HUM 225-02: Values in American Life
FALL 2019 M/W 2-3.15 in Hum 582
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org).
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 with the ISBNs listed below.
Gold, Jews Without Money (1929)
Gyasi, Homegoing (2016)
Hughes, In a Lonely Place (1947)
Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)
(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; Neomedievalism reading
Handout: A New Reality is Better Than a New Movie
Clip: American Gangster
LAST DAY OF DROP/ADD
Keyword Test #1
Keyword Test #2
Keyword Test #3
VETERANS’ DAY NO CLASS
Film Presentations/ REVIEW