SPR19:HUM485/AMST310

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HUM 485-01/ AMST 310-01: The Arts and American Culture 

SPR 2019 M/W 11.00- 12.15 in Hum 386

Sean Connelly, Ph.D. 

Contact: apciv@sfsu.edu 

Office location/ hours: in Hum 416 on M 12.30-1.30 and T 10-11 and by appt.

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 contend with the forces of capitalist modernity in the United States from the late-19th through the 20th century.

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 Chicago, the Great Migration, and the aftermath of the apocalypse. 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 populating this social terrain are confronted by a common, determinate situation.

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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 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

Effort and Engagement (Attendance, verbal participation, in-class work) 25%

4 Keyword Tests 5% each for a total of 20% 2/11, 2/27, 3/18, 4/8

Film Analysis Presentation (group presentation and written formal analysis) 30% 5/1, 5/6, 5/8, 5/13

Final Exam 25% 5/15

Important Dates

2/11: KW1

2/17: Last day of Drop/Add

2/20: Frankenstein completed

2/27: KW2

3/11: Père Goriot completed

3/18: KW3

3/22: CR/NC Deadline

4/8: 1919 completed

4/8: KW 4

4/24: Tram 83 completed

5/15: Final Exam

Required Texts

Buy HARD COPIES with the ISBNs listed below.

John Dos Passos, 1919 (1932)  978-0618056828

Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (1900) 978-0199539086

Chester Himes, Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965) 978-0199539086

Ling Ma, Severance (2018) 978-0374261597

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

WEEK ONE
1/28
Introduction
Handout: “Green Light”; “Commodity”
First Assignment: HD Thoreau, “Life Without Principle”: Go to the library website, locate this essay in Essays: A Fully Annotated Edition (Jeffrey S. Cramer, ed.), print, read, annotate and bring to class.

1/30
Due: “Life Without Principle”
Clip: Margin Call
Assignment: From #Blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation (excerpt)

WEEK TWO
2/4
Due: From #Blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation (excerpt)
In-class Reading: “Dope”
Clip: American Gangster

2/6
Due: Manifesto of the Communist Party excerpt)
Clip: Young Karl Marx

WEEK THREE
2/11
Due: Sister Carrie
Keyword Test #1

2/13
Due: Sister Carrie
Photos: How the Other Half Lives

WEEK FOUR
2/17
LAST DAY OF DROP/ADD

2/18
Due: Sister Carrie

2/20
Due: Sister Carrie

WEEK FIVE
2/25
Due: Sister Carrie (complete)

2/27
Due: Sister Carrie
Song: “Gold Digger”
Keyword Test #2

WEEK SIX
3/4
Due: 1919

3/6
Due: 1919

WEEK SEVEN
3/11
Due: 1919
Clip: A Strike Leader’s Diary

3/13
Due: 1919 (complete)

WEEK EIGHT
3/18
Due: 1919
Keyword Test #3

3/20
Due: 1919

3/22
CR/NC DEADLINE

WEEK NINE

SPRING BREAK

WEEK TEN
4/1
Due: Cotton Comes to Harlem

4/3
Due: Cotton Comes to Harlem (complete)

WEEK ELEVEN
4/8
Due: Cotton Comes to Harlem, Autobiography of Malcolm X (excerpt)
Keyword Test #4

4/10
Due: Cotton Comes to Harlem
Song: Various

WEEK TWELVE
4/15
Due: Severance

4/17
Due: Severance

WEEK THIRTEEN
4/22
Due: Severance (complete)

4/24
Due: Severance

WEEK FOURTEEN
4/29
Due: Severance

5/1
Film Presentations

WEEK FIFTEEN
5/6
Film Presentations

5/8
Film Presentations

WEEK SIXTEEN
5/13
Film Presentations/ REVIEW

5/15
FINAL EXAM