As an interdisciplinary course, "Introduction to American Studies" is meant to spark discussion about how we mythologize and learn about our nation. Throughout the semester, we have taken time during each class to somehow contemporize our readings, such as the play "Our Town," with current social and political topics in the media. Earlier this semester, Jim Downs, my "Introduction to American Studies" professor, invited Darcie Folsom, director of sexual violence prevention and advocacy, into class to discuss the prevalence of sexual violence in the media. Our discussion focused on the recent case of football star Ray Rice and his wife Janay Palmer.
Prior to Darcie’s visit to the classroom, we had read Clarence Walker’s "Mongrel Nation: The America Begotten by Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings," an analysis of the debate over the affair between Jefferson and Hemings, seeking to uncover the complexity of the relationship. It was really interesting to hear Darcie connect the historical text to a contemporary, relevant social issue. I was so interested in our in-class discussion that I attended a talk outside of class, "Sex and the Founding Fathers," led by Thomas Foster, a professor visiting from another univeristy.
As I reflect upon my semester as a whole, "Introduction to American Studies" has been one of those eye-opening classes that has changed my perspective on topics and has pushed me to become more passionate about my interests.