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Unit One
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Unit Two
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Unit Three
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American Popular Culture

Fall 2013
T Th 11:00-12:20
Instructor: Ali Colleen Neff
Office: [8B College Apartments
Office Hours: T Th 1-3p.m., W (appts.)

It is essential that you adhere to the scheduled due dates. Mark them in your personal
calendar. Establish a plan for reading, study, discussion, and writing that enables you to
meet the deadlines.

Course Schedule: American Popular Culture
Lecture Issues/Keywords/Themes Thursday Materials
Course/Personal Introductions, Syllabus (Incorporate DJ Red Alert somehow?)
Fostering Class Discussion
KEYWORDS: American Studies, the popular, culture, Cultural Studies, citizenship, nation, practices, youth,
interdiscplinarity, methodology
9/2-9/6 Methodologies and Materials in American
Studies: One contemporary discourse illustrated
Read/Watch/Consider for today:
1. Lawrence Levine, from Highbrow-Lowbrow:
Shakespeare in America
2. Stuart Hall, Notes on deconstructing the
3. George Lipsitz, Diasporic Noise: History, Hip-
Hop and the Postcolonial Politics of Sound.
4. One of the full-length documentaries on Warhol
(Im looking for a copy of the PBS 5. American
Masters on his work)
5. P.T. Barnum, The Art of Money Getting
4. Warren Susman, from "Culture as History," pp
101-103, ch. 7 "Culture and Civilization: The
1920s," and ch. 9 "The Culture of the Thirties"

Read/consider all of these today, and revisit
Mondays core readings:
1. The commercial trailers for Jay Z's
And "Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film":
2. The National performing "Sorrow" for 6 hours
for MoMA PS1:

NYT: "Jay-Z is Rhyming Picasso and Rothko,"
July 12, 2013:

Article about The National performing at MoMA
PS1 in the New Yorker:
KEYWORDS: the popular, highbrow/lowbrow, diaspora, the market, postcoloniality, politics, discourse, pop art,
construction/deconstruction, aesthetics, market, cultural criticism

Course Schedule: American Popular Culture
Unit One: Who You Are--Identity, Subjectivity, Ethnicity, Representation
9/9-9/13 Declaring, Slipping, Reconfiguring Identities
Read/Wat ch/Consi der f or t oday:
1. David Roediger. from Working Toward
Whiteness, ch. 1 New Immigrants, Race
and Ethnicity, pp. 10-34
2. Charlie McGovern, from Sold American,
the introduction
3. Tricia Rose, from Black Noise : Prophets
of Rage: Rap Music and the Politics of
Black Cultural Expression, Bad Sistahs:
Black Women Rappers and Sexual
Politics in rap Music
4. Barbara Tomlinson, George Lipsitz
American Studies as Accompaniment
American Quarterly, Volume 65, Number
1, March 2013, pp. 1-30
Read/consi der al l of t hese t oday, and
revi si t Monday s core readi ngs
1. bell hooks: Cultural Criticism and
Transformation. Watch the entire 6-part
series available on youtube (60 minutes
or so) , starting with part 1:
KEYWORDS: binary, identity, race/ethnicity, whiteness, blackness, brownness, diaspora,
power/empowerment/disempowerment, New Immigrants, inbetweeness
Camp, Vaudeville, comedy and the American
Read/Wat ch/Consi der f or today:
1. Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp
2. John Waters interview with Gary Indiana
from Interview Magazine:
3. Barbara Babcock, from The Reversible
World: Symbolic Inversion in Art and
4. Susan Glenn, from Female Spectacle,
ch. "Mirth and Girth"
5. Omi & Winant, from Racial Formation in
the US, Introduction
6. Robert M. Lewis, from From Travelling
Show to Vaudeville, pp. 315-339.
Read/consi der al l of t hese t oday, and
revi si t Monday s core readi ngs

