Daily Class OutlineDaily Class QuestionsDaily Class Web LinksDaily Class Notes

Question for Discussion: What is American Studies? Why should we study American culture and society?

Reading: None

Daily Class Web Links
American Studies Internet Resources
for Sewall American Studies classes:

Daily Class Outline

How to Set Up and Use a Computer
Account at CU-Boulder

How to subscribe to the Sewall e-mail list

Conversations on America Series and one-credit course

Using the Computer to Find Open Classes

Resources for Teaching Students
to Use the Web

Daily Class Questions

1. Why should we study American culture and

2. What are the major problems facing America in
the 21st Century?

3. How can we use the past to help us            
    understand our present and future society?

4. What is democracy? and What are the
    responsibilities of citizens of a democracy?

5. How can understanding the history of
    American culture and society help Americans
    better exercise their responsibilities as citizens
     in our democratic society?

Daily Class Notes


Irony: Irony occurs where there is a disjunction
between what we were trying to do and
what we, in fact, achieve.
Irony often involves our unintended creation of the very event or situation
we were trying not to create, for example, during
the Cold War we tried to prevent war by being
prepared to "fight and win" the very war we
were trying to prevent.

a dramatic or literary work depicting a
protagonist--hero--who struggles for a moral
cause only to face ruin or profound unhappiness
in the end.

the use of irony, derision, or wit to attack,
challenge, and ridicule a perspective or idea..

In his book, The Irony of American History,
Reinhold Niebuhr defined the irony of American history
in this way:

"Pure tragedy elicits tears of admiration and
pity for the hero who is willing to brave
death or incur guilt for the sake of some
great good. Irony however prompts some
laughter and a nod of comprehension
beyond the laughter; for irony involves
comic absurdities which cease to be altogether absurd when fully understood.
Our age is involved in irony because so
many dreams of our nation have been
so cruelly refuted by history. Our dreams
of a pure virtue are dissolved in a
situation in which it is possible to
exercise the virtue of responsibility toward
a community of nations only by courting the
prospective guilt of the atomic bomb.   
(That is, by threatening to blow up to world
in order to save the community of nations)"(p.2)

Ironic laughter: "laughter is truly ironic if it
symbolizes mercy as well as judgement. For
whenever judgement defines the limits of
human striving it creates the possibility of a
humble acceptance of those limits. Within
that humility mercy and peace find alodging
place."( Niebuhr. 64)

Ironic Understanding of History: involves
recognizing the limits of human power, virtue,
and wisdom and accepting the ironic and even
tragic outcomes of human efforts to exercise
their power, virtue, and wisdom to create a
better world. The folly of these human efforts
often leads to laughter, which, as Niebuhr
argued, "is truly ironic if it symbolizes mercy
as well as judgement" and humility in the
face of human weaknesses.




© 2002 by Chris H.  Lewis, Ph.D.
Sewall Academic Program; University of Colorado at Boulder
Created 7 August 2002:  Last Modified: 25 August 2002
E-mail: cclewis@spot.colorado.edu
URL:    http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/2010/intro.htm
    Number of Visitors to this site:  12910                   by Chris H. Lewis, Ph.D.