POLSCI 307 focuses on specific themes in American political thought. Its purpose is to give students interested in American politics, political theory, or both, an opportunity to focus on a particular historical period or a political problem, or a set of ideas in American political thought. Examples of historical periods include a course that might focus on the Colonial Era, or the Founding, the early Republic, Civil War and Reconstruction, the Progressive Era, or the present. Examples of a problem-focused approach include the political theory of race, gender, the development of rights as an institution, the development and emergence of the state (federalism vs. states’ rights, the welfare state), inequality, and violence. Examples of a set of ideas include Pragmatism, the People’s Party and populism, social Darwinism in America, New Deal as political theory.
Specific course requirements will vary depending on the instructor and on whether the course is 3 or 4 credit hours. Three-credit versions will use roughly the following model: two in-class written exams (40%); conventional essays totaling 2,000 words (25%); and quizzes and low-stakes writing (35%). Four-credit versions: graded draft of 1,500-word paper (10%); graded peer review of paper one (5%); final version of paper one (15%); 2,000-word paper (20%); in-class written exams (30%); low-stakes writing (10%); and class participation (10%).
Regardless of the specific topic, readings will rely heavily on primary texts, with assignments aimed at strengthening reading, writing, and analytic skills. Reading represent some key texts in modern social science and in the study of American politics, and the approaches taken in the assignments, lectures and discussions directly engage what it means to engage in inquiry into politics. Moreover, in order to make clear to the students the ways in which this course differs from history and sociology requires explicit attention to the methods used by different social science disciplines.
Sophomores and juniors
Three hours of lecture for 3 credits; three hours of lecture and one of discussion for 4 credits.