University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee LogoMasters in Liberal Arts

MLS Program  Student Focused  Curriculum  Course Information  Admissions  Contact Information

Professor Kristie Hamilton
Master's in Liberal Studies Program
Curtin Hall 902
Phone: 229-5963
Office Hours by appointment

LibrlSt 702: Traditions and Transformations II

Envisioning Self and Society in American Art, Literature and Thought,

Course Description:

This course builds on LibrlSt 701 and remains focused on the same set of fundamental questions. Of what significance is the individual in American culture? What is her or his relationship to larger society? How is that relationship seen differently by people of various backgrounds and experience? How have the terms of and responses to these questions changed over time? And why, if at all, is it important that we ask these questions of ourselves?

LibrlSt 702 continues to explore the relationship between self and society from a broad interdisciplinary perspective, but considers that dynamic within a more recent modern/post-modern context. Through a weekly examination and discussion of at least three primary "texts" drawn from visual art, literature, and other fields of thought, key ideas and values are identified as formative historical forces. Those texts provide significant, sometimes divergent views on a number of important issues, including environmental concepts and concerns; class struggle, human rights, liberation movements; utopian/dystopian visions; individualism and mass culture; the advent of diaspora and post-colonial cultures; privacy and ethics in an information age; aging, the body, and new technology.

The course also will include a field trip to Tom Every's Forevertron Sculpture Garden in Sauk County, WI, to consider his work in relation to modern/contemporary art and theory. In addition, lectures and related events sponsored by the Center for Twenty-first Century Studies will periodically augment classroom discussions.

The course also will include a field trip to Tom Every's Forevertron Sculpture Garden in Sauk County, WI, to consider his work in relation to modern/contemporary art and theory. In addition, lectures and related events sponsored by the Center for Twenty-first Century Studies will periodically augment classroom discussions.

The goals of this course are to strengthen further individuals' understanding of fundamental issues that have defined and driven the arts and humanities, to discern how those issues have developed or shifted within American culture since 1870, and finally to weigh how those issues might be addressed today with a concern for shaping the future.

Required Books:

  • George McMichael et al., Anthology of American Literature, 10th ed., vol. II (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010).
  • Marianne Doezema and Elizabeth Milroy, ed., Reading American Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).
  • John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (New York: Penguin, 1999).
  • Aurthur Miller, Death of a Salesman (Penguin Plays).
  • Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried (New York: Broadway Books, 1998).
  • Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (New York: Picador, 2003).
  • Course reader of supplementary readings: Panther Bookstore, 3132 N. Downer Avenue.
  • Course Website: offers images of all primary visual texts.

Course Requirements:

Members are expected to attend class, special lectures, and field trips. They must also complete all readings and other assignments on schedule and participate regularly in classroom discussions.

A 1-page critical commentary on assigned "texts" will be submitted before each class through week 11. Each week, a member of the class will prepare and present a 20-30 minute critical introduction to the scheduled topic and texts (see hand-out); s/he will also co-lead ensuing discussion, pose significant questions, and help to mediate different viewpoints. All members perform this role once during the semester when they will be excused from submitting the usual 1-page commentary.

Toward the end of the semester, each class member will have the opportunity to submit a preliminary expanded version (8-10 pages) of one of her/his weekly critical commentaries. Expansion should be based on the class discussion, follow-up thought, and further research. This preliminary version will be reviewed and returned on the last day of classes so that a final commentary can be submitted one week later. See the Course Schedule for specific deadlines.

Course Grading:

1. Class attendance/Participation: 20%
2. Weekly Commentaries (Cumulative):   30%
3. Introduction I: 10%
4. Introduction II: 10%
4. Final Expanded Commentary: 30%

Course Schedule: Topics & Assignments:

Note: Along with the field trip scheduled below for May 4th, I am working to schedule a special viewing-outside of class-of a private collection of paintings by accomplished German-American Wisconsin artist, Robert Von Neumann. The date for this local field trip will be announced later.


