Units of Study


The US Studies Centre teaches some of the most innovative and interesting undergraduate units in Australia. These unique units cover a wide range of subject areas from US politics to American comedy or anti-Americanism to rock music. These units are available to all University of Sydney students and some can be completed as part of a major in American Studies, Government & International Relations, Gender & Cultural Studies, International Business, Music, English, or History. Students may also choose to apply for cross-institutional or non-award study.
 

“...some of the most unique, creative, and
respected units you will undertake during your
study. Basically — GET ON IT!”

University of Sydney Union’s
Counter Course Handbook 2014


Semester 1, 2017

Semester 2, 2017

 

STUDENT PRIZES

Each year the Centre awards the following prizes for outstanding contributions by undergraduates:

  • Best undergraduate in American Studies (final year prize based on overall WAM): $300
  • Best overall Honours mark: $300
  • Best thesis in American Studies: $200
  • Best essay in AMST2601 American Foundations: $200
  • Best essay in AMST3601 American Perspectives: $200
  • Best essay in AMST1001 Global America: $200
  • Best essay in USSC3601 Public Opinion and Voting in the US: $200
  • Best essay on American Music or Comedy in USSC2604 Sex, Race and Rock or AMST Stand Up USA on American Music or Comedy: $300
  • Best essay on US Politics in USSC2601 US in the World or USSC2602 US Politics or USSC2603 Americanism and Anti-Americanism: $300

AMST1001 Global America

Semester 2, 2017

Global AmericaThis unit examines why, and how, American politics, culture, economics, and ideas have such a significant impact around the world. Exploring the tension between global and insular America by focusing primarily on the 21st century, we take a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the nature of global America. To effectively analyse how America captures and shapes international relations and imaginations across the globe, we examine a series of topics (imperialism, freedom, race, the environment, and sexuality) from both political and cultural/literary perspectives. Students intending to study American Studies at senior level are also required to complete either HSTY1076 American History from Lincoln to Obama or HSTY1023 Emerging Giant: The Making of America.
 

Unit Coordinator

Aaron Nyerges and Brendon O'Connor
 

Cross Listings

This unit of study is cross-listed with American Studies and English.
 

The Fine Print

There will be a 2 hour lecture and a 1 hour tutorial per week.

Assessment consists of three 1,000 word "critical reviews," plus a 90-minute final exam.
 

Learning Outcomes

The purpose of this unit is to enable students to think critically about the key issues affecting the contemporary United States in the global 21st century.

By the end of this unit of study, students should be able to:

  • Have a greater appreciation of the complexities of American culture in the 21st century
  • Read texts of political science, cultural studies and cognate disciplines, and be able to intellectually analyse them
  • Have an understanding of contemporary American fiction and film, and be able to discuss them according to current practices of literary and cultural criticism
  • Have an understanding of the challenges and opportunities presented by interdisciplinary methodologies
  • Be able to acquire and evaluate new knowledge through independent research
  • Critically evaluate the sources, values, validity and currency of information
  • Write analytic essays on contemporary issues bringing academic rigour to bear on them.

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AMST2601 American Foundations

Semester 1, 2017

From a multidisciplinary standpoint, this unit introduces students to the contradictory richness of “Americanness” and prepares them for the Major in American Studies. Divided into five historically grounded modules — race, religion, gender, politics, region — the unit will approach each from a variety of methodological angles. It will open lines of interrelation between historical, political, and imaginary forms in the construction and ongoing redefinition of the United States.

Students who began their degrees before 2011 must have completed 12 junior credit points of English, History, or Art History and Film in order to enrol in the unit. Students who began their degrees in 2011 or later must complete AMST1001 Global America and either HSTY1076 American History from Lincoln to Clinton or HSTY1023 Emerging Giant: The Making of America. It is recommended that students take this core unit in their second year.

 

Unit Coordinator

Dr Rodney Taveira

The Fine Print

There will be a 2 hour lecture and a 1 hour tutorial per week.

Assessment consists of three 1,500 word essays.

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AMST2606 Stand Up USA: American Comedy and Humour

Semester 2, 2017

2606 Stand Up USA

From Mark Twain to Amy Schumer, this unit charts American comedy’s discussions of race, class, gender, and sexuality, and of party and identity politics. Comedy challenged and transformed the existing norms of social and political structures in the United States, as well as American identity, sex, and gender. Through forms such as literature, television, stand-up, cinema, and new media, students will learn that comedy creates a space for agitation, exploitation, community, and freedom.

The unit will explore major styles of American comedy and humour, with students developing a broad body of knowledge about its culture and history. Recognising the interrelationships of American comedy and humour with ethnicity, politics, gender, and social institutions in 20th century and contemporary United States, the unit will allow students to enhance their understanding of the methods and evidence used to study culture at the university level. The unit will require students to develop research questions and synthesise diverse sources to build and defend a reasoned position in response to those questions. 

