AMS 151: American Landscapes and Places
Special Topic: Yosemite

Instructor: Dr. John Stenzel

Fall 2000 Office: Voorhies 379
Meeting Time: MW 10-11:50 Office Hours: W 1:30-3, R 9:30-11 and by appointment
Classroom: 101 Olson Telephone: 2-1954 office, (510) 548-8936 home

This is a preliminary web page for students interested in the course, based primarily on the course proposal I submitted to the American Studies department. I am putting together a reader for Off Campus Books, and will be posting more information and concrete details in the coming weeks. I look forward to an interesting and exciting quarter!

AMS 151, American Landscapes & Places

This iteration of the course will take Yosemite as its focus, examining the ways in which this national park has been conceived and continues to be reconceived as a public place, as a landscape of national and international significance. Here are some questions, modified from the generic American Studies course description, which we will explore together this fall:

From its "discovery" in the 1850s Yosemite has been explicitly conceived in terms of national identity and a national role--as an American locus of Sublime scenery on a par with the Alps, as a national treasure to be protected from logging or inappropriate exploitation, as a "must-see" destination for all visitors to California. As one of the "Big Three" National Parks (along with Yellowstone and Grand Canyon) Yosemite has also been the focus of debate over public policy in these spaces--everything from road building and possible parking garages to elite hotels and rationing of camping permits, with crime and crowd control and wildlife policies tossed into the mix.

Yosemite itself (and often the Valley in particular) embodies many aspects of a town or city: by turns it is a commemorative site, it contains museums in several senses, it has several preservation villages, it contains its own shopping mall, and it has been likened to a theme park. Over the history of the park every one of these aspects has come under scrutiny as being inappropriate to a "national park," and the debates over appropriateness could provide useful texts for students to read and decipher.

Here's a list of possible topics and examples that we can pursue:

Last updated: 5 September 2000