HIS 392 • Readings in US Cultural Hist
This course is a graduate introduction to the cultural history of the United States. It is designed to expose students to the historiography of American culture, leaving them with a sense of the history of the discipline, several methodological roads into the study of culture, and a grounding in the theories and debates regarding culture and identity. The course is divided into five units. The first unit examines the historical definition and scope of American cultural history as a scholarly framework. The second unit examines different scholars approaches to situating and examining culture. While far from exhaustive, the unit highlights several ways of investigating culture that have been central to cultural history scholarship: reading and reception, questions of power and hegemony, consumption and the construction of meaning, and the cultural industries as producers and circulators of cultural texts. With these approaches under our belt, Unit III explores several attempts to situate identity. While a course demands some organizational separation of categories, the readings and discussions will focus on integrating various aspects of identity, finding common links, influences, and overlaps among the units weekly topics. Unit IV takes culture and identity on the move, placing United States culture within a global historical framework. Finally, Unit V concentrates on the most fundamental of all academic methodologies: compelling writing. After exploring how many scholars have theorized American cultural history, we will read a few books for what they can tell us about integrating rigorous theoretical positions into strong, compelling narratives.
Students are required to participate fully in class discussion; complete all the core readings; lead at least one class discussion; write two 3-5 page papers examining a week's core readings; write one 5-7 page paper examining a week's supplemental readings; and writing one 10-12 page historiographical essay on a topic chosen by the student and approved by the professor.
Peter Charles Hoffer, Sensory Worlds in Early America Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790 Richard Bushman, The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities Christine Leigh Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt Jon Cruz, Culture on the Margins: The Black Spiritual and the Rise of American Cultural Interpretation Gail Biedeman, Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917 Jose Limon, American Encounters: Greater Mexico, The United States, and the Erotics of Culture Michael Denning, The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century Lizabeth Cohen, A Consumerës Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America Penny von Eschen, Satchmo Blows Up the World: Jazz Ambassadors Play the Cold War Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History C. L. R. James, Beyond a Boundary Readings will include a copy pack of select articles.