English, 2013 curriculum - Free topic 11: The American Presidency, 1789-2017

Course content

Writing in 1973, as the Watergate debacle was drawing to a close, presidential historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. remarked that the American presidency was in crisis. A year later, President Richard Nixon resigned. What may have seemed as a temporary phenomenon to Schlesinger forty years ago —the limitations on the presidency—has arguably become an endemic feature of the executive—as the institution has been under fire. A few years earlier, that same Schlesinger had written of how the presidency had moved from primacy to supremacy within the US political system. All the same, many observers suggest that the current era of American experience dates back to the early-mid 1970s. While this element examines the development of the presidency (and, by implication, the other branches of government) from Washington to Trump, the main focus will be on presidencies from FDR onwards.

For two hundred years the constitutional wellsprings of presidential power narrowly defined have remained largely unaltered. Yet the effective power of the chief executive has mostly waxed and occasionally waned. Interlinked central questions will help steer this American Presidency element. How have presidential powers changed over time? Is it imperial, imperiled, protean, diminished, rhetorical, shrunken, or personalized beyond party? Or can all of the above be true to a degree? Were presumptions of crises in presidential leadership accurate, and does that crisis continue to the present? Will any individual seem “flimsy” when the full weight of presidential power (and impotence) is thrust upon him or her? Was it always thus, as presidential powers jostle and bump within a field created by the tri-division of power? What are the limits of power for President Donald J. Trump? Can one man redeem the nation?

Classes, with particular emphasis on reading primary and secondary texts, oral discussion and developing proficiency in English.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assessment


  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 176,75
  • English
  • 204,75