FA18AMST310/HUM485

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HUM 485-01/ AMST 310-01 The Arts and American Culture
SPR 2018
T/Th 12.30- 1.45 in HSS 362
Sean Connelly
Contact: apciv@sfsu.edu
Office location/ hours: in Hum 416 on T/Th 11-12 and by appt.

PDF of this syllabus: FA18HUM485

Prerequisite: Upper division standing. First and second year students need instructor permission to enroll. 

The Project

HUM485/AMST310 explores the ways expressive forms such as literature, popular music, and film grapple with the forces of capitalist modernity in the United States from the late-19th through the 20th century.

To that end we will use concepts drawn from political economy and formal analysis to interpret literary and cinematic fiction. Why has the mainstream of US American culture remained so reluctant to confront the facts of class struggle? What accounts for the paradox of its devotion to “the free market” and its mistrust of speculation? How do writers, painters, musicians, and film-makers give form to the anarchy of capitalism? How do their works confirm, avoid, or deny the ideologies justifying it? What do our provisional answers to these questions tell us about national identity— what it means to be American?

Our focus will encompass Gilded Age high society, the Depression Era Steel Belt, and the Cold War capital of African-America. We will consider how fictive events and storyworlds dramatize the precarious world produced by “the Market” and examine the characters who inhabit it. Though their motives and methods may differ, the grifters, social climbers, and gangsters populating this social terrain are confronted by a common, determinate situation. 

Learning Outcomes

Students who do the work will complete the course with a solid foundation in the formal analysis of literature and film, a general knowledge of US history, and a toolkit of theoretical concepts with which to explore the relationship between culture and ideology.

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Basic Etiquette

ARRIVE ON TIME,  work completed, with a hard copy of the assigned text. All homework assignments should be typed and include name/date/course.

Electronic devices

On its own, a cell phone is not an adequate tool with which to pursue a college education. The course blog, for example, is best viewed on a computer. Unless I specifically request it, no electronic devices should be used during class.

Intellectual Honesty

CHEATING of any kind is pernicious because it  DESTROYS TRUST between teacher and student. If you can’t trust your teacher, then you deserve a new one. If you can’t trust your students, etc.

As a general rule any ideas/words that are not your own should be cited. Yet intellectual honesty encompasses more than actively avoiding plagiarism. For example, reading a wikipedia entry rather than an assigned novel or allowing others to do your work for you are examples of cheating.

See http://www.sfsu.edu/~vpsa/judicial/titlev.html

Accessibility

If there’s anything I should know about you as a student, please talk to me RIGHT AWAY and I’ll do my best to help. The DPRC is located in the Student Service Building and can be reached by telephone (voice/TTY 415-338-2472) or by email dprc@sfsu.edu).

Other resources

The SAFE Place – (415) 338-2208; http://www.sfsu.edu/~safe_plc/

Counseling and Psychological Services Center – (415) 338-2208; http://psyservs.sfsu.edu/

Additional information on rights and available resources: http://titleix.sfsu.edu

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The Work: Grading Rubric

Final Project 20% (syllabus for an alternate version of HUM485/AMST310) 12/13

Class Work 25% (participation, attendance, in-class work)

Midterm 15% (Short responses to key terms) 10/16

Film Analysis Presentation 20% 11/27, 11/29, 12/4, 12/6

Final Exam 20% (Short responses to key terms) 12/13

Students are expected to complete the assigned readings, think about what they read, and actively participate in class discussion. Late work will not be accepted.

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Required Texts

Buy HARD COPIES with the ISBNs listed below.

Horatio Alger, Ragged Dick, or Street Life in New York With the Boot Blacks 978-0451469595

Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth978-0199538102

Meridel Le Sueur, The Girl 978-0975348659

Chester Himes, A Rage in Harlem 978-0679720409

Charles Taylor, Opening Wednesday at a Drive-in or Theater Near You 978-1632868183

eReader

ALL of these readings should be brought in HARD COPY format to class on the date they are due. 

