Session Submission Summary

Direct link:

Rethinking History and Methods in the American Studies Classroom

Thu, November 9, 4:00 to 5:45pm, Hyatt Regency Chicago, Wright, Third Floor West Tower

Session Submission Type: Non-Paper Session: Dialogue Format


To teach history and methodology in American Studies is to navigate paradoxes. Many programs offer methods seminars, but in practice American Studies seems to resist disciplinary "rules" at every turn. The field’s institutional history likewise seems tainted by its roots in the early Cold War as a vehicle for American exceptionalism; students in American Studies are far more likely to identify with other histories and other genealogies. But what if our origin stories are simply wrong? What if the field already has more methodological coherence than we tend to recognize? In American Studies: A User’s Guide (forthcoming in August 2017), Philip J. Deloria and Alexander Olson argue that a more systematic approach to historiography and methodology should be at the center of the American Studies curriculum. Far from inhibiting experimentation or standardizing pedagogy, methodological “rules” can be a springboard to creativity—including creativity that takes the form of purposeful dissent or rejection of such rules. This roundtable seeks to generate a lively discussion about how renewed attention to method might change the way American Studies is taught in the classroom and beyond.

The panelists in this roundtable all have deep experience with American Studies pedagogy. In 2016, Janet Davis won the University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. She is currently a Provost Teaching Fellow developing a service learning initiative. Carolyn Thomas is the Vice Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Education at University of California, Davis, where she won the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Mentoring. Ann Fabian is a professor emeritus of History and American Studies at Rutgers who is currently teaching at Tokyo University. Her 2010 address, "An Education on a Whaling Ship," reflected on Moby Dick both as a text bearing the traces of Melville’s own educational world, and as a source of ongoing resonance in a Rutgers first-year seminar. An assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Ramzi Fawaz has published and presented on methods in queer studies and visual culture, including a recent article in Feminist Studies on the pedagogy of affective curation. Philip Deloria is a past president of ASA and Alexander Olson is an assistant professor at Western Kentucky University. In the spirit of this year’s ASA annual meeting theme, the primary goal of their book is to foster conversation about pedagogy and dissent in American Studies.

Sub Unit