I officially announced yesterday that I am going to offer an American Studies seminar course starting next fall. There are some complex elements involved in this decision that I best not discuss; however, I will add that I have wanted to teach a course of this nature for some time. Furthermore, I have put in the reading and have a great base for the scholarly literature that defines it. And, I am about to get two papers published on this topic, as well as presenting another paper in this area at an association meeting next academic year. The most interesting thing about a course of this nature is the pace. I love teaching the U.S. History survey circa 1500 to the present; however, it is a daunting task to get through the material at times. But, it is a great course to teach. I have a great passion for the complex elements that define the period from 1950 to 1990. Yet, I spend the least amount of time on said period due to time. I am gathering interest for this course as I write.
Course: Contemporary American Studies Seminar
What is it about?
Unlike the American history survey course, this interdisciplinary American Studies seminar course takes an in-depth look at popular culture and the emergence of mass culture in the United States from 1920 to the present. We will explore an array of “special topics” ranging from the impact of cinema on the rise of the KKK during the 1920s, to the economic and historical impact gangster rap, MTV, and the Cosby show had on the decade of the 1980s. Examples range from television shows such as the Simpson’s during the 1990s and Family Guy over the course of the past decade, to leave it to Beaver and I love Lucy during the 1950s. Moreover, an examination of works by Stephen Prothero will be discussed for a deeper more interesting look at how religion has shaped the American Identity. We will explore what he calls “The American Jesus: How the Son of God became a National Icon.”
This creative and innovative course draws from much of my historical and anthropological research in order to present a “studies” approach to understanding how social and cultural history impacts the American identity. An exploration into American poetry, literature, film, fashion, music, religion, race and gender will be analyzed. Furthermore, much of the course will be given to the cultural and social frameworks of the 1920s, 1950, 1960s, and 1980s. However, this does not mean other decades will be ignored. The nature of politics will be addressed as a secondary element in addressing how it impacted social and cultural history. Note, this course is taught by looking at themes — not so much the typical historical time line.
Exams (1) Take Home 25%
Paper (1) 15%
Ethnography/Oral Assignment: 10%