This class will examine “America” as a complex, historically-rooted, and malleable idea, which writers, social scientists, politicians, and the state have shaped, changed, and critiqued to fit their own contexts and purposes. We will explore the historical roots and shifting conceptions of the idea of America through analysis of political treatises, poetry, essays, and official government documents from the pre-colonial period to the present. Approaching “America” as both a nation-state and an empire, and considering how it has been imagined by those within as well as outside its borders, we will analyze the idea of America not only in the context of life in the United States, but also in the context of global development, environmental crises, and American foreign policy. Students will write informal response papers as preparation for drafting and revising 3 essays over the course of the semester, including a literary critical essay. Texts will include works by John Locke, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, Jose Martí, Henry Luce, Eugene Burdick, and Naomi Klein, as well as official documents of U.S. Policy.