AMST 164
Communications in Early America Spring 2024
Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed HIST 163
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

How did the multiplicity of people who shaped “early” North America communicate with each other, across profound linguistic, cultural, social, political, and spiritual differences? What strategies did they use to forge meaning and connections in times of tremendous transformation, while maintaining vital continuities with what came before? This course examines histories of communication in North America and the technologies that communities developed to record, remember, advocate, persuade, resist, and express their expectations for the future. Using a continental and transoceanic lens of “Vast Early America,” we will take up Indigenous oral traditions, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, wampum belts, and winter counts as expressions of ethics, identity, relationality, and diplomacy among sovereign Native/Indigenous nations; artistic and natural science paintings, engravings, and visual culture that circulated through the Atlantic World; diaries and journals as forms of personal as well as collective memory. In the latter part, we will work with political orations, newspapers, pamphlets, and other forms of print culture that galvanized public opinion in the Age of Atlantic Revolutions; memorials and monuments that communities created to honor ancestors and significant events; material culture such as baskets and weavings that signified through their imagery and physical forms; and social critique and visions of justice in the verse and prose of Phillis Wheatley Peters and William Apess. These materials take us into the complexities of individuals’ and communities’ interactions and relations of power, and spaces of potential or realized solidarity, alliance, and co-building of new worlds. Throughout we will work together to understand different methodologies, theories, practices, and ethics involved in approaching the past. We will at every turn be attuned to the ongoing significances of these experiences among communities in the twenty-first century. This course provides an opportunity to engage with original materials pertaining to early American histories in the Williams College Archives/Special Collections and Art Museum as well as digital spaces.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 15
Class#: 3849
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: active participation in class discussions, several short essays based on readings and discussion topics, museum/archives exercise, final essay
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: limited to first- and second-year students who have not yet taken a 100-level course in History or American Studies; juniors and seniors only with the permission of the instructor
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
AMST 164 Division II HIST 163 Division II
WS Notes: Short essays (3-5 pages) spaced throughout the semester with instructor feedback on writing skills as well as historical content; written reflection and analysis related to museum/archives visit with original materials; final essay (8-10 pages) due at end of semester that synthesizes findings from across the whole semester and allows students to closely examine primary/secondary sources; regular opportunities to conference with instructor about writing ideas and drafts.
DPE Notes: This course centers experiences of diverse people in early America including substantial focus on Native American/Indigenous and African American communities. It introduces foundational methods for historical study, including decolonizing methodologies from Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) and African American histories; critical vantages on Euro-American settler colonialism; and scholarship on complex entanglements in multiracial and multiethnic communities
Attributes: HIST Group F Electives - U.S. + Canada
HIST Group P Electives - Premodern

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