American National Identity, 1600-2000
This course is designed for gradual-level students of American history. We will analyze the evolution of American nationalism and national identity from the colonial era through to the present day. Our examination of American nationalism will be grounded in a broad theoretical understanding of the nature of nationalism in a broader global sense, which we will apply to the particular historical circumstances of the United States. We will take a holistic approach in doing so, examining not only the traditional legal, constitutional, and political structures of the American nation, but also its cultural, artistic, literary and social aspects. We will address the problems for early American nationalism created by westward expansion, anti-immigrant hostility, and above all slavery and its key role in the sectional crisis and the Civil War Era. We will then examine the growth and development of American imperialism during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, focusing particularly on the ways in which America’s modern role as a world power is still shaped by both the ideals and the unresolved contradictions endemic to American nationalism.
Upon completion of this course students should have broad knowledge of the following recurring themes in the history of American nationalism:
1.Theories concerning the nature of nationalism and its relation to capitalism, modernism and sociocultural identity as developed by Ernst Gellner, Benedict Anderson, Eric Hobsbawm, etc.
2. America’s legal and constitutional structure and how it has shaped American national identity, particularly the Constitution’s text and other seminal documents, and how they have adapted to the nation’s changing historical circumstances.
3.The origins and evolution of American political culture, particularly party politics and both the strengths and limitations of the American version of a mass democratic culture.
4.The role of race, gender, class, and immigration in the evolution of American national identity, particularly the pursuit of justice by non-White peoples within the national community’s political framework.
5.The rich cultural tradition of nationalism in American history and the development of an American national mythology as expressed in art, music, poetry, religion, etc.
6.The complex and ambivalent impact of American expansion and imperialism upon America’s national identity and sense of itself as a participant in the global community of nations.
1.Expand knowledge of U.S. history and cultures.
2.Expand knowledge of how nations function as forms of human community formation.
3.Critically assess both the historical strengths and limitations of America’s particular version of national community formation.
4.Engage in comparative analysis of American nationalism with other forms of national community.
5.Understand the historical complexities of America’s national ideals when applied to the often vexing issues of human rights, inclusion and justice for its citizenry and abroad.
6.Achieve a deeper understanding of the historical progress of America’s modern embrace of imperialism and exceptionalism.