History | Observing Early Modern America
J400 | 17386 | Dierks


Above class open to majors only
Above class open to undergraduates only
J400: P-HIST-J300

Foreigners who visit the United States are often shocked at how
parochial the American media is, especially how little it covers or
considers the rest of the world.  As unaware as Americans tend to be
of the world, they also seem unaware that their culture is -- and
has long been -- avidly studied by people from other parts of the
world.  This course will focus on foreign observers of “America”
through three crucial periods of its history:  its status as a set
of remote and wild colonies at the edge of the British empire; its
quest for national independence at the time of the American
Revolution; and its development into an imperial nation in the
nineteenth century.  Throughout this early modern period “America”
was closely observed by foreigners fascinated by its environment,
its politics, its social structure, its culture.  The most famous
text is Tocqueville’s _Democracy in America_ from the 1830s, but
this course traces a long history of travel narratives about the
ever-changing marvels and mysteries of “America.”

Reading assignments shall feature travel narratives from the 17th to
19th centuries, and include scholarly analyses of cross-cultural
observation.  Writing assignments center on the production of an
original long research paper.