Faculty Profile

J Cotten Seiler

Associate Professor of American Studies (2008)

Contact Information


Denny Hall Room 312


U.S. cultural and intellectual history, critical race theory, cultural studies.


  • B.A., Northwestern University, 1990
  • Ph.D., University of Kansas, 2002

2015-2016 Academic Year

Fall 2015

FYSM 100 First-Year Seminar
The First-Year Seminar (FYS) introduces students to Dickinson as a "community of inquiry" by developing habits of mind essential to liberal learning. Through the study of a compelling issue or broad topic chosen by their faculty member, students will: - Critically analyze information and ideas - Examine issues from multiple perspectives - Discuss, debate and defend ideas, including one's own views, with clarity and reason - Develop discernment, facility and ethical responsibility in using information, and - Create clear academic writing The small group seminar format of this course promotes discussion and interaction among students and their professor. In addition, the professor serves as students' initial academic advisor. This course does not duplicate in content any other course in the curriculum and may not be used to fulfill any other graduation requirement.

AMST 303 The America that Race Built
This course examines the origins and histories of the concept of “race” in the United States. Beginning with a discussion of the concept of race and proceeding through the histories of various groups, we will examine how race interacts with other categories of identity—such as ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality—in the everyday life of the nation past and present. Through we will rely on histories and social-scientific work to develop an understanding of how difference and diversity have been lived in America, we will also focus on how popular culture (such as film, television, popular music, and sports) and literature have shaped and continue to shape—rightly or wrongly—the way we see one another. This course fulfills the AMST major theory requirement.

Spring 2016

AMST 200 American Convservatism
This course charts the origins and fortunes of conservative political and economic thought in the United States from the nineteenth century to the present. We'll first investigate how nineteenth-century thinkers who began to call themselves "conservatives" both drew upon and rejected the democratic political theory and capitalist economics that arose in US modernity. We'll then move to the transformations of conservatism in the twentieth century, whose latter half saw the rise of a powerful conservative movement in politics, economics, and culture. Throughout, we'll examine the relationships between conservatism and structures of race, gender, and class, in US life, and see how conservatives have represented their ideals of selfhood and community in a range of cultural texts.

AMST 201 Intro to American Studies
Introduces students to basic theories and methods used for the interdisciplinary analysis of U.S. cultural materials and to the multiplicity of texts used for cultural analysis (mass media, music, film, fiction and memoir, sports, advertising, and popular rituals and practices). Particular attention is paid to the interplay between systems of representation and social, political, and economic institutions, and to the production, dissemination, and reception of cultural materials. Students will explore the shaping power of culture as well as the possibilities of human agency.

AMST 402 Writing in American Studies
Students research and write a substantial research project, normally drawing on their work in 401. Prerequisite: 303, 401.