Professor P. Ethington, Department of History >>
Professor R. Fox, Department of History >>
Professor S. Lamy, School of International Relations >>
Don Quixote in Los Angeles: 1615-2005
In the age of global cultures and mass media, how do we define ourselves and how do we define others? This is a course on the history of a global metropolis, and also an opportunity to explore the meaning of history itself. Our exploration will focus on Los Angeles, built by generations of seekers and dreamers: actors, artists, immigrant workers, investors, inventors, moviemakers, warlords, novelists, spies, U.S. presidents, and charlatans. Illusion and the harshest reality have continually interacted here, from the creation of Hollywood to the design of rockets to the Moon, Mars, and beyond; from Tarzan to the F-16. All dimensions of life: gender, class, status, race, culture, power, and the human spirit, have been transformed in the modern era, and global cities like Los Angeles are at the leading edge of these transformations.
Cervantes first explored the entanglement of illusion and rationality in the modern world. His Don Quixote is the first comprehensive portrait of the modern self. In his quest to restore the truths of the past, Don Quixote creates his own identity but is caught in a web of illusions. The students will embark on a quest as well: to map the ways that world history, as it can be found all around us in the landscape of the present, affects our lives today.
The course is based on the instructor's forthcoming book, Ghost Metropolis: Los Angeles and the Cartography of Time, 1900-2001. Students will also read other histories of Los Angeles, and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's Don Quixote.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Don Quixote. Tran. Burton Raffel. New York: W.W. Norton, 1999.
William Deverell. Whitewashed Adobe: The Rise of Los Angeles and the Remaking of Its Mexican Past. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.
Philip K. Dick. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. New York: Random House, 1996.
Phil Ethington. Ghost Metropolis: Los Angeles and the Cartography of Time, 1900-2001. In press.
Karen Tei Yamashita. Tropic of Orange: A Novel. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1997.
Assigned Screenings will include:
Go West. Dir. Buster Keaton, 1925.
Blade Runner. Dir. Ridley Scott, 1982,
The Player. Dir. Robert Altman, 1992,
A Day Without a Mexican. Dir. Sergio Arau, 2004.
American Prophets: Jefferson, Lincoln, and King
This course examines the paradox that the United States, one of the most secular nations on earth, is also one of the most religious. One of the most startling aspects of this paradox is the deep, virtually religious attachment Americans feel toward certain "sacred texts," including Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, Lincoln's Gettysburg and Second Inaugural Addresses, and King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The 80-90 percent of Americans who say they believe in God know full well that these texts are not sacred in the same way that the Bible or the Koran or the Book of Mormon are sacred, but that does not stop them from adopting a reverential stance toward them. And the non-believers who reject traditional religion are just as likely as believers to adopt a pious attitude toward the texts of the American "civil religion."
Jefferson, Lincoln, and King appear to be the three "major" prophets of American history, and viewing them in relation to one another reveals the main moral and political quandary that marks American history over the last two centuries: how to protect and extend equality in a nation founded upon a fateful compromise between freedom and slavery. What the three major prophets share is their authorship of texts that soon achieved sacred status in the consciousness of most Americans.
The course will take up some minor American prophets too, and ask why they did not become major prophets like Jefferson, Lincoln, and King. Some of them, including Harriett Beecher Stowe, authored texts that did achieve a virtually sacred status for a time-while others, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Joseph Smith, William Jennings Bryan, Eugene Debs, W. E. B. Du Bois, Jane Addams, Barry Goldwater, and Malcolm X, played an explicitly prophetic role amidst the political and social debates of their day.
Finally, the course will ponder the prospects for prophecy in the 21st century. Do speeches and writings still possess the "civilly sacred" potential that Martin Luther King exploited so memorably at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation? Do cultural or political leaders still possess the potential to speak or write prophetically? Have audiences become inured to, or dismissive of, the lofty thoughts of clergymen or politicians? Is prophecy henceforth more likely to emerge in documentary film ("An Inconvenient Truth") or popular music than in written or oratorical form?
While the study of history does not improve our chances of predicting the future, it does suggest that new American prophets will emerge in coming centuries as they did in each past century. Towards the end of the semester we will try collectively to imagine what messages these prophets of the near future may choose to deliver.
B. M. Goldwater. The Conscience of a Conservative. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.
Michael P. Johnson. Abraham Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War: Selected Writings and Speeches. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000.
Martin Luther King, Jr. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ed. James M. Washington. New York: HarperCollins, 1990.
Pauline Maier. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York: Random House, 1998.
Toni Morrison. Beloved. New York: Random House, 2004.
Barack Obama. The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. New York: Random House, 2007.
Harriet Beecher Stowe. Uncle Tom's Cabin: Or, Life among the Lowly. Ed. Ann Douglas. New York: Penguin, 1981.
Ronald C. White. Lincoln's Greatest Speech. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
Empire and Its Discontents
This course will look at international relations and US foreign policy in the post-Cold War era. With the end of the Cold War, most citizens in the wealthy Northern states thought world leaders would work to establish a New World Order that would provide stability, order and economic opportunities for the entire world. The majority of the world's population, living in the poorer South or developing world, hoped that the end of bipolarity and the global ideological conflict between the US and the USSR would shift attention to their human security concerns. The first Gulf War suggested to most of the world that multilateralism and the rule of law would be defining norms in this new world order. To many, this transition was about rethinking the dominant realist paradigm and rethinking the rules of international relations that were established in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia. With the terrorist attacks of 11 September, the second Bush administration ended any hopes of a new world order based on multilateralism and global governance. The Bush Doctrine clearly advocates a more unipolar or hegemonic strategy for US foreign policy and has caused concerns around the world that the US plans on establishing a new empire. The debate about US imperial aspirations and the future of world order is at the center of political discussions around the world. In this seminar, we will join this discussion and critically review the arguments for and against this new US Empire.
The course will be discussion-based and we will explore or inhabit several case studies and we will participate in several problem-based exercises. There will be no traditional exams in this class. Students will asked to present critical reviews of each book read in class and they will write a short essay after each case study. There will be a final problem-based exercise at the end of the course.
Andrew Bacevich. The New American Militarism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Niall Ferguson. Colossus. New York: Penguin, 2005.
Ann-Marie Slaughter. A New World Order. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.
IDRC. The Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty: The Responsibility to Protect.