This course is a survey of the wide-ranging creative ways in which we express who we are and what we value and believe: from the ways that people decorate their yards or use recycled items to create art to how they use charms to foretell the sex of unborn babies; from the cures people create for colds and hangovers to family recipes and stories. As a study of American culture this course considers diverse groups from a multiplicity of cultures, from groups connected by ethnicity, region, age, gender, and occupation to smaller groups such as families, friends, classmates, and coworkers. For each of the major concepts we will discuss we will also visit key debates, conflicts, turning points and critiques.
This course bridges many areas of American Culture offerings and draws them together through the common threads of belief, custom, tradition, and ritual. It introduces students to a broad field of study that encompasses philology, anthropology, literary studies, the social sciences, and the humanities in general. The collection component is especially valuable to American Culture students since it introduces students to fieldwork methodology. LSA undergraduates gain a valuable insight into the ways in which our cultural and ethnic backgrounds not only differ, but are brought together with many of the same traditions and customs. Folklore, as a universal phenomenon is a perfect topic to address issues of diversity and our mutual commonalities.
Three quizzes, midterm essay exam, collection project (1500-word essay, collection items, transcriptions).
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Students are expected to attend two 1.5 hour lecture sessions each week.