 

Unit Coordinator

Dr Rodney Taveira
 

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit a student will be able to:

  • Identify major trends in American comedy and humour,
  • Evaluate the relationships between American comedy and humour and American culture and politics.
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the concepts, narratives, and methods used in the interdisciplinary field of American Studies. 
     

The Fine Print

Classes: 1 x 2hr lecture per week; 1 x 1hr tutorial per week

Assessment:
500 word essay proposal (20%)
2500 word research essay (40%)
1500 word take-home exercise (30%)
Tutorial participation (10%)

Prerequisites: 18 junior credit points including AMST1001 and (HSTY1076 or HSTY1023). Some students may be able to apply for special consideration so please contact Dr Rodney Taveira to discuss your requirements.

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AMST3601 American Perspectives

Semester 2, 2017

This unit will discuss key texts from politics, history, English, film studies, and music to critically examine the United States from multiple angles including race and racism, gender, political culture, regionalism, and religion.

Students will study works ranging from de Tocqueville's Democracy in America to the film Birth of a Nation with the aim of developing a critical appreciation of both classic and contemporary debates about American society.

The unit will conclude with a discussion of the ways American Studies as a field deals with these longstanding debates in innovative and challenging ways. Students will have the chance to develop a substantial primary source–driven research project.

Unit Coordinator

Dr Thomas Adams
 

The Fine Print

Assessment:
Two 200 word online reading responses (20%)
One 900 word proposal with annotated bibliography (20%)
One 3000 word research essay (50%)
Tutorial participation (10%)

Classes:
One 1 hour lecture a week and one 2 hour tutorial a week

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USSC2601 US in the World  

Semester 1, 2017

United States

US in the World explores the dramatic political and economic changes taking place today in America that will shape lives in Australia and around the world for years to come. This dynamic unit focuses on US foreign policy in the 21st century and explores the policy challenges posed by the new diffusion of global power, the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression, far-reaching changes in the Middle East, and the expanding struggle against violent Islamic extremism.

This highly interactive unit features guest lectures and conversations with leading American and Australian experts. In the past these included multiple Pulitzer Prize–winning author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, former Prime Minister of Australia John Howard, US Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich, and influential China-watcher at The Atlantic James Fallows. Students are given an experience of the practical and strategic aspects of U.S. foreign policy.

 

US Consul General Award

The major piece of assessment for this unit is a policy memo. The top policy memos will be mailed to the US Consulate to be read by the US Consul General. He will select the winner of the US-Australia Partnership Policy Memorandum Award. The Consul General will then invite the writers of the top three memos to dine with him at his official residence.

The topic of each year's memo is provided by the US Consulate on a topic on which they might actually require a briefing.
 

Unit Coordinator

Dr Sarah Graham
 

Cross Listings

This unit of study is cross-listed with American StudiesGovernment & International Relations and International Business.
 

Learning Outcomes

Students in this unit will learn using the Socratic Method, a crucial analytical tool in political science and is fundamental to the development of views that can be clearly expressed and reasonably defended.

The focus will be on role of the United States amid the challenges posed by the key global transformations of the contemporary era. Both lectures and tutorials will be designed to engage students fully in order to increase their knowledge and develop their skills: analysing situations, forming opinions, solving problems and defending positions.

By the end of this Unit of Study students will be able to:

  • Access a body of knowledge about the role of the United States in the world
  • Acquire and evaluate new knowledge through independent research
  • Identify, investigate, and solve problems
  • Access diverse resources to build and defend a reasoned positio
  • Think analytically
  • Defend their opinions in public in a robust manner.
     

 The Fine Print

  • Lectures run for 90 minutes each week.
  • There is a one hour tutorial per week.
  • This unit is worth 6 credit points.
  • Pre-requisites: 18 junior credit points (this means it is a senior unit, for students in their 2nd year or above. 

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USSC2602 US Politics: Elections,
Presidents, Laws

Semester 1, 2017

US PoliticsThis unit offers a comprehensive understanding of US political institutions and political culture. The American electoral system and recent presidential elections are examined, as are the careers of American presidents from the 1960s onwards. US public policies in the areas of race, welfare, and criminal justice are also analysed. The unit addresses key questions such as: Why do Americans have such a strong sense of exceptionalism? How much can presidents really achieve? Is the Congress more powerful than the president? Is the Congress dysfunctional? Is the American electoral system a strength or a weakness? Why is inequality so pronounced in the US and are politicians serious about reducing inequality?


Unit Coordinator

Associate Professor Brendon O'Connor


Cross Listings

This unit of study is cross-listed with American Studies and Government & International Relations.
 

Learning Outcomes

The central aim of the unit is to provide students with a strong understanding of US politics.

Students will receive a solid overview of the key areas of American political culture, institutions, elections and public policy. The unit will also examine public policy issues to provide students with a detailed knowledge of how US society is organised and what we can learn (both positive and negative) from American approaches.

The unit's systematic framework will give students the ability to analyse the US, while encouraging them to see the contradictions within, and the complexity of, American society.

