HUM 485-01/ AMST 310-01: The Arts and American Culture
FALL 2019 M/W 3.30-4.45 in HSS 285
Office location/ hours: in Hum 416 on M 12.30-1.30 and by appt.
Prerequisite: Upper division standing. First and second year students need instructor permission to enroll.
HUM485/AMST310 explores the ways cultural forms such as literature, popular music, and film contend with the powerful forces of capitalist modernity in the United States during the historical period of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (roughly, the half century from Reconstruction through the so-called first Red Scare or the opening years of the Machine Age).
We will use concepts drawn from political economy and textual analysis to interpret literary and cinematic narratives. Why has the mainstream of US American culture remained so reluctant to confront the facts of class struggle, white supremacy and imperialism? What accounts for the paradox of its devotion to “the free market” and mistrust of speculation? How do writers, painters, musicians, and film-makers give form to the anarchy of capitalism? How do their works attempt to confirm, revise, escape, 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 genres such as satire, naturalism, and modernism across storyworlds including Arthurian England, Jim Crow North Carolina, and a kaleidoscopic Manhattan. We will consider how fictive events and settings dramatize the precarious world produced by “market forces” and examine the characters who inhabit it. Though their motives and methods may differ, the proletarians, social climbers, grifters, and entrepreneurs populating this social terrain are all confronted by a common, determinate situation.
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 GAPE history, and a toolkit of theoretical concepts with which to explore the relationship between culture and ideology.
ARRIVE ON TIME, work completed, with a hard copy of the assigned text. All homework assignments should be typed and include name/date/course.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com).
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
The Work: Grading Rubric
Effort and Engagement (Attendance, verbal participation, in-class work) 25%
Writing Sample 5%
3 Keyword Tests 5% each for a total of 15%
Film Analysis Presentation (group presentation and written formal analysis) 30%
Final Exam 25%
9/2: Labor Day. No class.
9/16: Last day of Drop/Add
10/21: CR/NC Deadline
11/11: Veterans’ Day. No Class.
12/2, 12/4, 12/9: Film Presentations
12/11: FINAL EXAM
Buy HARD COPIES of the books listed below.
Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition (1901) (Marrow)
Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer (1925) (MT)
Twain, A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1889) (Yankee)
Wharton, The Custom of the Country (1913) (Custom)
ALL of these readings should be brought in HARD COPY format to class on the date they are due.
Robert Caserio, “Modernism” from Encyclopedia of the Novel
Kenneth Fearing, “Green Light”
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #Blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation (pp. 191-219): From_BlackLivesMatter_to_Black_Liberation-2
GAPE def reading
Lamb, “‘American Can Break Your Heart’: On the Significance of Mark Twain”
Lears, No Place of Grace (excerpt)
Film Presentation List: US Cinema of the 1970s:
(note: this schedule of readings and screenings is subject to revision. )
First Assignment: Take the Political Compass test. Print a hard copy of your results and bring them to class.
Due: Political Compass test results.
Assignment: Complete part two of the Political Compass Assignment (writing sample)
LABOR DAY NO CLASS
Due: Writing Sample; Lears, No Place of Grace (excerpt)
LAST DAY OF DROP/ADD
Keyword Test #1
Keyword Test #2
Keyword Test #3
VETERANS’ DAY NO CLASS
Film Presentations/ REVIEW