Centering on the Samuel French Collection, a rich and untapped archive of theater and performance history at Amherst, this course will explore American culture at the turn of the twentieth century through the lens of performance. Through shared readings, discussions, and archival exploration, students will consider the complexity of each of the terms in this course’s title, asking such questions as: (1) how local or transnational was American performance? (2) what kinds of behavior “counted” as performance in this period? and (3) how did such performances take part in the creation of a truly national culture in turn-of-the-century America?
Students will learn how to pose a productive and original research question, how to master the critical and historical literature relevant to that question, and how to enter into the scholarly conversation on their topic. Particular emphasis will be placed on the value and difficulty of interdisciplinary work. The semester will culminate in two projects. Individually, students will produce research papers involving materials from the Samuel French Collection. Together, the class will curate an exhibition of materials from the archive to be displayed in the Frost Library.
Admission with consent of the instructor. This course is part of a Mellon-funded program designed to encourage students to engage in substantive, original humanities research. It is open to any junior preparing to do thesis research in the humanities, but given the intensive nature of the course, enrollment will be limited to six students. Spring semester. Professor Grobe.