PSCI 410
Senior Seminar: Interpretations of American Politics Fall 2019
Division II

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American politics are in upheaval, and most Americans believe the country to be headed down “the wrong track.” Yet assessments of what is at the heart of the country’s problems vary. Critics on the left worry that the United States in 2016 elected a proto-fascist who will consolidate white nationalist power and corporate rule. Critics on the right worry that the U.S. has abandoned the Anglo-Protestant traditions that made it strong and has entered a period of moral decay and decline. What are we to make of these different assessments? What do left and right see when they survey the nation, and why is what they see so different? Any diagnosis of contemporary maladies is premised on a vision of what a healthy functioning republic looks like. Our task in the seminar is to uncover and interrogate those visions. We will do this by exploring different interpretations of American politics, each with its own story of narrative tensions and possible resolutions. We will then use our investigation of how different authors, and different traditions, understand the nation to help us assess contemporary politics and come to our own conclusions about what animates them.
The Class: Type: seminar
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1971
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: brief weekly writing assignments; two short essays; one longer paper; and oral presentation
Prerequisites: at least one course in American politics
Enrollment Preferences: senior Political Science majors
Distributions: Division II
Attributes: PSCI American Politics Courses

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