  • Review of LibrlSt 701 experience [fall semester]

  • Preview of LibrlSt 702, student assignments, program announcements

  • Discuss: Poem #435 (McMichael 185]; 2013 document; Coco Fusco & Guillermo Gomez-Pena, "Two Undiscovered Amerindians" (photograph/performance art)

Week 2: MANIFEST DESTINY (January 30)

  • John Gast, American Progress, 1873 (chromolithograph, Library of Congress); John Taylor, Treaty Signing at Medicine Lodge Creek, 1867 (drawing for Leslie's Illustrated Gazette); Howling Wolf, Treaty Signing at Medicine Lodge Creek, c.1875 (ledger drawing, New York State Library, Albany)

  • Nancy K. Anderson, "'The Kiss of Enterprise': The Western Landscape as Symbol and Resource" [Doezema & Milroy, 208-231]

  • Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 1855 & 1881; from Democratic Vistas, 1871 [McMichael, 71-117, 156-176]

  • Standing Bear, What I Am Going to Tell You Here Will Take Me Until Dark, 1881 [course reader]

  • Carl Schurz, from "Present Aspects of the Indian Problem," 1881 [course reader]

  • Frederick Jackson Turner, from The Frontier in American History, 1893 [course reader]


  • Thomas Eakins, The Gross Clinic, 1875 (oil on canvas, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia); and Will Schuster and Blackman going Shooting, 1876 (oil on canvas, Yale University Art Gallery)

  • Elizabeth Johns, "The Gross Clinic, or Portrait of Professor Gross" [Doezema & Milroy, 232-263]

  • William Dean Howells, from Criticism and Fiction, 1891: "The Ideal Grasshopper" [McMichael, 22-26]
  • Mark Twain, from Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1884 [McMichael, 216-274]

  • U.S. Constitution: Amendment XIII, 1865; Amendment XIV, 1868; Amendment XV, 1870 [course reader]

  • Edward King, from The Great South, 1875 [course reader]

  • Howard Zinn, "Emancipation Without Freedom" [course reader]

Week 4: NATURALISM & EVOLUTION (February 13)

  • Winslow Homer, Life Line, 1884 (oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art); Huntsman and Dogs, 1891 (oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art); The Gulf Stream, 1899 (oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art)

  • Jules Prown, "Winslow Homer and His Art" [Doezema & Milroy, 264-279]

  • David Tatham, "Trapper, Hunter, Woodsman: Homer's Adirondack Figures" [course reader]

  • Sarah Orne Jewett, A White Heron, 1886 [McMichael, 430-436]

  • Stephen Crane, The Open Boat, 1897 [McMichael, 791-808]

  • Lester Ward, "Mind as a Social Factor," 1884 [course reader]

  • Josiah Strong, from Our Country, 1885 [course reader]


  • Albert Pinkham Ryder, The Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse), c.1896-1913 (oil on canvas, Cleveland Museum of Art); Lewis Hine, Interior of a Steel Mill, c.1908 (photograph, Museum of Modern Art)

  • Eleanor L. Jones, in Albert Pinkham Ryder, ex cat (National Museum of American Art, 1990), 275-277 [course reader]

  • Frank Norris, A Deal in Wheat, 1902 [McMichael, 866-873]

  • Edward Bellamy, from Looking Backward: 2000-1887, 1887 [course reader]

  • Andrew Carnegie, from The Gospel of Wealth, 1889 [course reader]

  • Howard Zinn, "Robber Barons and Rebels" [course reader]

Week 6: WOMAN & THE GILDED AGE (February 27)

  • Mary Cassatt, The Boating Party, 1894 (oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art)

  • Griselda Pollock, "Mary Cassatt: Painter of Women and Children" [Doezema & Milroy 280-301]

  • Mary Wilkens Freeman, A New England Nun, 1891 [McMichael, 413-421]

  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wall-Paper, 1892 (McMichael, 666-677]

  • Anna Julia Cooper, from Woman Versus the Indian, 1892 [McMichael, 917-921]

  • Kate Chopin, The Awakening, 1899 [McMichael, 697-786]

  • Susan B. Anthony, from "The Status of Woman, Past, Present, and Future," 1897 [course reader]

Week 7: WOMAN & MODERNISM (March 6)

  • Georgia O'Keeffe, Black Iris, 1926 (oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art); Alfred Stieglitz, Portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe, 1918 (photograph, Metropolitan Museum of Art); Georgia O'Keeffe, Radiator Building-Night, New York, 1927 (Fisk University Collection).

