AMS 355 • Main Currents of American Culture to 1865
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
This lecture course traces the development of American cultural history from the time of the Puritan migration of 1630 through the end of the Civil War in 1865. The basic premise of the course is that cultural history can best be understood by examining common themes that cut across such wide-ranging fields as religion, literature, art, science, philosophy, and popular culture. Building from this base, the course will explore such themes as the opposition of "young" America to "old" Europe, the continuing struggle between the individual and the community, the significance of the frontier, the impact of evangelical Protestantism, the idea of an American "mission," the emergence of industry, the paradox of liberty and slavery, and the awakening of regionalism and pluralism in opposition to the mainstream.
The course format consists of formal lectures (with questions and discussion encouraged) and several designated discussion periods. Assigned reading will not always be discussed but must be mastered all the same. Prior knowledge of basic U.S. history is helpful.
Two in-class tests and a final exam. A student who makes at least a B on the first test may substitute a 10-page paper in place of the second test with the approval of the instructor.
Possible Texts, five or six paperbacks and some articles, including material like the following: Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature" John Kasson, Civilizing the Machine David Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin