SSI1 135

From Earthquakes to Epidemics: Catastrophe in United States Culture

This course is designed to help students develop skills and practices that they will use throughout their careers. They will learn about the different kinds of sources scholars work with, how to read those sources carefully and critically, and how to employ questions as a frame of inquiry. They have opportunities to discover, understand, and engage the arguments and ideas of others critically, fairly, and ethically, and to develop their own original ideas. Put simply, students will be joining the scholarly conversation as full fledged participants, presenting their own ideas in written and spoken formats, all while attending to the responsibilities this entails--understanding and meeting the requirements of academic integrity and practicing their skills in working cooperatively and collaboratively with classmates. To do all of this, the course takes as its focus America experiences of, reactions to, and interpretations about catastrophic events, with the understanding that moments of catastrophe offer a unique window into a culture and its practices. This course does not attempt any kind of coverage of the history of America disasters, but gives students an opportunity to ask several important questions about Americans and their relationship to calamity. What, for instance, counts as catastrophe? Is there a difference between a "natural" and a "human-made" catastrophe? What role has social identity played in shaping the disparate experiences of Americans? What role has the state played in shaping those experiences? How do those moments of catastrophe that were intentionally caused--by other Americans, by their government, by international terrorists--fit into an understanding of the nature of catastrophe? How have Americans dealt with the private trauma of disaster? And finally, what role has public memory played in shaping those private experiences? Exploring these questions and more will allow students to understand more fully the relationship between the day-to-day and the catastrophic in American life. This course, then, is filled with opportunities to expand students' capacities as learners, scholars, and as members of a learning community. Affiliate department: History.