We began by exploring a set of classic American iconic sites ranging from George Washington to the Brooklyn Bridge. Our objective was to discover if we could arrive at something like consensus about what we actually meant by iconic and at something like a paradigm for the construction and operation of icons within American culture. During the major portion of the seminar, students were asked to find and interpret particular icons. Their choices ranged from the monumental carvings of Jackson, Lee and Davis at Stone Mountain, Georgia to the blues singer Bessie Smith and the American Quilt.
The reader will, of course, judge the success of these projects for
him/herself; as the instructor in this course, I am unrepentantly biased.
I find them wonderful. But of course I am twice privileged in this matter.
Unlike the reader, I know the amount of energy and imagination -- not to
mention simple hard work -- students brought to this work and I know the
many ways in which the projects do not even begin to measure the actual
learning that has been accomplished.
In addition, students had acquired the rudimentary technical skills necessary for delivering research and analysis over the web in the previous semester, the results of their research were to be presented as hypertext projects.
For the final project in the course, students were asked to select a single object from American culture and to design a web project that would explain its origins, development, cultural function, and significance. In effect, they were asked to test out their understanding of what American Studies is by actually doing American Studies.
From the Editor's perspective, the projects in this anthology attest to the energy, intelligence and skill of this group of students; I think you'll agree.
Alan B. Howard