Faculty Profile

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

2017-2018 Academic Year

Fall 2017

AMST 101 #StayWoke:Activism/US Pop Cult
What is activism? Can activism take place in the realm of popular culture or does popular culture merely reflect activism happening in U.S. culture? This course will explore these questions and more as we look at examples of protest movements in modern American history. Theoretical concepts and historical context will be examined at the outset of the course. The major focus, however, will be on selected protest movements from the 1960s to present day and their relationships with popular culture. Selected movements include, but are not limited to, the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement, Environmental Movement, Disability Rights Movement, and more.

AMST 200 One-Drop, Two Drops
This course will explore notions of black multiraciality that have existed in the U.S. from the colonial era and continue to have traction in our present day. To facilitate this exploration, we will discuss the emergence of certain ideas and their historical contexts, such as the one-drop rule (rule of hypodescent) and the tragic mulatto trope. We will also discuss the Census Movement, which emerged in the 1990s to change how people can identify racially and ethnically on the U.S. Census. Throughout the course, we will examine the literature, art, and other cultural productions about and/or from mixed race people of African descent. This will allow us to compare and contrast ideas circulating in U.S. law and the social sciences to ideas that are in the register of cultural representation.

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 401 Research and Methods in Am St
An integrative seminar focusing on the theory and methods of cultural analysis and interdisciplinary study. Students examine the origins, history, and current state of American studies, discuss relevant questions, and, in research projects, apply techniques of interdisciplinary study to a subject related to thematic concentration. Prerequisite: 303, Senior American studies major, or permission of the instructor.