Statement of Purpose
This course is designed to introduce students to both the field of American
Studies and the use of computing technology for research, analysis, and
electronic publication of materials related to an understanding of American
The format of this course should, in some ways, seem usual and familiar:
we will meet three times a week in Pavilion VIII, you will be asked to
do a significant amount of reading and writing, and there will be something
like a final examination. At the same time, I hope that, in many ways,
it will seem quite unlike any course you've done before.
Each of these projects will be posted on your HomePage by the dates indicated
in the syllabus.
1) Although we will meet together regularly, we are also going to construct
a virtual classroom. Each student will create their own HomePage on the
World Wide Web from a self-paced
tutorial. Each HomePage will be the place where student projects are
presented and all HomePages will be linked together to form a Virtual
2) The reading for the course includes some texts in the usual sense
of the term, printed texts/books/articles that will be available in Clemons
Library (R) or (C). But some texts are also available in The
Digital Reserve Book Room and from Hypertexts
which are accessible from this syllabus.
3) Unlike most humanities courses, this course has a lab section, AS
LAB. Initially, we'll meet in Wilson 301 -- or in the Electronic Text
Center or the Alderman Computer Class -- Monday afternoons from 5:00 to
6:00. There, we'll try to get everyone up to speed on the computing, hardware,
applications, and html. After we've done this and everyone is feeling comfortable
about it we'll move into our own lab in Bryan 423, the American Studies
Lab. AS LAB will then become a workshop and help session concentrating
on the projects you're working on.
4) Much of the work in the course is task-based, work designed
to give you practical and hands on experience both in the technology and
in thinking about American culture:
a) you'll convert ascii materials to html, scan and tag other texts from
scratch, scan and manipulate electronic images and audio/video files;
b) you'll create an exhibition of Fortune magazine covers from the 1930s;
c) you'll create a digital version of Alan Trachtenberg's The Incorporation
of America as well as a companion synoptic version of the same text;
d) you'll create a hyertext extension for the Trachtenberg project;
e) you'll serve throughout the year as a service librarian, for
one of the existing sections of The
American Studies Yellow Pages;
f) And, finally -- and partially over the break between semesters, we'll
add components for a hypertext of Gilbert Seldes' The Seven Lively Arts,
the first serious consideration of American popular culture. We already
have a digitized version of this book but what we'll do for the next stage
of its development is not yet clear.
The larger objective of this semester's work is to prepare ourselves
to continue the development of the 1930s
site begun last year by MA98.