Center will focus on researching
By Robert Brickhouse
University of Virginia, home to rich resources in American history,
society and culture, is establishing an International Center for
American Studies to strengthen teaching and understanding worldwide
about America. The University also will launch a new interdisciplinary
major in American studies next fall. The undergraduate major will
offer a broader range of courses than any other U.Va. program.
growing interest at home and abroad in American issues
an interest intensified after last falls terrorist attacks
the center will aim to make U.Va. a main exchange point
for research, discussions and teaching about America, said William
B. Quandt, vice provost for international affairs. Both the international
center and the new interdisciplinary major will be directed by
Stephen Cushman, the Robert C. Taylor Professor of American Literature
and a noted scholar and writer.
begin to develop connections among American studies teachers throughout
the world, the center will bring a group of leading foreign scholars
to U.Va. in May to discuss plans and possibilities for the effort.
Countries represented include China, Turkey, Israel, Mexico, England,
France, Italy and Germany.
U.Va.s close association with Jefferson and other American
founders, its renowned library holdings of rare American texts
and documents, its highly rated faculty, its proximity to Washington,
and its leadership in using new technologies to make its resources
widely available, we have the potential to become the central
place for international scholars to look to for American studies,
Cushman said. We want to ask, How can we put this
at your service?
center, established by the Office of the Vice Provost for International
Affairs, will encourage the work of foreign scholars in their
home countries as well as that of American scholars teaching abroad.
We also want to deepen our own awareness of the many ways
in which the United States is perceived and understood by people
beyond its own borders, Cushman said. It is important
that we ask, What do we look like to you?
many possibilities for the American Studies Center would be traveling
fellowships for foreign scholars to use the library and to lecture
here, international conferences, more faculty and student exchange
programs and new scholarships for foreign graduate students studying
new American studies concentration within the Universitys
interdisciplinary major, approved March 27 by the Faculty of Arts
& Sciences to start next fall, will have as one goal to
teach students to think of the United States as a country held
together in argumentation and discussion about different stories
of nationhood, Cushman said. We will encourage a comparative
perspective of these national narratives as they have emerged
over the last five centuries.
than 180 courses on American themes will be offered initially
from 17 departments: Afro-American and African studies, anthropology,
architectural history, art history, economics, English, environmental
sciences, drama, politics, history, music, philosophy, psychology,
religion, sociology, Studies in Women and Gender, and Technology,
Culture and Communication.
program will accept 15 students a year at first and aim to eventually
have 60 in the major, without sacrificing the benefits of
a small learning community, said Cushman. It will
be an ideal major for students interested in America and a wonderful
double-major, complementing much of the work in individual disciplines.
U.Va. has offered an American studies concentration for English
and history majors since 1975. Arts & Sciences Dean Edward
L. Ayers said the new major will build on the success and popularity
of that program, which has been directed by English professor
will continue to direct the popular M.A. program in American studies.
The M.A. program, with its emphasis on electronic scholarship,
has helped make U.Va. a leader in integrating new technologies
into the humanities and in establishing a global reach through
the Internet for the vast resources in the University Library.
Howard will go to China later this year to give a presentation
on electronic scholarship.
absence of a full American studies major has been glaring at an
institution so closely associated with many aspects of American
society, politics, government, history, literature and the arts,
new major, planned by an advisory committee of faculty from numerous
departments, will require 30 credit-hours and 10 courses in an
individually designed program of study. One of its goals will
be for each student to demonstrate an ability to transcend disciplinary
boundaries. Although we affirm the necessity and integrity
of individual disciplines, we want our American studies students
to understand the assumptions and methods of several of them,
Sept. 11 both the international center and new major seem
to me more urgent than ever, he said. An aim of both will
be seeking a realistic and informed understanding of America
and of the effects we have around the world.