AMCULT 102 - First Year Seminar in American Studies
Section: 001 Born to Buy: The Making of the American Consumer
Term: FA 2017
Subject: American Culture (AMCULT)
Department: LSA American Culture
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
Advisory Prerequisites:
Enrollment restricted to first-year students, including those with sophomore standing.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

Born to Buy investigates the emergence and evolution of the U.S. as the canonical consumer society. Through readings and exercises, we will explore how trade, shopping, and politics converged in America to make the consumption-driven culture that it has today. The class will track the arrival and development of newly invented or modified commodities, like fabrics and foods, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and of new retail spaces, like the department store and the shopping mall in the 19th and 20th centuries and the online community in the 21st century. It will examine how entrepreneurs exploited differences in class, sex and race (and understandings of them) to expand both market and desire. Finally, it will chart changes in how Americans have understood and approached their consumption of goods — adhering to traditional paradigms touting necessity and luxury or embracing newer ideologies valorizing fashion and taste.

Course readings draw on the work of social, business, economic, and cultural historians, as well as economists, political scientists, anthropologists and sociologists.

Course Requirements:

Four graded short papers (3-5 pages in length) with accompanying presentations, and one graded long paper (15-20 pages). The final grade is based on class participation, the four short papers and presentations, and the one final paper.

There may be several unannounced quizzes on the readings that take the form of a one-page essay in response to a question on that week’s reading, and will be read and critiqued, but not graded.

Intended Audience:

This course is designed for freshmen; no knowledge or expertise is required.

Class Format:

Informal lecture and regular, interactive class discussion.

AMCULT 102 - First Year Seminar in American Studies
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
002 (SEM)
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
003 (SEM)
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM
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