Antebellum America: The Advent of Mass Society


Spring 2017
390 Hearst Mining
Day & Time: 
TuTh 3:30-5
Class Number: 
  • This course satisfies the American Cultures Requirement.
  • The Civil War is commonly regarded as the second American Revolution, the grand rupture after which a new modern nation came into being. But many of the institutions, ideologies, and practices that make up modern society and culture in the United States emerged more gradually during the half-century that preceded the War. To understand the origins of such contemporary phenomena as the mass media, corporate capitalism, wage labor, the two-party system, family values, and racism, we need to trace their evolution in the nineteenth century. This course examines a little over half a century of life in the United States (roughly from 1800 until the secession of the South), focusing on everyday life, popular culture, race relations, westward expansion, urbanization, class formation, religious experience, gender roles, sexuality, print communication, and competing claims to wealth, power, and the good life. Assigned readings will consist largely of first-person narratives in which women and men of varied ethnic backgrounds and cultural identities try to make sense of their own experiences against the backdrop of major social change.