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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Fall 2008

AMS 310 • Introduction to American Studies: Technologies of American Culture

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
29950 MW
3:00 PM-4:30 PM
bur 216

Course Description

Our capacity to go beyond the machine rests upon the power to assimilate the machine. -Lewis Mumford What is the role of the machine in American culture? Throughout the history of the United States, Americans have both embraced mechanization and reviled it. This course asks how technological developments have helped give meaning to Americans' social experiences through various periods in American history. The course is designed to familiarize students with the field of American Studies, the interdisciplinary approach to American history and culture. The class will introduce students to the main themes, methods, and exemplary American Studies texts in an attempt to define (and redefine) American identity through the history of technological design. In the process, we will look at the influential role of technology on American history and culture through the lenses of class, gender, race, religion, immigration, regionalism, education, and food. The course will also introduce you to a wide variety of primary and secondary source materials for studying American culture.

Broader course objectives include " Acquiring cross-disciplinary habits for identifying research questions, synthesizing different fields of knowledge, and writing clear and coherent analyses of source materials " Demonstrating familiarity with the concepts, methodology, sources, and core questions that guide the field of American Studies.

Grading Policy

This course will be a combination of lecture and discussion. Students are expected to participate actively in class, which includes completing the reading and other assignments for the day, listening during lectures and discussion, and contributing thoughtfully and respectfully to class discussion. Throughout the semester, students will complete two 3-5 page thesis-based analytical papers, a Primary Source Analysis and a Technological Artifact/Inventor Analysis. There will also be a midterm and a final exam that will cover material from the course readings and lectures.

Primary Source Analysis: 20% Technological Artifact/Inventor Analysis: 20% Midterm Exam: 20% Final Exam: 20% Participation (includes attendance, timely completion of daily assignments, contributions to discussion, and degree of non/disruptive behavior): 20%


Possible Texts Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America John Kasson, Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century David Nye, American Technological Sublime Course Packet


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