The University Record, October 5, 1992

Old, new world encounter is focus of American culture theme semester

By Terry Gallagher
News and Information Services

“The encounter that took place 500 years ago between the Old World and the New” is the focus of a “theme semester” sponsored by the Program in American Culture this term.

Focusing on “The Americas Then and Now: Beyond 1492,” the theme-semester umbrella covers 18 existing courses, an interdisciplinary mini-course and special events that include concerts, exhibitions, readings, guest lectures and performances. Many of the events are free and open to the public.

“The confrontation of peoples who had never before been in contact with one another had momentous consequences for the native inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere, for the immigrants who would come to settle here, and for the natural environment,” according to James H. McIntosh, professor of English and coordinator of the theme semester.

“The theme semester offers an unparalleled opportunity to reflect on where Americans, north and south, have come from, and what our multiracial societies are likely to be in the 21st century, given that such societies are one consequence of Europe’s discovery of a ‘new world’ in the Americas,” he adds.

Reflecting the wide-ranging consequences of 1492, the theme semester includes courses from anthropology, art history, English, history and Romance languages. Some of the topics to be covered include “Literature of the American Wilderness,” “Native American Peoples of North America,” “The Asian American West,” and “Afro-Brazilian History and Culture.”

Theme semesters are one of the innovations under way in LS&A to improve undergraduate education, according to Dean Edie N. Goldenberg. “Linking courses from different disciplines around common themes, and enriching the course work with special events and other programs, offers our students a unifying academic experience and a way to examine important issues from a wide range of perspectives,” Goldenberg says.

Some of the special events scheduled in conjunction with the theme semester are “The Christopher Columbus Follies: An Eco Cabaret,” a performance by the Underground Railway Theater at 8 p.m. Oct. 15 in the Power Center for the Performing Arts, and the Warner-Lambert Lecture by Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes at 8 p.m. Oct. 20 in Rackham Auditorium. In addition, the Clements Library has organized an exhibition of “Maps and the Columbian Encounter,” on display through Nov. 8.

For more information, contact Amy Clark, 763-1460.