  • Anna Chave, "O'Keeffe and the Masculine Gaze" [Doezema & Milroy 350-370]; "Who Will Paint New York? The World's New Art Center and the New York Paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe" [course reader]

  • Emily Dickinson, selected poems # 49, 67, 85, 241, 258, 465 (dates ca. 1858-1862) [McMichael, 178-187]
  • William Carlos Williams, Portrait of a Lady, 1920 [course reader]

  • Gertrude Stein, Susie Asado, 1922 [McMichael, 1242]

  • T.S. Eliot, from The Waste Land, 1922 [McMichael, 1368-1373]

  • Susan Glaspell, Trifles, 1916 [McMichael, 1318-1327]

  • Ellen Glasgow, The Shadowy Third, 1923 [McMichael, 1204-1219]

  • U.S. Constitution: 19th Amendment, 1920 [course reader]

  • Margaret Sanger, from Women and the New Race, 1920 [course reader]

Week 8: THE NEW NEGRO (March 13)

  • Lois Mailou Jones, Ascent of Ethiopia, 1922 (oil on canvas, Milwaukee Art Museum); and Paul Cadmus, To The Lynching, 1935 (graphite and watercolor on paper, Whitney Museum of American Art)

  • W.E.B. Du Bois, from The Souls of Black Folk, 1903 [McMichael, 1089-1104]

  • Countee Cullen, Heritage, 1925 [Hand-Out]

  • Jean Toomer, from Cane (Blood-Burning Moon), 1923 [McMichael, 1532-1538]

  • Zora Neale Hurston, John Redding Goes To Sea, 1921 [McMichael, 1540-1549]

  • William Faulkner, Pantaloon In Black, 1940 [McMichael, 1609-1620]

  • Langston Hughes, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, 1920; I Too, 1925 [McMichael, 1622, 1624-25].

  • Alain Locke, The New Negro, 1925 [course reader]

  • Hiram W. Evans, "The Klan's Fight for Americanism," 1926 [course reader]

SPRING BREAK (March 18-22)


  • Grant Wood, American Gothic, 1930 (oil on board, Art Institute of Chicago); Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936 (photograph, Library of Congress)

  • Wanda Corn, "The Birth of a National Icon: Grant Wood's American Gothic" [Doezema & Milroy 387-408]

  • Langston Hughes, On The Road, 1935 [McMichael, 1626-1629]

  • John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, 1939

  • Herbert Hoover, "Rugged Individualism," 1928 [course reader]

  • Charles A. Beard, "The Myth of Rugged Individualism," 1931 [course reader]


  • Jackson Pollock, Guardians of the Secret, 1943 (oil on canvas, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art); Full Fathom Five, 1947 (oil and mixed media on canvas, Museum of Modern Art); Portrait and a Dream, 1953 (oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art)

  • Michael Leja, "Jackson Pollock: Representing the Unconscious" [Doezema & Milroy 440-461]

  • Public Media Home Vision, from Portrait of an Artist: Jackson Pollock, 1987 [in-class screening]

  • Aurthur Miller, Death of a Salesman, 1949

  • Jack Kerouac, Mexico Fellaheen, 1960 [McMichael, 1738-1746]

  • Allen Ginsberg, Howl, 1956 [McMichael, 1747-1755]

  • Denise Levertov, Beyond The End, 1953 [McMichael, 1763-1764]

  • William L. Laurence, "Atomic Bomb" (from New York Times), 1945 [course reader]

