Open Space of Democracy

The Open Space of Democracy engages students with the aspirations and contradictions of American democracy through diverse cultural production and practices with a special focus on the relationship between art and democracy. Students read and consider the formative ideas about democratic culture that emerged in the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century. We then trace these ideas in a series of case studies, including debates in the twentieth century about art and public engagement that arose in response to John Dewey’s ideas about what he called “creative democracy,” and in the writing of Horace Kallen, Muriel Rukeyser, James Baldwin, Adrienne Rich, Terry Tempest Williams, and others.

sStudents learn to work with primary documents and contributed to an ongoing archival project in the Keene State College archives. Each student also designs an individual research project that draws on primary materials, and library-based and digital archives, to further develop research experience and methods in defining, organizing, and elaborating the significance of literary and cultural materials in the public domain.

The individual work was then incorporated into a project site Democracy + Culture. This ongoing project is designed to make visible students thinking through the problem of defining, building, and sustaining a democratic culture. One student produced a “trailer”

Go to the The Open Space of Democracy course web site, or visit the course project page Culture + Democracy.