Popular Culture and Media Studies Concentration, American Studies (BA)

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The Popular Culture and Media Studies concentration in American Studies offers students an opportunity to explore the rich and complex role popular culture has played and continues to play in American life. In contrast to high culture or folk culture forms, "popular culture" generally refers to those commercialized leisure activities or arts that are broadly accessible to most Americans, either through their mass media production (music, radio, film, television, novels, newspapers, magazines, fashion) or wide availability (amusement parks, concerts, sports, Broadway shows, shopping malls, internet sites). Since the end of the nineteenth century, American culture has been defined through its popular arts, most obviously Hollywood films and television programs, and American popular culture and media products have had enormous effects on American identity.

Four broad sets of questions underpin our examination of American popular culture and media. First, what does our close examination of the formal elements of cultural products - their written and visual texts, their physical shapes and sounds - tell us about their specific cultural effects and meanings, both during the historical period in which they were produced and in the present? Second, how does examining the development processes and industrial histories of cultural products help us better understand their political, economic, technological, and social implications? Third, what does the reception of these products by audiences, either through live performances or mass media, tell us about their impact on the formation of American identities (gender, racial, sexual), values, and opinions? Finally, how does studying the history of American popular culture help us critically assess our current cultural politics and the role American popular culture continues to play in our understanding of ourselves as individuals, as members of social groups, and as national and international citizens?

In this concentration, students integrate courses from a number of disciplines, combining those that offer broad surveys of cultural development as well as close examinations of particular cultural products; students should also look for courses that offer a variety of methodological approaches to studying American popular culture.

Concentration Courses

Please note that the below list of possible courses is not exhaustive and that many courses listed under "TOPICS" headings may also count toward American Studies. Students may take an unlimited number of TOPICS courses, as long as the topic of each course is different.

Students must choose six courses from the following; however, exceptions may be granted by the Director of the American Studies Program. No more than three courses may be from any one department (AMS notwithstanding); at least two courses should be at the 300-level.

American Studies

Course Title Quarter Hours
PERSPECTIVES ON AMERICAN IDENTITIES
UNITED STATES POPULAR MUSIC HISTORY
IN THEIR OWN VOICES: AMERICAN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
HISTORY AND U.S. POPULAR MEDIA
AMERICAN VOICES: TO 1860
AMERICAN VOICES: FROM 1860 ONWARD
TOPICS IN AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE AND MEDIA
AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE: 1890s - 1930s
SEX, GENDER AND SOCIAL MEDIA
TELEVISION AND AMERICAN IDENTITY
ADVANCED TOPICS IN AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE AND MEDIA
ADVANCED TOPICS IN GENDER AND SEXUALITY STUDIES IN THE U.S./AMERICAS

African & Black Diaspora Studies

Course Title Quarter Hours
HARLEM RENAISSANCE AND NEGRITUDE
JAZZ AND THE DIASPORIC IMAGINATION
AFRICAN AMERICAN SCIENCE FICTION
AFRICAN- AMERICAN FICTION
AFRICAN AMERICAN DRAMA AND POETRY
RACE, MEDIA, AND REPRESENTATION

Anthropology

Course Title Quarter Hours
MATERIAL CULTURE OF MODERN AMERICA

Asian American Studies

Course Title Quarter Hours
ASIAN AMERICAN ARTS AND CULTURE

Communication and Communication Studies

Course Title Quarter Hours
INTRODUCTION TO MASS COMMUNICATION
PERFORMANCE: COMMUNICATION, CREATIVITY AND THE BODY
AUDIO DOCUMENTARY
PERFORMANCE STUDIES
TOPICS IN INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION
ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICS AND RHETORIC
PERFORMANCE OF GENDER & SEXUALITY

English

Course Title Quarter Hours
THE AMERICAN NOVEL
AMERICAN LITERATURE TO 1830
19TH-CENTURY AMERICAN LITERATURE
AMERICAN LITERATURE FROM 1865 TO 1920
TOPICS IN GENRE STUDIES
TOPICS IN 20TH-CENTURY FICTION
MULTIETHNIC LITERATURE OF THE U.S.
NATIVE LITERATURE

History of Art and Architecture

Course Title Quarter Hours
HISTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY

History

Course Title Quarter Hours
AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE 1890s-1930s 1

Intercultural Communication

Course Title Quarter Hours
PERFORMANCE: COMMUNICATION, CREATIVITY AND THE BODY
CULTURAL AND SYMBOLIC CRITICISM
CULTURE OF CONSUMPTION
ASIAN-AMERICAN MEDIA REPRESENTATIONS

Journalism

Course Title Quarter Hours
JOURNALISM AND THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
JOURNALISM LAW AND ETHICS
THE PRESS AND THE PRESIDENCY

Media & Cinema Studies

Course Title Quarter Hours
HISTORY OF CINEMA I, 1890-1945
HISTORY OF CINEMA II, 1945-1975
HISTORY OF CINEMA III, 1975-PRESENT
MEDIA AND CULTURAL STUDIES
STORYTELLING & STYLE IN CINEMA
HISTORY OF TELEVISION & RADIO
MEDIA ETHICS
THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION: HOLLYWOOD IN THE 1960s
TOPICS IN TELEVISION STUDIES 1
SEX IN THE BOX: U.S. TELEVISION, SEX, AND SEXUALITY
FANDOM & PARTICIPATORY CULTURE
COMMUNICATION, TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY
TALKING ABOUT FILM: THEORY & CRITICISM

Public Relations & Advertising

Course Title Quarter Hours
PRINCIPLES OF ADVERTISING
DIVERSITY & CURRENT ISSUES IN ADVERTISING AND PUBLIC RELATIONS

Political Science

Course Title Quarter Hours
MASS MEDIA AND AMERICAN POLITICS
PUBLIC OPINION

Religion

Course Title Quarter Hours
RELIGION AND POPULAR CULTURE 1

Sociology

Course Title Quarter Hours
SOCIOLOGY OF SPORT
MASS MEDIA AND CULTURE
SOCIOLOGY OF ROCK MUSIC
VISUAL SOCIOLOGY
POPULAR CULTURE AND THE ARTS
SOCIOLOGY OF CELEBRITY

Theater

Course Title Quarter Hours
POLITICS, POP CULTURE, AND THE STAGE

Women's and Gender Studies

Course Title Quarter Hours
DECONSTRUCTING THE DIVA

Portfolio Requirement

Students are encouraged to maintain an active record of documents from their concentration courses, including syllabi, completed written course work, collections of visuals, e.g., photo essays -- whatever is appropriate to the six courses chosen for the concentration. Students will use these documents to aid them in writing reflective essays during the initial weeks of their senior seminar. These essays might ask you to consider “What were the course’s most valuable lessons in research, analysis, writing and communication? How did this course, taken together with the other courses you have chosen for your concentration, influence/develop your understanding of the area of American culture on which you are focusing?” These essays, along with representative assignments, will form the student's American Studies "portfolio." Students turn in their portfolio on the concentration, along with a proposal for the senior seminar project, in the first weeks of the senior seminar, AMS 301. Specific directions for the portfolio can be obtained from your American Studies advisor, from the American Studies Program office, or from the American Studies Program Director.

Open Electives

Open elective credit also is required to meet the minimum graduation requirement of 192 hours. ​