1. Louis CK,
2. From Travelling Show to Vaudeville,
Routines, pp. 340-349

KEYWORDS: camp, vaudeville, signifying, social structure, hierarchy, symbolic inversion, resistance, class,
resistance, other
Short Keyword Essay Due Tuesday 9/17 (Assignment 1)
Course Schedule: American Popular Culture
Suffragettes, Blues Women and Riot Girls
Read/Wat ch/Consi der f or t oday:
1. Angela Davis, Selections from Blues
Women and Black Feminism
2. Shelley Stamp, from Movie Struck Girls
ch. 4, Civic Housekeeping: Womens
Suffrage, Female Viewers, and the Body
3. Howard Zinn,Peoples History: Voices,
Primary sources from suffragettes
4. bell hooks, selections from Aint I a
5. Glenn, from Female Spectacle, ch.
Nationally Advertised Legs
Read/consi der al l of t hese t oday, and
revi si t Monday s core readi ngs

1. Historic footage from Vaudeville:

KEYWORDS: labor, marketing, self-definition, subculture, intervention, first/second/third wave feminism, popular
media, representation
Read/Wat ch/Consi der f or t oday:
1. Eric Lott, from Love and Theft
2. Louis Chude-Sokei, from The Last Darky:
Bert Williams . . . ch. 1, Black Minstrel,
Black Modernism
3. Adam Green, from Selling the Race, ch. 4,
Selling the Race
4. Robert Cantwell, from When We Were Good,
chapters 1 and 3
Read/consi der al l of t hese t oday, and
revi si t Monday s core readi ngs
Watch Spike Lees. Bamboozled

KEYWORDS: binary, mimesis, performance studies, appropriation, spectacle, stereotype. modernism
Unit Two: Where Youre From--Geography
Case Study: Detroit
Read/Wat ch/Consi der f or t oday:
1. Thomas Sugrue, "Origins of the Urban Crisis"
chs. 1 & 2, "Arsenal of Democracy" &
"Detroit's Time Bomb: Race and Housing in
the 1940s"
2. Suzanne E. Smith, from "Dancing in the
Streets" ch. 6, "What's Going On?": Motown
and New Detroit"
3. Simon Reynolds, "The Future Sound of
Detroit" from Energy Flash, Ch. 8
4. George Lipsitz, "Possessive Investment in
5. Piece from, My Happy Detroit
Thursday, October 10
: African and global
perspectives on American Pop culture (readings
including my own piece on the Global South)
Read/consi der al l of t hese t oday, and
revi si t Monday s core readi ngs

1. Scene from The Big Chill
2. Video: Eminem, Lose Yoursefl
3. Carl Craig aka Innerzone Orchestra,
Bug in the Bassbin
4. Selection of Motown songs TBA

Course Schedule: American Popular Culture
KEYWORDS: labor, Fordism, postfordism, mobility, urban/rural/suburban, agrarian/industrial, economy,
socioeconomy, great migration, working class, geography
Fall Break 10/12-10/15
Case Study: Atlanta and its suburbs
Read/Wat ch/Consi der f or t oday:
1. DuBois, "Souls of Black Folks," ch. v "Of the
Wings of Atlanta"
2. Paul Gaston, "The New South Creed: A
Study in Southern Mythmaking," Prologue:
"The New South Symbol"
3. Kevin Kruse, "White Flight: Atlanta and the
Making of Modern Conservatism", ch. 9,
"City Limits: Urban Separatism and
Suburban Secession"
4. Matthew Lassiter, "The Silent Majority," ch.
2, "HOPE in the New South"
5. Robert A Yarbrough, "Becoming 'Hispanic'
in the "New South": Central American
Immigrants Racialization experiences in
Atlanta, GA, US"
Read/consi der al l of t hese t oday, and
revi si t Monday s core readi ngs

1. OutKast, Rosa Parks
2. Kriss Kross, I Missed the Bus
3. Gone With the Wind
4. Real Housewives of Atlanta

KEYWORDS: ethnicity, southernness, old south, new south, reverse migration, city
Mid-semester Essay Due Thursday 10/17 (Assignment 2)
Case Study: Bakersfield
Read/Wat ch/Consi der f or t oday:
1. Park Fenster, "Buck Owens, Country Music,
and the Struggle for Discursive Control"
2. Peter La Chapelle, "Proud to be an Okie", Ch.
6 "Fighting Sides: 'Okie From Muskogee,'
Conservative Populism, and the Uses of
Migrant Identity"
3. Devra Weber, "Dark Sweat White Gold," ch. 2
"Sin Fronteras: Mexican Workers"
4. George J. Sanchez, "Becoming Mexican
American', ch. 9 "Workers and Consumers: A
Community Emerges"

