My Denmark students have chosen to study America and I want to know why. I want to know what is different about the ways in which Danish students see and understand America, and what interests them about America as a subject of study—whether they are taking an undergrad class for elective credit or have chosen to pursue a graduate education in the subject.
How do Danish students learn about America—in school and outside of school? Are they critical? Curious? Confused? Will they be interested in the subject matter I will be teaching? (How could they not be: hip-hop and young adult dystopia?!) Or will they prefer the more conventional (and still fascinating) subject matter of American studies—the histories and the classics, for instance.
And, of course, I expect I will learn far more than I will teach—about Denmark, about my subject matter, about myself. While the American Studies I teach is “critical,” I wonder if I will discover a latent American exceptionalism that is part of the core of being an American. I wonder if my enthusiasm and passion and some of my less conventional approaches will scare them or engage them (or both).
While I am prepared to teach my subject matter, this is the least prepared I have felt this close to the start of a semester. In addition to not really knowing what to expect from my students, I also have not been to campus and I have not seen my office or my classrooms. I have no idea how many students are in my classes, and I don’t even know what day and time I am teaching one of my classes. While these questions will be answered soon enough, the bigger questions will take more work.
To quote Hamilton (which I will be teaching): “Let’s go.”