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

Fall 2004

AMS 390 • American Intellectual History: Ideas and Mentalités: Oh Wild Ecstasy!: Narcissism and Hedonism Outside of Politics in Recent America

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
27955 M
7:00 PM-10:00 PM
GAR 301

Course Description

“At one of my parents’ parties I saw my father disappear into the bushes, right in front of my mother, with his arm around a woman. . .my mother never turned a hair.” --- Saucie Sedgwick This is a thematic interdisciplinary research course dealing mostly with ideas, values and emotions in the twentieth century. The American gospel of individualism and the habit of constant self-analysis joined with the demise of Victorian religious ethics (Gertrude Stein set out to “kill the nineteenth century”) and William James’ loose pragmatic philosophy have unleashed immense new vistas for the study of the dark side of individualism. Europeans, for example, jealous of America’s high standard of living, label the United States a society consumed with consumerism, selfishness, arrogance, dissipation, and greed. Others hail America as the new, free avant garde Sodom and Gomorra of, say, the Playboy philosophy, the “patriot” values of Larry Flynt, Edie Sedgwick as the “Girl of the Year,” Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, the “Piss Christ,” and above all, the pluck and luck of Monica Lewinsky and/or Michael Jackson. Veteran readers of Self magazine are also good specimens for study, as are avid fans of commercials for deodorants, hair spray, and the models who demonstrate them. These models are often seen at pseudo events on the arms of producers, unwashed rock musicians, and gay used car dealers dabbling in strip clubs and home steam baths. The course will begin with selected readings and films covering the abundance of both on this subject. However, the primary task of the course will be the writing of a 20-page or article-length term paper, hopefully of publishable quality and of distinct relevance to the course whether it deals with the twentieth century, Generation X, or even the nineteenth century. Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, or Henry Adams’ The Education of Henry Adams are fair game but hardly original topics from the past. Sin is the real focus! Hawthorne would love this class!!


Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism John Heidenry, What Wild Ecstasy David Brooks, Bobos* in Paradise Tom Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities Victor Bockris, The Life and Death of Andy Warhol Ultra Violet, Famous For Fifteen Minutes: My Years With Andy Warhol Jean Stein, Edie: American Girl Elizabeth Wurzel, Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women Linda Lovelace, Ordeal Robert Patterson, The Triumph of Vulgarity Andrew Breitbart and Mark Ebner, Hollywood Interrupted Larry Flynt, Unseemly Man Gretchen Edgren, Inside the Playboy Mansion: If You Don’t Swing, Don’t Ring Brett Easton Ellis: American Psycho Ellis Auburn: The Sexiest Man Alive: A Biography of Warren Beatty FILMS: Bonfire of the Vanities I Shot Andy Warhol Ciao! Manhattan The Doors The People vs. Larry Flynt Hugh Hefner: Once Upon a Time


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