What I’m Taking This Semester

So now that you know why I’m in graduate school, what does my actual schedule look like? This semester I’m taking three seminars: Intro to American Studies, American Capitalisms, and Digital Humanities.

We’ve been reading selections from this book, among others

Intro to American Studies is well, just that: an introduction to American Studies as a discipline. You learn about the history of the field, what the dominant methodological approaches tend to be, and where it’s heading in the near future. I took similar courses for art history, but the biggest difference I’ve noticed so far is the openness. There isn’t really a singular, canonical American Studies; rather it’s more about your own interests, and the interdisciplinary approaches you can take to turn your interests into research. Some folks might be more focused on history, others gender or queer theory, still others postcolonialism. It can be exciting or frightening depending on how much structure you prefer to have. Personally I like the open-endedness of it, otherwise I’d be in a more traditional field like history, or art history.

We read about a book a week for American Capitalisms

American Capitalisms looks at the historical and theoretical frameworks behind our capitalist society. Each week we read a book, a couple of articles, and discuss them. So far the main thing I’ve gotten is that capitalism is a lot more than an economic system. It’s a cultural framework that influences just about every aspect of our society, from gender relations to racialization. I’ve also learned that capitalism isn’t really the monolith we imagine it to be, but a variety of systems that reflect different social needs and cultural values. Given my research interests in transportation, infrasturcture, and art accessbility, I thought this would be an appropriate course for getting a better sense of the broader trends in American economic and cultural history.

One of the first books we read in Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities is a foundational course for what’s still a relatively new field. Digital Humanities essentially applies digital tools and techniques to history, anthropology, the Internet itself, and more. It’s most commonly associated with archive or exhibition-driven websites (an outstanding one is the Colored Conventions from the University of Delaware), but it also encompasses data organization techniques and other less visible forms. I don’t have a background in Digital Humanities myself, but I’ve been an observer on the periphery for a while, and as a scholar in the 21st century I believe I should at least be familiar with it. I also thought it would be a useful way to help me organize the data I’ve collected from the Roswell Museum, and possibly future data from other archives.

I’m also playing the flute in the William and Mary Wind Ensemble. It’s technically a class, but I’m in it for recreational purposes. Being in a group ensures that I practice regularly, and it’s an important outlet from my coursework.
So that’s what I’m up to right now. I won’t be starting my actual dissertation for a couple of years, but these classes and others are definitely helping me think about how to approach it as that time gets nearer, all while having the opportunity to learn about new things.

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