Read/consi der al l of t hese t oday, and
revi si t Monday s core readi ngs

1. Carlan Arnett, "from Bakersfield"
2. Photos from the Farm Security
3. Grapes of Wrath
4. Photos from The Power of the Zoot

KEYWORDS: migrant labor, farm industry, the West, cultural syncretism, chicano, remittance, homelands,
settlements, labor camp, borderlands, transnationalism
Course Schedule: American Popular Culture
Case Study: Virginia Beach
Read/Watch/Consi der f or today:
1. Ira Berlin, from Many Thousands Gone,
Part 1 Introduction Societies with
Slaves: The Charter Generations, and a
short selection from ch. 1, Emergence
of Atlantic Creoles in the Chesapeake
2. John J. Accordino, "Captives of the Cold
War Economy: the Struggle for
Defense Conversion in American
Communities," Ch. 3 "the Military
Metroplois: Boosters, Bases and
Shipbuilding in Hampton Roads"
3. Charles W. Johnson "V is for Virginia:
The Commonwealth Goes to War"
4. From The Beach: A History of Virginia
Beach, ch. 1 Native Virgninans, ch. 11
Virginia Beach: The Birth of a Resort,
ch. 13, The Military, and ch. 14, The
5. Amy Waters Yarsinke, Lost Virginia
Beach, ch. 3, A Little Town Named
Virginia Beach
Swem Library Special Collections Visit
Read/consi der al l of t hese t oday, and
revi si t Monday s core readi ngs

1. Vidoe: Public Enemy "Brothers Gonna
Work it Out"
2. Daily Press Artcile from 1990
3. Collection of Articles from the Norfolk
Journal and Guide, covering the
Greekfest Riots and local, regional,
national reverberations and military and
cultural history of area

KEYWORDS: defense industry, youth culture, Coastal south, transitional cultures, sense of place, syncretism,
tourism, charter generations
Unit Three: What Time It Is--Genealogies
Tracing Texts and Objects
Read/Wat ch/Consi der f or t oday:
1. Mark Anthony Neal and Pullman Porters
2. Scott Nelson, from Steel Driving Man, ch. 8
Communist Strongman
3. Joel Dinerstein, from Swinging the Machine,
ch. 4, Swinging the Machine; Big Bands
and Streamliner Trains
4. Kerouac
Trains-and texts about trains!

Read/consi der al l of these today, and
revi si t Monday s core readi ngs
1. Duke Ellington, Take the A-Train
2. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, This Train
3. Kamau Brathwaite, Trane
KEYWORDS: Reconstruction, Rocking and Rolling, space, place, time, movements
Short Essay Due Tuesday 11/5 (Assignment 3)
Tracing Diasporas
Read/Wat ch/Consi der f or t oday:
1. Philip Delorea, selections from Indians in
unexpected Places, ch. 2, Representation,
ch. 3, Athletics, ch. 4 Technology

Read/consi der al l of t hese t oday, and
revi si t Monday s core readi ngs
1. A Tribe Called Red, First Nations DJ
group, website

Course Schedule: American Popular Culture
KEYWORDS: nativism, first nation, forced migration, reservation, reparation, self-identification, self-
Tracing Practices
Read/Wat ch/Consi der f or t oday:
1. Kasson, from Rudeness and Civility, ch 3
Reading the City and ch 6, Table
2. Meaghan Morris, notes from a mall
3. Lawrence Glickman, from A Living Wage,
ch. 2, Idle Men and Fallen Women
4. Kristin L. Hoganson, from Consumers
Imperium, Conclusion: The Global
Production of American Domesticity
5. Jason Chambers, from Madison Avenue
and the Color Line, ch. 3, Civil Rights
and the Advertising Industry

Read/consi der al l of t hese t oday, and
revi si t Monday s core readi ngs

1. Lost in a supermarket
2. Watch Repo Man

KEYWORDS: consumerism, the pubic, the market, commercialism, civilization, consumption, capitalism, the
culture industry, commodity
11/26 Screening Day--Thanksgiving Break 11/27-12/1
Revisit all of the week one readings during this screening and review timewe will loop back to
discuss them in class again as it comes to a close, and you are expected to know them well for the
final. Also, be sure you have mastered the course keywords and concepts.
Final Paper Due Friday 12/1 (Assignment 4)
Review: culture, the popular, Americannness Revisit materials from the top of class
Final Exam: Monday, December 9
, 2-5 p.m.

