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American Identities
Summer 2020, Brooklyn College
Dr. Conor Tomás Reed

Mondays & Wednesdays
1:45pm-3:30pm (optional)

This course is an introduction to American Studies through the questions of identity. How are our identities formed and how do they function? What does it mean to be “American,” who claims this identity, and on what terms? How do American identities shape—and how are they shaped by—factors such as class, race, ethnicity, gender, language, nation, and sexuality?

This semester, we will examine diverse American identities, with an emphasis on the social and cultural forces that mold them. We will explore both the structural differences that divide individuals and groups, and ways that people challenge or transcend divisions. This course uses an interdisciplinary approach, integrating materials from literary studies, history, ethnic and gender studies, and sociology. We will read some academic theories about identity, but will more often read what a wide range of Americans have written about their own individual and collective identities.

The aim is to help you better understand your own and other people’s identities, the languages and conventions that writers use to imagine identities, and how varied perspectives on identity in the United States and the Americas speak to, and at times against, one another. Rather than settle on a final definition of either “America” or “identity,” we will explore both as products of on-going dialogue, debate, and change.