The Making of the American Character

When St. John de Crevecoeur asked in 1782, "What, then, is an American, this new man?," he was asking a very important question about the historical origins of the American character and a new national identity. In other words, what did it mean to be an American six years after the founding fathers had already declared independence?

This course will explore the emergence of the first Americans and how an American identity or the archetype of the American character has changed over time to the present. Beginning with Native Americans and European contact, we will move through the Colonial Experience, American Revolution, Industrial Revolution, slavery and the Civil War, modernity, progressivism, the Cold War, and globalization. Class discussions will focus on when an American character and national identity first emerged, and how both have changed or evolved over time to embody the ideals of the modern American. Questions about American exceptionalism will also be explored in relation to a changing American identity over time, as will historiographical questions, cultural and historical studies, and literary texts, to help explain the changing values, ideas, and paradoxes of defining the American character and a national identity in both the past and present.

Session One
Course is Full
at the time of application
on the first day of session
Scheduled Class Time*

08:00 AM - 11:00 AM (PDT)

*The course will meet for two hours daily (Monday–Friday) for a live class during this window of time. The exact time will be set closer to the program start. In addition to the live meeting times, students will engage in out-of-class learning assignments such as assigned readings, group work, pre-recorded online lectures, and more.