AMS s356 • Main Currents of American Culture Since 1865
10:00 AM-11:30 AM
At the end of the Civil War, American society became flooded with new technologies, ideas, and customs. A society that had bewildered earlier American visitors in its diversity and creativity accelerated its already frantic pace. This course attempts to identify and describe some of the major elements of the "booming, buzzing , confusion" of changing American culture and relate their impact upon the lives of some common and not so common Americans.
This is a large order, especially in a shortened summer session so I will concentrate upon key historical periods as representatives of intensive social and intellectual change: the period from 1890 to the start of World War I; the 1920s and 30s; and from the end of World War II to until the present. Some of the themes covered will be industrialism and labor unrest; social Darwinism and the adulation of the rich; race, gender, and ethnicity; Modernism; the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl; the civil rights movement; and the rise of the New Right. Material in the course will be interdisciplinary and will include material from such perspectives as anthropology, architecture, art history, documentary photography, economics, literature, history of science, social history, social reform, and technology. It also tries to include the experiences and perspectives of as many different groups as possible. Reading will be heavily oriented toward the individual's own words and behavior as they lived through history.
A midterm and final tests.
Possible Texts: Horatio Alger Ragged Dick and Mark the Match Boy David Van Droehle Triangle: The Fire That Changed America Timothy Egan The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the American Dust Bowl William Doyle An American Insurrection: The Battle of Oxford, Mississippi 1962 Thomas Frank What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America