FA19HUM225-02

HUM 225-02: Values in American Life

FALL 2019 M/W 2-3.15 in Hum 582

Sean Connelly 

Contact: apciv@sfsu.edu 

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

The Project

HUM225-02 explores the ways cultural forms such as literature, popular music, and film contend with the powerful forces of capitalist modernity in the United States from the Gilded Age to the postwar era to the present.

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 naturalizing 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, the tenements of the Lower East Side, and the noir landscape of postwar Los Angeles. We will consider how  fictive events and storyworlds dramatize the precarious social formation produced by “market forces” and examine the characters who inhabit it. Though their motives and methods may differ, the proletarians, gangsters, and entrepreneurs navigating this 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 20th century US history, and a toolkit of theoretical concepts with which to explore the relationship between culture and ideology.

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 DESTROYS TRUST between teacher and student.  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

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%

Important Dates

9/2: Labor Day. No class. 

9/16: Last day of Drop/Add

9/25: KW1

10/16: KW2

10/21: CR/NC Deadline

11/4: KW3

11/11: Veterans’ Day. No Class.

12/2, 12/4, 12/9: Film Presentations

12/11: FINAL EXAM

Required Texts

BUY HARD COPIES of the right books! Read with a pencil. Flag significant passages. Always look for patterns. Talk about what you read.

Gold, Jews Without Money (1929)

Gyasi, Homegoing (2016)

Hughes, In a Lonely Place (1947)

Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)

eReader

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

Abbott, “Defining Narrative”; “Glossary”: abbottdefnarr AbbottGlossary

Bennett et al, eds. Capitalism; Class; Commodity; Fetish; Ideology; Modern; Narrative; Postmodernism; Race; Society ; TextUtopia from New Keywords : A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society

Campell, “Naturalism”: CampbellNaturalism

Eagleton, “What is a Novel?”: EagletonNovel

Fearing, “Greenlight”: greenlight

Fulcher, Capitalism (excerpt): Cap

Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto: ManifestoSec1

Marx, “On the Fetishism of Commodities”: fetishism

Marx, “The Power of Money”: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/power.htm

Mitchell, “Value”: nkwvalue

Spicer, “Film Noir”: SpicerNoir1

Williams, “Hegemony”: RWmsHegemony

Williams, “Dominant, Residual, Emergent”: WmsDRE

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Schedule

(note: this schedule of readings and screenings is subject to revision. )

WEEK ONE

8/26

Introduction

First Assignment: Take the Political Compass test. Print a hard copy of your results and bring them to class.

8/28

Due: Political Compass test results. 

Assignment: Complete part two of the Political Compass Assignment PolCompVIAL (writing sample); Print, read, and bring to class Mitchell, “Value”

WEEK TWO

9/2

LABOR DAY NO CLASS

9/4

Due: Writing Sample; Print, read, and bring to class Mitchell, “Value”

Handout: A New Reality is Better Than a New Movie

Clip: American Gangster

WEEK THREE

9/9

Due:

  1. Eagleton, “What is a Novel?”
  2. Yankee

9/11

Due: Yankee

WEEK FOUR

9/16

LAST DAY OF DROP/ADD

Due: Yankee

9/18

Due: Yankee

WEEK FIVE

9/23

Due: Yankee

9/25

Due: Yankee

Keyword Test #1

WEEK SIX

9/30

Due: Campbell, “Naturalism”; JWM

10/2

Due: JWM

WEEK SEVEN

10/7

Due: JWM

Clip:

10/9

Due: JWM

WEEK EIGHT

10/14

Due: JWM

10/16

Due: Lonely

Keyword Test #2

WEEK NINE

10/21

CR/NC DEADLINE

Due: Lonely

10/23

Due: Lonely

WEEK TEN

10/28

Due: Lonely

10/30

Due: Lonely

WEEK ELEVEN

11/4

Due: Homegoing

Keyword Test #3

11/6

Due: Homegoing

Song: Various

WEEK TWELVE

11/11

VETERANS’ DAY NO CLASS

11/13

Due: Homegoing

WEEK THIRTEEN

11/18

Due: Homegoing

11/20

Due: Homegoing

WEEK FOURTEEN

FALL BREAK

WEEK FIFTEEN

12/2

Due: Homegoing

Film Presentations: Coffy, Eyes

12/4

Due: Homegoing

Film Presentations: Fat, Logan’s, Two-Lane

WEEK SIXTEEN

12/9

Film Presentations: White

REVIEW

12/11

FINAL EXAM