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American Pop Culture

Course Description:

American culture is not only defined by its fast-paced lifestyle, fashion, and “to-go” coffee cups. It is also the culture of many diversities, different religions, races, and ethnicities. It is a culture that nourishes competition and political correctness, and also tries to enforce the freedom of speech. The society of the United States is based largely on Western culture, and has been developing since long before the United States became a country with its own unique social and cultural characteristics such as dialect, music, arts, social habits, cuisine, and folklore. In this course we will examine the history and inescapable force of American popular culture. Through our studies we will explore how popular culture contributes to the search for meaning in everyday American life. 


Week 1: Introduction: defining and exploring American culture
Week 2: Circuses and World Fairs (Ringling Brothers)
Week 3: Folklore, Voodoo and Ghost stories
Week 4: Jazz: Influence of African American Culture
Week 5: Mardi Gras
Week 6: The American Dream: Celebrity, Class and Social Mobility
Week 7: The Great Depression, Prohibition & Speakeasy
Week 8: The Rise of Hollywood
Week 9: WWII: Material Culture
Week 10: LA Youth culture, Latin Influences, crimes of fashion, zoot suits, The Pachuca Panic and Punk
Week 11: 1960s Counterculture and Rock: Peace, Love, War and Rock
Week 12: Punk Culture: NYC punk scene
Week 13: MTV culture and visual identity
Week 14: Reality TV
Week 15: Hip Hop, Black power and Rap
Week 16: NYC underground clubs: Club kids and goth rock
Week 17: Grunge


Class participation is a very important part of the learning process in this course. You are expected to contribute your insights through individual feedback and group collaborations.

Learning Outcomes:

At the conclusion of this course, you will be able to do the following:

  1. Define and apply culture theory to American popular culture in terms of what is distinctly American and popular culture.
    2. Identify and distinguish between various forms of popular culture.
    3. Identify innovations and trends that occur and analyze their role in reflecting and shaping contemporary concerns and expectations.
    4. Assess several innovations in popular culture that appear at the turn of the 20th century and can be associated with the emergence of modernity in the United States.
    5. Define major historical, political, social, and economic forces and interpret their influence on American popular culture.
    6. Differentiate and recognize the merits and dangers of popular culture masked within media structures such as film, music, literature and art.
    7. Follow the evolution of the American aesthetic and analyze how popular culture created an identity that was distinctly                  American.
    8. Identify and examine social, economic, and political influences on American popular culture.