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From democracy to liberty, equality to community, foundational ideas — about what makes for good government, about what constitutes the good society, about what is necessary to lead a good life — define the American political tradition and consume the American political imagination. Designed not only to uncover these (sometimes melodious, sometimes cacophonous) values but also to place current ideological debates about them in a broader developmental context, this tutorial will offer a topical tour of American political thinking from the birth of nationalism in the colonial period to the remaking of conservatism and liberalism in the early twenty-first century. Utilizing primary source material ranging from presidential speeches to party platforms, newspaper editorials to novels, we will seek to interrogate — reconciling where possible, distinguishing where necessary, interpreting in all instances — the disparate visions and assessments of the American political experience offered by politicians, artists, intellectuals, activists, and ordinary citizens over the course of more than two centuries. Our focus, then, is nothing less than the story of America — as told by those who lived it.
Format: tutorial; For spring 2021, this course will be taught remotely, with a few synchronous seminar classes at the start and end of the course bookending weekly synchronous tutorial sessions.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
five 5- to 7-page essays, five 2- to 3-page critiques, and a revised and extended 10- to 12-page final essay
Political Science majors and prospective majors
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
Weekly writing with extensive attention to feedback, revision, and improvement.
AMST Critical and Cultural Theory Electives
LEAD Facets or Domains of Leadership
PHIL Related Courses
PSCI American Politics Courses
PSCI Political Theory Courses