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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
Email: j dot e dot smyth at warwick dot ac dot uk

Lecturer: Dr. Rebecca Stone

r dot stone dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk

Office: H0.45; Office hours by appointment

Seminar Lead: Dr Timo Schrader

timo dot schrader at warwick dot ac dot uk

Office: H306; office hours by appointment

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 Wednesday 22nd April, 12pm. Submit on Tabula
10% Class Participation: Assessed 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. Student Presentations will take place on Monday of week six.

Half of your presentation mark will be based on a short 500-word essay. This short essay should:

  • Evaluate a component of your research and source material for the presentation. You must examine a source from your presentation.
  • The analysis should focus on the significance of the source: as a historical or cultural text (primary source) or as a contribution to scholarship (secondary source) of the larger topic/theme. Think about authorship, purpose, context, and audience.

Due Wednesday 18th March, 12pm.Submit this on Tabula.


40% Reflective essay: The 1000 word reflective essay should be an analytical comment on a topic of your choice that relevant to the module (see list here:

  • Choose a primary source from the module or one that is clearly and directly related to one of the weeks (film, tv show, book, magazine ad, etc).
  • Comment on 1) the context of the primary source 2) audience 3) social/political/cultural/intellectual contribution and significance 4) critical analysis with historiographical context.

Due Wednesday 18th March, 12pm. Submit this on Tabula.

For details of examination and assessment, please see