  • William O. Douglas, "The Black Silence" (from New York Times), 1952 [course reader]

  • Jean Paul Sartre, "Existentialism," 1956 [course reader]


  • Robert Rauschenberg, Tracer, 1963 (oil and silkscreen on canvas, Nelson-Atkins Museum)

  • Amiri Baraka, An Agony. As Now, 1964 [McMichael, 1859-1860]

  • Martin Luther King Jr., "I Have a Dream," 1963 [McMichael, 1665-1668]

  • Lyndon B. Johnson, "The Great Society," 1964; "Withdrawal," 1968 [course reader]

  • Sonia Sanchez, the final solution/, 1969 [McMichael, 1869-1870]

  • Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried, 1990

  • Howard Zinn, "Or Does It Explode?" [course reader]

[Last week for commentaries]

Week 12: FEMINIST CRITIQUE (April 17)

  • Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party, detail, 1973-1979 (mixed media installation)

  • Linda Nochlin, "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" 1971 [course reader]

  • Alice Walker, Everyday Use, 1973 [McMichael, 1993-1998]

  • Gloria Naylor, Lucielia Louise Turner, 1980 [McMichael, 2058-2068]

  • June Jordan, Poem About My Rights, 1980 [McMichael, 1882-1884]

  • Maxine Hong Kingston, No Name Woman, 1976 [McMichael, 1898-1906]

  • Paula Gunn Allen, "Where I Come From Is Like This," 1986 [course reader]

  • Justice Harry A. Blackmun, Roe v. Wade, 1973 [course reader]

  • Elaine Gordon/Trudy Camping, "Pros and Cons of the Equal Rights Amendment," 1975 [course reader]

Week 13: CULTURE & DIFFERENCE I (April 24) [Optional prelim draft of final essay may be submitted]

  • Martin Ramirez, Courtyard, 1953 (ink and crayon on paper, Petullo Collection, Milwaukee); Guillermo Gomez-Pena, The Mexterminator, 1998 (performance/photograph).

  • Victor and Kristin Espinosa, "The Life of Martin Ramirez," 2007 [course reader]

  • Gloria Anzaldua, from Borderland/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, 1987 [McMichael, 2089-2098]

  • Homi K Bhabha, from The Location of Culture, 1994 [course reader]

  • Leslie Marmon Silko, "The Man To Send Rain Clouds," 1981 [McMichael, 2069-2072]

  • Junot Diaz, "How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl,, or Halfie," 1996 [McMichael, 2274-2277]

  • Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex, 2003, 1st half of novel

Week 14: CULTURE & DIFFERENCE II (May 1) [Draft of essay returned]

  • Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex, 2003, 2nd half of novel

  • Kirsty McDonald, Black and White, 2006 [in-class screening]

  • Billy Thompson, "Putting Sex to Bed: Studies on Hermaphrodites, Questions on Identity," 2007 [course reader]

  • Amy Tan, "Half and Half," [McMichael, 2012-2021]

  • Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, "The Disappearance, 1995 [McMichael, 2268-2270]

  • Sherman Alexie, "Defending Walt Whitman," 1995 [McMichael, 2297-2298]

  • Jeffrey Hayes, "Dr. Evermor's Machine on the Prairie: Art, History and the Mirror Eye," 2000 [course reader] --in preparation for our field trip

Course Evaluation


  • Jeffrey Hayes, "Dr. Evermor's Machine on the Prairie: Art, History and the Mirror Eye," 2000 [course reader]

No Class on Monday, May 8

***Final Interpretive Essay due NLT 5pm, Friday, May 11***

MLS Program  |  Student Focused  |  Curriculum  |  Courses  |  Admissions  |  Information
Faculty Advisory Committee  |  Center for 21st Century Studies  |  L&S Home  |  UWM Home

© UW-Milwaukee: Masters in Liberal Studies Program, Curtin Hall 916, PO Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201
Send your questions and comments to the MLS director. Last Updated: January 30, 2013