Introduction to Transnational American Studies: Comparative Mediterraneanisms

Discipline: American Studies
Instructor: Brickhouse
Credits: 3
Day: null
Start: 15:20
End: 16:35
Field Work: Day 1 | Portugal Download Syllabus

This comparative and interdisciplinary course focuses on the encounter between (U.S.-) Americans and the Mediterranean as represented in literature and film. Working across a range of historical periods, we will explore the varied and often unacknowledged international contexts underpinning some of our most familiar narratives of Americans abroad in the two mediterraneans that frame our voyage (Caribbean and the Southern European/Northern African). At the same time, we will pay particular attention to the different ways in which literature and other cultural forms can access histories, voices, and perspectives often not available within more official accounts of the past and present.

Field Work

Country: Portugal
Day: 1

Lisbon was a central city within the history of the transatlantic slave trade, and the slave trade was central to the history of Portuguese voyages of “discovery” and colonialism, which in turn shaped the trajectory of “New World” history more broadly. This field program will begin with a short evening meeting while still at sea to discuss passages from the writings of the Portuguese laureate José Saramago—in particular one in which he visits the Museum of Archaeology in Lisbon to view one of the city’s darkest artifacts: an iron collar once worn by a slave. Saramago’s writings raise questions about tourism and the telling of history, and about the modern legacies of slavery we have inherited. With these in mind, we will proceed to our field program, beginning with a walking tour of Lisbon centered around the city’s history of slavery and involvement in the slave trade. The route explores Belém, which houses the famous Padrão dos Descobrimentos, the “Monument to the Discoveries. The guided walk should introduce students to the history of slavery and its implication in the spice trade; the disparate African origins of the slaves and their daily life in Lisbon; the urban geography of slavery in the Mocambo district of Lisbon. Students will eat lunch near Jeronimos Monastery toward the end of the guided part of the tour.