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The Formation of American Culture, 1929-2019 (HI2A8)

Convenor: Prof. J. E. Smyth

Lectures: Tuesdays, 12-1, weeks 3-4 12-2pm; seminars: Thursdays 10, 11, 12
Office: H328; office hours: Tuesdays: 11am-12pm or Thursdays 4-5pm

Lecturer: Dr. Rebecca Stone

Office: H0.45; Office hours by appointment

Seminar Lead: Dr. Esther Wright

Office: H336;  Wednesday 12-2pm

This module explores the history of the United States (1929-2000) through the rise of the culture industries; the production, censorship, and consumption of literature, theatre, music, film, television, sport, fashion, and advertising; and the ways in which individuals have sought to resist or reformulate dominate national discourses through cultural production.

Topics include women in Hollywood; sportswear and androgyny in 1930s fashion, the Federal Theater Project, Mexican American youth culture and the Zoot Suit Riots; the Hollywood blacklist, masculinity and corporate culture in the postwar era, African Americans on network television, celebrity, and the history of the Hollywood blockbuster and fan cultures.

Students will learn not only about the history and theory of culture, national identity, and "post-modernism" in America, but also about the ways in which cultural history is developed, contested, and reconstructed via gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality.

Required books: Jane Allen, I Lost My Girlish Laughter (rev. ed. 2019); Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep (1939, rev. 2011); Lillian Hellman, Scoundrel Time (1979; rev. 2000); bell hooks, Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1987; rev. 2014)

Strongly Recommended: Rebecca Arnold, The American Look (2012); William Graebner, The Age of Doubt (1991); Susan Ware, Holding Their Own (1982); Vance Packard, The Hidden Persuaders (1957); Beretta Smith-Shomade, Shaded Lives (2002); Robert Sklar, Movie Made America (1975)

Assessment (15 CATS module)

50% 3,000-Word Essay (due Friday week 10; submit on Tabula)
10% Class Participation in seminars and writing workshops
40% Seminar Presentation (group or individual based on student preference; 8-10 minutes plus Q & A for individuals and 15-20 plus Q & A for groups.) Please see me at least 2 weeks in advance of your presentation date! Half of your presentation mark will be based on a short 500-word essay evaluating a component of your research findings and source material); submit this on Tabula.

For details of examination and assessment, please see