Land of Desire: Selected Topics in U.S. Cultural History

History 103D.004

Fall 2007
Instructor (text): 
104 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Mon 10-12
Description now available!

This seminar introduces students to the rich historiography of modern American cultural history, and will be especially useful for any student intending to write a 101 paper in that field. Taking the emergence of consumer capitalism, after 1877, as our central organizing theme, we will explore some of the key rituals, discourses, structural transformations, and ideologies that, over time, made America the leading consumer society of its age. Among other themes, we will consider the rise and broader historical significance of the American culture industry, and its reception overseas; the birth of consumer consciousness; modern advertising and the new technologies of desire; the tranformation of workers' aspirations and political demands in the face of economic abundance; the economics and semiotics of mass spectator sports (particularly Major League baseball); the proliferation of modernist discourses of ";identity";; and the proliferation of radical, reactionary, and conservative Christian critiques of the new consumer culture. Readings will be drawn from seminal, as well as leading-edge, texts in the field, and will include work by William Leach, Stuart Ewen, Lizabeth Cohen, T. Jackson Lears, Theodor Adorno, Roland Barthes, and Victoria de Grazia.