HSTS 4241: The History of Rock and Roll
Dr. Ryan K. AndersonOffice Hours: M/W: 1pm-2pm and by appointment in Dial 211Phone: 775-(4263)Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We will explore American life through the prism of rock n’ roll. While this most dangerous and American art form provides a focal point for our discussions, its chief utility is not as the object of our study, but as a vehicle for understanding various political, economic, social, and cultural movements affecting American life since the mid-twentieth century.Our inquiry takes shape from the relationship between three interrelated groups of people: those who made, thosewho sold, and those who listened to rock. The course opens with an exploration of rock’s roots and its emergencewithin the youth culture of the fifties, as well as adult reactions against its popularity. Moving on to the sixties, wewill
examine the tension between rock’s growing commercial appeal and its political uses. Finally, our semester ends with a look at the fragmentation of rock and of its audience since the seventies.On a theoretical level, we will invest a good amount of energy delving into the historical contexts from which rock and roll took shape. Black culture, hillbilly culture, demographic forces, economic prosperity and peril, and theemergence of the teenager all interwove issues related to gender, race, business, class, and politics into this popular music’s evolution. Our primary goal this semester comes by way of our inspection of the political, economic,social, and cultural negotiations embedded into rock and roll’s history. By the end of the semester, you will better understand how popular culture both reflected and engaged the historical forces influencing American life today.All semester long, you will ask yourself, “What does this tell me about American life at this point in history?”In this course you will refine your conception of what is possible within the study of History. That mission is theheart of an intellectual movement referred to as “The New Social and Cultural History.” Rather than recounting anarrative of facts, dates, places, people, and events, we will strive towards an understanding of how historicaldevelopments related to popular culture affected people, how those folks influenced popular culture, and byextension, how their times represent that relationship. Just as important is making such inquiry relevant to thegeneral historical field. Doing so requires using traditional investigative methods, as well as innovative andinterdisciplinary tactics. On a more vocational plane, you will prove your ability to think as a historian,communicate through spoken and written word at a level commensurate with an upper-division student majoring inHistory, and read and synthesize written/audio/visual material in an effective manner.One final note. I am not kidding when I call rock n’ roll America’s most dangerous art form. Rock is sexist, racist,classist, offensive, misogynistic, beautiful, enlightening, entertaining, soul-searching, and awe-inspiring.Sometimes it is one or more of these things at once. It uses the “N-word,” “C-word,” and all sorts of other “-words.” This is my way of saying that I cannot promise that you will not find some aspect of the music we studythis semester offensive on multiple levels. But, I can promise you that if it you hear it here it is relevant and I amnot including it for mere shock value.