Graded Item Number of points (of 100 total)
1,000-word writing assignment due Tuesday, 9/17 (Assignment 1) 10
1,500-word mid-semester essay due Tuesday, 10/17 (Assignment 2) 15
1,000-word writing assignment due Tuesday, 11/15 (Assignment 3) 10
12/5 Final paper due (Assignment 6) 25
12/9 Final Exam 15
Discussion Leading and participation, Friday sessions 15
Course Participation 10

The Small Print:


Students and instructors participate in lectures and discussions and listening/viewing sessions. In
general expect one full lecture on Tuesdays, one follow-up lecture and small groupwork on
Thursdays, plus one discussion section per week. In addition there are several special evening
screenings or listening sessions. Each will be held in Tucker 120, beginning at 7pm. It is
expected that you attend. If you cannot make it you may view the films on reserve in the Charles


1. Attendance at all lectures and screenings and doing the readings, as reflected through
engaged and informed participation in discussions in class, sections and listening/viewing
sessions. Simply showing up is not enough (10%)
2. There will be 3 writing assignments - the first a short 2 page response to a primary
document to be distributed in section, the second a 5-7 p essay comparing two films, and the 3

an essay on a primary document of American popular culture of your choice, that allows you to
draw upon the ideas, skills and insights you have gained from the course. (40%)

3. In Class Midterm (20%)

4. One Final exam (30%)

NOTE: You cannot pass the course unless you complete all elements section/lecture, writing
and exams satisfactorily.


To explore the social and specific historical origins of cultural expressions
and forms created and embraced by diverse groups of Americans in the 20th century.

To understand the systems of creation, circulation and consumption which
constitute the social life of American popular culture.

To survey critically a range of genres and practices central to American
popular culture and to relate them to the historical evolution of American identity


By the end of the term, students should

Be able to analyze an example of American popular culture in a variety of critical
approaches and contexts

Understand the workings of cultural forms, industries and movements in social
and historical context

Hone their critical literacy through examination and discussion of specific figures,
genres or works.



Discussion sections are a crucial element in the course. It is where you get to engage with
the material and your classmates on most directly . They will meet beginning the week of
AUG 31 and will continue throughout the course. You will be assigned a specific section
and room by the beginning of that week.


Matters of import - announcements, resources, and other relevant items will from time
to time be placed on blackboard. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR CONSULTING THE


The Following books for the course are available at the Bookstore

William L. Bird, Jr. - Paint By Number (Princeton Architectural)
Susan J. Douglas - Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media (Times)
William Graebner- Coming of Age in Buffalo: Youth & Authority in the Postwar Era (Temple)
John Kasson - Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century (Hill and Wang)
George Roeder - The Censored War: American Visual Experience During World War II
Art Spigelman - Maus II (Pantheon)


Any student with a disability or specific need should see me as soon as possible. Every
effort will be made to accommodate you.


It is expected that everyone offer their best efforts to the communal project that this class
represents. To that end, students should come to section having done the reading; if the readings

include course pack materials, you must bring copies with you having printed them up from
blackboard or copied them from reserve in SWEM. You should think about the readings
critically and be prepared to discuss them in section.

We collaborate in our group meetings, and you should support and help one another
through the semester in working out your ideas and positions. However, your written work must
solely be your own; that is, you must develop your own ideas about the works and history you
discuss. Influences on that thinking, as well as information gathered in researching a topic must
be properly cited in detailed and accurate notation.

It is important to respect the different experiences that shape the diverse perspectives that
we each bring to this class. Mutual support for one another is built foremost upon that respect.
Its important that we listen to one another, and work to provide an environment in which all
speak and all are heard.

Plagiarism - the unattributed use of anothers ideas, sentences, phrasing and patterns of
argumentation - is unethical and forbidden. There can be no tolerance for it in this class.

The work load is substantial and the pace will at times be brisk. By all means please
contact me if you have concerns, problems or questions, about the readings, the course, the
lectures and section, or writing.


I will only grant extensions on a written assignment in case of documented medical
emergency. Late assignments will be docked a full grade for every calendar day they are