Wai Chi Dimock, “Debasing Exchange: Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth“: DebasingExchange

Kenneth Fearing, “Green Light”: Fearing

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party: ManifestoSec1

George Matsell, “Semi-Annual Report of the Chief of Police from May 1 to October 31, 1849”: http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6526/

Lester K. Spence, Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics (pp. xv-26): Knocking

Luc Sante, Lowlife (excerpt): Lowlife

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #Blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation (pp. 191-219): From_BlackLivesMatter_to_Black_Liberation-2

HD Thoreau, “Life Without Principle”: Go to the library website, locate this essay in Essays: A Fully Annotated Edition (Jeffrey S. Cramer, ed.), print it and bring it to class.

Malcolm X and Alex Haley, Autobiography of Malcolm X (pp.  98-124): DetRedHustler

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Filmography
Alien (Scott 1979)
American Gangster (Scott 2007)
A Rage in Harlem (Duke 1991)
Blue Collar (Schrader 1978)
The Brood (Cronenberg 1979)
Coffy (Hill 1973)
Cotton Comes to Harlem (Davis 1970)
The Grifters (Frears 1990)
House of Games (Mamet 1985)
The House of Mirth (Davies 2001)
Killing Them Softly (Dominik 2012
Logan’s Run (Anderson 1976)
Mean Streets (Scorsese 1973)
Soylent Green (Fleischer 1973)
Take Out (Baker 2009)
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (Sargent 1974)
Troubleman (Dixon 1972)
Wattstax (Stuart 1973)

Film Presentation List
11/27
Prime Cut, Vanishing Point
11/29
Hickey and Boggs, Two-Lane Blacktop, Foxy Brown
12/4
Ulzana’s Raid, Aloha Bobby and Rose, Hard Times
12/6
Winter Kills, Eyes of Laura Mars, Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia

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Schedule

WEEK ONE
8/28
Introduction
Poem: “Green Light”

8/30
Due: Knocking the Hustle; upload a recognizable image of  yourself to ilearn
Song: “Work Song”; “Working Man Blues”
Clip: American Gangster

WEEK TWO
9/4
Due: From #Blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation

Clip: Killing Them Softly

9/6
Due: Communist Manifesto
Clip: Take Out

WEEK THREE
9/11
Due: Ragged Dick

9/13
Due: Ragged Dick

WEEK FOUR

9/17

LAST DAY OF DROP/ADD

9/18
Due: Ragged Dick, “Semi-Annual Report of the Chief of Police from May 1 to October 31, 1849”

9/20
Due: Ragged Dick

Photos: How the Other Half Lives

WEEK FIVE
9/25
Due:  Mirth

9/27
Due: Mirth

Song: “Gold Digger”; “Confessions of a Shopaholic”

WEEK SIX
10/2
Due: Mirth

10/4
Due: Mirth

WEEK SEVEN
10/9
Due: Mirth

Clip: House of Mirth

10/11
Due: Mirth

WEEK EIGHT
10/16
MIDTERM

10/18

WEEK NINE

10/22

CR/NC DEADLINE

10/23
Due: The Girl

Song: “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”

10/25
Due: The Girl

WEEK TEN
10/30
Due: The Girl

11/1
Due: The Girl

WEEK ELEVEN
11/6
Due: Rage

11/8
Due: Rage

Song: Various

WEEK TWELVE
11/13
Due: Rage, Autobiography of Malcolm X

11/15
Due: Rage

ASSIGNMENT FOR 11/27: Opening Wednesday (ALL OF IT)

WEEK THIRTEEN
FALL BREAK

WEEK FOURTEEN
11/27
Due: Opening Wednesday (pp. 1-47)
Film Presentations

11/29
Due: Opening Wednesday (pp. 48-91)
Film Presentations

WEEK FIFTEEN
12/4
Due: Opening Wednesday (pp. 92-137)
Film Presentations

12/6
Due: Opening Wednesday (pp. 138-185)
Film Presentations

WEEK SIXTEEN
12/11
REVIEW

12/13
FINAL EXAM
FINAL PROJECT