My “American Studies” Seminar Course

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?

Course Description:

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.

Grades:

Participation 50%

Exams (1) Take Home 25%

Paper (1) 15%

Ethnography/Oral Assignment: 10%

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15 thoughts on “My “American Studies” Seminar Course

  1. What a great looking course! I especially love that in your image above, the Malcolm X image site directly above The Birth of a Nation.

    I’m excited for you to write more about this course as it shapes up. Thanks!

  2. Chili: Oh, I have a few great ideas that include your specialty. Will for sure do.

    ian: I hope to draft more on this over time; I read your conference paper. I am thinking this is your gig, too. Great paper!

  3. I am a student at HCHS and did not know about your blog. I am very interested in this course. Sounds very different for a history course. I hear you are very smart. It should be cool. I just see you around campus. I will introduce myself.

  4. ugh!!! I wish you would have done something like that this year. I may just have to sneak a peek a couple of times to see what the course is like.

    Favorite Quote from the Pilot:

    “THEO THATS THE DUMBEST THING I EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE. NO WONDER YOU GET D’S IN EVERYTHING. NOW YOU AFRAID TO TRY, BECAUSE YOUR AFRAID THAT YOUR BRAIN IS GOING TO EXPLODE, AND ITS GOING TO OOOZZE OUT OF YOUR EAR. NOW IM TELLING YOU THAT YOU ARE GOING TO TRY AS HARD AS YOU CAN ,AND YOU ARE GOING TO DO IT BECAUSE I SAID SO. I AM YOUR FATHER! I BROUGHT YOU IN THIS WORLD AND I’LL TAKE YOU OUT!”

  5. Looks good, Eddie.

    I’m thinking that we should find a way to team-teach a course in 2011-2012. Could be good times…

    I wonder if the administration will let me do all of my observations in this class…

  6. This is a great course to inform the students about history that happened not too long ago. Im glad to see that you can really connect with us (students) and create a course that is relevant to current times

  7. I saw that you had a picture of the cosby Show. I just watched at documentary called why we laugh. It is a history of black comedy from the early 1900’s to today. They have a section on the Cosby show. I think to fully aprreciated the cosby show you need to know the history and the significance of its time. It is entertaining and has tons of famous comedians talking about what influenced them. You might find it helpful.

  8. Pingback: Rap and Popular Culture « The Professor

  9. Pingback: American Studies Reading List « The Professor

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