon the principles of political liberty and republican government. Yet despite their professed belief in natural rights and equality, Americans continued to practise racial slavery. Eventually, the sectional conflict over the “peculiar institution” led to the secession of the slaveholding states in South, threatening the break-up of the union created by the Constitution of 1787. This lecture course will cover the political and social history of the United States from the eve of independence to the eve of the Civil War. It will focus on such topics as the American Revolution, the consolidation of the American Republic, Jacksonian Democracy, antebellum slavery, reform and religion, westward expansion, and sectional conflict.

 

Political Science

PD Dr. Martin Thunert

Wednesdays, 2–4pm, HCA (Oculus)

Tutorial: Natalie Rauscher, M.A., Tuesdays, 2–4pm, HCA (Stucco)

This course attempts to teach American government, politics and policy-making in a way that goes beyond the basics, but without ignoring the basics. We will start by briefly exploring the foundations of American government in the Constitution – especially federalism - , the country’s social structure and the America’s unique political and cultural traditions. We will then look at the diverse and changing American electorate, analyze the role of parties, interest groups, lobbyist, consultants and the media and the way in which average citizens participate in the political process. Thereafter, we will explore the different institutions that make up the government in Washington, DC: the Congress, the President, the bureaucracy, and the federal courts, especially the Supreme Court. Introducing you to the public policy making process in the United States – with occasional comparisons to other countries – this lecture course adopts an empirical approach to the study of policy-making by relating theories of the policy-making process to actual developments in America since the 1980s as well as to its fictional representations as in House of Cards (Netflix/Sky Atlantic) or The West Wing (NBC).

This course will be taught as a lecture class with opportunities for questions and answers at the end of each session.

 

Geography: North American Cities

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Gehard

Tuesdays, 9–11am, HS 04

Tutorial: Cosima Werner, Tuesdays, 11am–1pm, HCA (Stucco)

Comprehensive overview of the Urban Geography of North America: Urban systems, recent and historical urban developments (urbanization, suburbanization, reurbanisation), internal structure of cities (esp. urban inequalities), modeling and theorizing urban space, urban policies, planning the twenty-first-century city, future of cities.

 

Introduction to the Law and Legal System of the United States

Cynthia Wilke, J.D.

Fridays, 11am–1pm, Neue Uni (Neue Aula)

Tutorial: Cynthia Wilke, J.D., Fridays, 2–4pm, HCA (Oculus)

The goal of this course is for students to acquire a basic understanding of and introduction to the U.S. legal system. Students will study the origins and development of the common law in the United States, as well as certain fundamental differences between the U.S. common law system and a civil law legal system. Additional topics will include case law, the principle of precedent in U.S. legal analysis, and the structure and role of the federal and state court systems. Special attention will be paid to the unique procedural aspects of the U.S. system, such as the role of the jury and the adversary system of dispute adjudication. Students will also receive an overview of legal education and the practice of law in the U.S. Several hours will be devoted to an introduction to the U.S. Constitution and selected topics in substantive law.

 

Methodology 1 (Part I)

Daniel Silliman, M.A.

Thursdays, 9–11am, HCA (Oculus)

Thinking about culture - if done with any sophistication, any depth or complexity - also calls for thinking about thinking. American Studies, along with cultural studies and the humanities more generally, is marked by this self-reflexive move, where the study itself is taken as the object of study. In this class, we refocus on the frames for and structures of thinking about culture, rather than on culture itself.

Surveying contemporary critical theory, this class will consider and explore the ideas of the Frankfurt school, deconstruction, post colonialism, queer theory, psychoanalysis, and social constructionism, paying special attention to how that thinking about thinking can be used methodologically in the study of American culture.

Text: A course reader will be made available.

 

Methodology 2: Problems in Academic Writing (Part I)

Dr. Anja Schüler

Thursdays, 11am–1pm, HCA (Oculus)

This course offers students practice in writing and evaluating several types of English texts. In particular, it will be dedicated to the process of academic writing, including planning, drafting, editing, and proofreading your class papers and eventually your M.A. thesis. The format of the seminar consists of both whole-class and small-group discussions. I will expect you expect to share your writings as well as your opinion of the writings of others, students and non-students. At the end of the semester, you should be ready to start conceptualizing, researching and drafting your M.A. thesis Students are welcome to discuss any questions related to the academic writing process in class.

 

MAS Colloquium

Dr. Wilfried Mausbach / Dr. Anne Sommer

Thursdays, 6–8pm, HCA (Stucco)

The Interdisciplinary Colloquium provides a venue for MAS students to meet with renowned experts from various fields, such as politics, economics, journalism, or academia. Most of them will be Americans who will share with us their current interests or most recent scholarship. The Interdisciplinary Colloquium will also serve as a forum for the presentation and discussion of state-of-the-art research in academic disciplines that are not otherwise represented in this year’s curriculum. In addition, field trips will acquaint students with political and business leaders from the Rhein-Neckar region.

