AMST 2020 001-LEC syllabus

AMST 2020: Popular Culture in the US, 1950-Present
This course will trace and analyze the major developments in American popular culture from
1950 to the present. As we examine best sellers, films, sports and television, radio, ads,
newspapers, magazines and music, we will try to better understand the ways in which popular
culture shapes and/or reflects American values. The course will also depict popular culture as
"contested terrain," the place where social classes, racial and ethnic groups, women and men,
the powerful and the less powerful, seek to "control" images and themes.
Requirements for the course include a midterm, a final, and a research paper which analyzes an
individual, a group, a genre, or a phenomenon in popular culture (e.g. Louis L'Amour's
westerns, Danielle Steele, MTV, Bon Jovi, I Love Lucy, etc.). A paper should discuss the
significance of your subject to American popular culture in an essay no longer than ten doublespace type-written pages. The course includes lectures, and site-based discussions (students
must respond to questions posted on the Discussion Board). Both are significant parts of the
The lectures, which cover the broadest range of the period's popular culture, are available for you
to view -- or simply listen to -- online. Students like to take advantage of the flexibility of
access, so by and large there is no set schedule for viewing the lectures. We recommend a
viewing rate of a little over one a day and that you be through Lecture 17 (Soaps and the
Feminization of Narrative) by the midterm (January 11th); and, of course,that you be through all
of the lectures by course's end. The lectures are:
1. Hollywood, Conformity, and the Red Scare
2. Mickey Spillane, Mike Hammer and the Lonely Knights of the 1950s
3. Wayne's World
4. Liberace
5. Liking Ike and Loving Lucy
6. Cracks in the Consensus
7. Paper
8. Popular Magazines
9. Hedonists Among Puritans: The Playboy Vision of America
10. Candle in the Wind: The Object Lessons of Marilyn Monroe
11. Race in the Ring
12. The Western: Death and Resurrection
13. The TV Workplace and the American Family
14. "Docufiction" and the American Family
15. TV News and the Transformation of American Politics
16. Dolly and Deliverance
17. Soaps and the Feminization of Narrative
18. The Appeal of Gothic Romance
19. Country Music and Down-Home Values
20. Gross-Out and Horror Film
Rock Around the Clock
The Beatles and the British Invasion
Masters of the Universe
Adcult: Advertising and the Training of the American Consumer
Vietnam and the Movies
Charlie Hustle and Slick Willie
People, USA Today, and the Age of "Infotainment"
JFK and Enola Gay: History in Popular Culture, Part I
JFK and Enola Gay: History in Popular Culture, Part II
The Tradition of Anti-Intellectualism and the Celebration of the Common Man
The Trials of OJ and the Morals of "Monicagate"
Finish the text or reading indicated by the end of the day on the given date. Discussion on a
given text will generally begin a day or two before the date indicated, but will derive only from
the earlier parts of the text. What this means, though, is that as soon as you have finished reading
one text you will want to start on the next fairly soon so that you may be COMPLETELY
through it by the evening of the date indicated.
The midterm will be posted online by noon EST on Sunday January 10th and be due back to me
at [email protected] by noon EST Monday January 11th. The final will be posted by noon EST
on Friday January 22 and be due back to me at the same address by noon EST Saturday January
23. The 24-hour response window will be more than adequate; the exams themselves should
take no longer than exams taken in an analogous bricks-and-mortar class.
The seven-to-ten-page paper -- on a popular culture subject of your choice from the period,
related substantially to class themes and discussed in advance with the TA, Jonathan Pickett -will be due to Jonathan Pickett at [email protected] by noon EST Wednesday January 20.
Our books will be:
Death of A Salesman, Arthur Miller
Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, T. Wolfe
American Pastoral, Philip Roth
Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
Iron John, Robert Bly
Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet
Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neal Postman
We will have read the books in their entirety by the dates indicated:
Miller 12/29
Salinger 1/1
Wolfe 1/4
Roth 1/8
Jong 1/13
Bly 1/15
Mamet 1/18
Postman 1/20
Any questions? Contact Jonathan Pickett at [email protected] Hope to see you online!