Students will develop the following generic skills within this course:

  • Communication - oral and written skills
  • Research skills
  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Conceptual and analytical skills
  • Information skills

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USSC2603 Americanism & Anti-Americanism

Semester 2, 2017

AmericanismAmerica has often been described as a culturally backward, unsophisticated and uncouth nation, with American politics frequently derided as populist and anti-intellectual. In contrast, America has also been viewed as a haven from the Old World and as an exceptional nation. This unit will explore the origins and development of both these views of the United States and how these stereotypes impact on America's foreign relations with Europe, the Middle East, and Australia. The unit will provide students with a strong understanding of the beliefs and values that have shaped American political culture from the colonial period to the present. Students will examine how Americans perceive their own politics and culture as well as looking at positive and negative foreign interpretations, giving them a comprehensive view of the contradictions within, and the complexity of, American society. 
 

Unit Coordinator

Dr Sarah Graham
 

Cross Listings

This unit of study is cross-listed with American Studies and Government & International Relations.
 

Learning Outcomes

The central aim of the unit is to provide students with a strong understanding of the beliefs and values that have shaped American political culture from the colonial period to the present. Students will examine how Americans perceive their own politics and culture as well as look at positive and negative foreign interpretations. A lecture and tutorial program will provide students with a solid overview of Americanism and anti-Americanism. The unit's systematic framework will give students the ability to analyse the US, while encouraging them to see the contradictions within, and the complexity of, American society.

Students will develop the following generic skills within this course:

  • Communication - oral and written skills
  • Research skills
  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Conceptual and analytical skills
  • Information skill

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USSC2604 Sex, Race & Rock in the USA

Semester 2, 2017

Sex, Race and RockThis innovative and exciting unit explores the cultural history and intersections of sexuality, race, and rock music in the United States from Elvis and Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé. Influenced by black and working-class cultures, and with sexuality embedded in its form and practice, rock music challenged and transformed existing norms of family, sex, and gender.

Through subjects including black women, groupies, glam rock, disco, and grunge, students will learn that rock music provided a vital realm for the creation and deconstruction of identity, as well as for rebellion, profit, community, and freedom.

Through this unit, you will develop a body of knowledge about the cultural history of American rock music, both mainstream and alternative, and the transformative role rock culture has played in American society.

Special guest speakers in previous years have included MTV co-founder Les Garland, renowned music critic Simon Reynolds (author of Energy Flash and The Sex Revolts among others), Hayley Mary (frontwoman of ARIA-winning Australian band The Jezabels), Rod Yates (editor of Rolling Stone magazine), and Anwen Crawford (music critic for The Monthly and the New Yorker).

 

Unit Coordinator

Dr Rebecca Sheehan
 

Cross Listings

This unit of study is cross-listed with American Studies, Gender & Cultural Studies, Music and History.
 

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this unit of study students will have the ability to:

  • Understand sexuality and race in the cultural history of American rock and its impact on cultural norms in and outside the US
  • Critically analyse popular cultural forms in scholarly ways
  • Express conceptually difficult ideas and independent critical thinking in oral and written forms
  • Pose research questions and access and synthesise diverse sources to build and defend a reasoned position in response to those questions
  • Identify values and beliefs inherent in a culture superficially similar but in other ways unlike their own
  • Appreciate the role of reasoning and creativity in communication.
     

The Fine Print

Prerequisites: 12 credit points at junior level in at least one of the following:

  • AMST—American Studies
  • ANTH—Anthropology
  • MUSC—Arts Music
  • GCST—Cultural Studies
  • ENGL—English
  • EUST—European Studies
  • GCST—Gender Studies
  • GOVT—Government and International Relations
  • HSTY—History
  • INGS—International and Global Studies
  • MECO—Media and Communications
  • PRFM—Performance Studies
  • PHIL—Philosophy
  • ECOP—Political Economy
  • SCLG—Sociology

If you don’t have 12 junior level credit points in the above but still want to enrol in the unit, please contact Amelia Trial to apply for special consideration at amelia.trial@sydney.edu.au.

Format: A 2 hr lecture and a 1 hr tutorial each week

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USSC3601 Public Opinion and Voting in the US

Semester 2, 2017

How do ordinary Americans experience politics? This unit will examine what Americans know and believe about politics, how their attitudes are formed, and how and why they vote. Is the United States an angry, polarised society? Do people vote against their economic interests? Why does race remain such a potent issue in American politics? What is the role of religion in voting?

This unit will give you a thorough understanding of how to use and read opinion polls, surveys and voting data. Looking beyond the often careless use of this data in the “horse-race” journalism of daily political news, the unit will explore what political numbers actually mean.
 

Course Coordinator

TBC

 


 

ENROL NOW!

University of Sydney students can enrol through Sydney Student

If you would like to apply for cross-institutional study, you can do so through the cross-institutional study application process.

If you would like to apply for non-award study, i.e. undertake one or more units of study for interest that will not count towards a degree, you can do so through the non-degree application process.

Some of these units can be completed as part of a University of Sydney major in American Studies, Government & International Relations, Gender & Cultural Studies, Music or History - please read the unit descriptions for details of cross listings.


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