Participation in the Interdisciplinary Colloquium is mandatory for MAS students. You are strongly encouraged to make your own contributions, either comments or questions. That is what it means to be a member of an intellectual community! Your grade will depend on your attentiveness and active participation. At the beginning of the third semester there will be a workshop in which you are expected to both present an outline of your own M.A. thesis and constructively discuss the work of your classmates.

 

American Literature

Prof. Dr. Dietmar Schloss

Thursdays, 2-4pm, HCA (Stucco)

Tutorial: Hannes Nagl, M.A., Wednesdays 9-11am, HCA (Oculus)

(Post-)Modernity and Its Discontents: Social Criticism in Contemporary American Novels

The American and French Revolutions promised to place human society on an entirely new footing: The idea was that democracy would do away with the authoritarian rule prevalent in the ancient régime; in the new system, order was seen as emerging 'spontaneously' out of the processes of social and economic life rather than being imposed from above. Modern sociologists such as Max Weber, however, have taught us to be skeptical of the view of democracy as a quasi-spontaneous process; they consider democratic capitalism not as an entirely new political and socio-economic system, but as the latest stage of an ongoing process of societal modernization. In this process, restraints have not disappeared, but gradually turned into 'self-restraints'; in fact, in Weber's view, the civilizing pressures to which the individual has been subjected in modernity have increased rather than decreased – an assessment which is reflected in Weber's indictment of modern society as an 'iron cage' ("ein stahlhartes Gehäuse"). More recently, thinkers such as Michael Foucault and Jean Baudrillard have elaborated on the role of culture in this process of modernization. In their view, literature, film, television, and music, while ostensibly providing a release from the pressures of modern life, streamline and discipline populations. In short, the media plays its part in constructing the modern/postmodern cage in which we live today – not the least by making it more bearable.

Novelists have always had a particular interest in social life and in social processes; indeed, quite a number of nineteenth-century fiction writers considered themselves as sociologists in disguise. In the last two decades, American writers seem to have rediscovered society as a field of interest. However, unlike their nineteenth-century predecessors, they are not interested in issues of class (or race) nor do they try to uncover forms of social or economic exploitation. Instead, they practice a new form of social analysis or 'cultural criticism' – namely one which explores the effects of modernization along the lines developed by the social theorists mentioned above. In fact, many of these writers portray human individuals placed in the 'cage' of modern or post-modern civilization. While at first sight, protagonists such as the anonymous narrator of Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club seem to be perfect examples of the free modern individual, a closer look reveals that their emotions and actions are subjected to various social and cultural restraints. Consciously or unconsciously, many protagonists are looking for ways of getting out of the cage – frequently by resorting to acts of violence. By depicting these efforts, the novelists not only portray a desperate search for authenticity – for a life beyond the iron cage –, but they also shed light on the civilizing pressures human beings are subjected to in modernity. – In this course, we will read novels by Chuck Palahniuk, Don DeLillo, and Cormac McCarthy and Dave Eggers together with essays from social philosophers such as Max Weber, Norbert Elias, Theodor W. Adorno, Michael Foucault, and Jean Baudrillard and consider how the sociological and literary discourses throw light on each other.

Texts: Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club: A Novel (1996; Norton pb.), Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis (2003; MacMillan pb.); Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2007; Vintage pb.); Dave Eggers, The Circle (2013; Penguin pb.) – to be read before the semester starts. A collection of sociological texts will be made available on Moodle2.

 

American Religious Studies

Prof. Dr. Jan Stievermann

Tuesdays, 2-4pm, Neue Uni, HS 06 (Part I)
Wednesdays, 11am-1pm, Neue Uni, HS 06 (Part II)

Tutorial: Ryan Hoselton, Wednesdays, 12am-3pm, HCA (Oculus)

The United States is one of the most religious nations in the world, a point that was famously articulated by Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835. "On my arrival in the United States," he recalled, "the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention." Yet the impact of the separation of church and state on the broader culture was even more significant to de Tocqueville than the preponderance of religion. "The longer I stayed there," he continued, "the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things. In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country." Yet he cautioned that "the church cannot share the temporal power of the state without being the object of a portion of that animosity which the latter excites."

