AMS 356 • Main Currents of American Culture Since 1865
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
Partially fulfills legislative requirement in American History. Stretching chronologically from the Civil War to the contemporary anxieties of postmodern America, this course will touch upon a wide variety of questions: What is the American dream? What keeps us from achieving it? What is the nature of dissent? What are our responsibilities to one another? Underneath all of these concerns is a basic question: What should America be? We will delve into this by exploring the ways in which writers, artists, politicians, and intellectuals have provided both confident visions and devastating critiques of American society, in the form of artful essays, bold manifestos, innovative fiction, and powerful cinema. By focusing on social thought broadly defined, I hope to share with you the challenge and excitement of thinking critically about what American democracy has been as well as what it could be. As we move from the utopian novels of the late 19th century to the dystopic rampage at Columbine in 1999, I hope you will gain a sense not only of the historic struggle over the soul of America, but also a sense of how that struggle continues today, indelibly marked by the rhetoric and reality of the past.
Students are expected to attend class regularly and complete assigned readings. In addition to unannounced quizzes on the readings, there will be three major exams.
Possible Texts David A. Hollinger and Charles Capper, The American Intellectual Tradition: Vol. II Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man Henry James, Daisy Miller (online) Joan Didion, Slouching Toward Bethlehem Miranda July, No One Belongs Here More Than You Dave Cullen, Columbine A course packet of shorter readings