This was a warning that Americans have never heeded. In fact, de Tocqueville’s observation that religion and politics in the United States had separate spheres of influence was and is more myth than reality. Faith has always played a tremendous role in American culture, which was the focus of this course. It surveyed the history of American religions in the twentieth century, focusing on the evolution of religious faiths as varying groups came into contact with one another. In particular, the course analyzed how steady immigration and limited governmental intrusion produced a diverse and pluralistic culture that places tremendous value on religious beliefs. In addition, the course focused specifically on the ways in which Americans have used religion to shape their communities, their cultures, and their nation. Religion has never been simply about belief; it is always about actions as well. As a result, this course placed heavy emphasis on "lived" religion, or religion "on the ground."

 

Interdisciplinary Seminar I: Geography/Literature

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Gerhard, Prof. Dr. Günter Leypoldt

Thursdays, 4-6pm, HCA (Stucco)

This interdisciplinary seminar, which is co-organized by the Anglistische Seminar and the Geography Department at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, deals with the question of how race and ethnicity impact everyday life in the United States. Combining the perspectives of urban geography and literary studies, we will survey a variety of theories and concepts, novels, and case studies of urban ethnography that help us explore the fundamental dynamics and practical consequence of racial and ethnic markers of socio-cultural segmentation. On the one hand, race and ethnicity can be seen as institutionalized engines of social inequality and political marginalization. From another angle, racial and ethnic affiliations also revolve around the idea of cultural authenticity and identity, which can produce new imagined communities with very real consequences (racialized “ghettos” on the one hand, “gentrified” ethnic neighborhoods on the other). We will approach the phenomenon of ethnicity and race by looking at a number of theoretical texts (from urban sociology, philosophy, and cultural theory, and urban geography) as well as more concrete studies of urban neighborhoods and literary representations of the issues involved.

Please acquire and read before the beginning of the term the following texts (in any edition):

  • Elijah Anderson, The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life (2012)
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah: A Novel (2013)
  • Ayad Akhtar, Disgraced: A Play (2013)

The remaining material will be provided online during the term break.

 

Interdisciplinary Seminar II: Religious Studies/Law

Prof. Dr. Jan Stievermann, Prof. Dr. John Jr. Witte

Fridays, June 3+10: 3-8pm, HCA (Oculus)
Saturdays, June 4+11: 3-8pm, HCA (Oculus)
Tuesday, June 14: 6-8pm, HCA (Oculus)

Methodology 1: Introduction to American Studies (Part 2)

Hannes Nagl, M.A.

Thursdays, 11am-1pm, HCA (Oculus)

The “Introduction to American Studies” differs from other classes offered in the MAS program in that it is not concerned with any particular aspect of American culture, such as history, religion, literature, or law. Instead, following Henry Nash Smith’s famous call, the course is designed to look at American Studies “as a whole.” It thus addresses questions such as: What issues and questions informed the development of American Studies as an academic discipline? What are its methodological and theoretical foundations and problems? What categories and concepts inform current debates in the field? In order to discuss these questions, students are asked to read two to three essays on the history, theory, and methods of American Studies for each class session. In addition, they are required to write three short papers, each in response to one of the assigned articles.

Text: A course reader will be made available.

 

Academic Writing

Dr. Anja Schüler

Thursdays, 10-11am, HCA (Oculus)

This course offers students practice in writing and evaluating several types of English texts. In particular, it will be dedicated to the process of academic writing, including planning, drafting, editing, and proofreading your class papers and eventually your M.A. thesis. The format of the seminar consists of both whole-class and small-group discussions. I will expect you expect to share your writings as well as your opinion of the writings of others, students and non-students. At the end of the semester, you should be ready to start conceptualizing, researching and drafting your M.A. thesis Students are welcome to discuss any questions related to the academic writing process in class.

 

Presentation Skills Workshop

Millie Baker, M.A.

Group A: May 13+21 10am-2pm, HCA (Oculus)
Group B: May 14+20 10am-2pm, HCA (Oculus)

MAS Colloquium

Dr. Wilfried Mausbach, Dr. Anne Sommer

Thursdays, 6–8pm, HCA (Atrium)

The Interdisciplinary Colloquium provides a venue for MAS students to meet with renowned experts from various fields, such as politics, economics, journalism, or academia. Most of them will be Americans who will share with us their current interests or most recent scholarship. The Interdisciplinary Colloquium will also serve as a forum for the presentation and discussion of state-of-the-art research in academic disciplines that are not otherwise represented in this year’s curriculum. In addition, field trips will acquaint students with political and business leaders from the Rhein-Neckar region.

Participation in the Interdisciplinary Colloquium is mandatory for MAS students. You are strongly encouraged to make your own contributions, either comments or questions. That is what it means to be a member of an intellectual community! Your grade will depend on your attentiveness and active participation. At the beginning of the third semester there will be a workshop in which you are expected to both present an outline of your own M.A. thesis and constructively discuss the work of your classmates.

 

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Latest Revision: 2016-06-03
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