Module Identifier AS30020  
Academic Year 2004/2005  
Co-ordinator Professor Timothy S Woods  
Semester Semester 1  
Other staff Mr Clive Meachen  
Pre-Requisite AS10120 , AS10220  
Co-Requisite AS30120 , AS30220  
Course delivery Seminars / Tutorials   20 Hours 10 x 2 hours  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Assessment 2 x 2500 word essays 50% each100%

Learning outcomes

At the end of the module, students will be able to:

1. demonstrate a knowledge of historical developments in United States society between 1945 and 1960;

2. demonstrate an ability to use critically and engage with the perspectives of history, politics and literary and film studies to study key aspects of postwar American culture;

3. review, summarize and critique contemporary debates about the definition of American culture in the 1950s;

4. demonstrate developing skills in critical analysis using appropriate interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary resources;

5. demonstrate developing skills in oral presentation.


This module aims:

1. To familiarise students with crucial events and important changes in U.S. society between 1945 and 1960;

2. To offer students an interdisciplinary approach to American Studies. The perspectives of history, literary and film studies, and politics will be brought to bear on a series of common topics in a way that will enhance understanding of the subject matter under investigation, as well as demonstrating the conceptual benefits (and problems) of interdisciplinary study;

3. To build on Part 1 American Studies and to supplement the existing range of modules in American Studies at Part 2, thereby enhancing students' overall understanding of American culture.

Brief description

This module is not intended as a survey but as an opportunity to examine in depth certain selected themes in American life and culture between 1945 and 1960: America's relationship with the rest of the world in the aftermath of World War II and the impact of that relationship on American politics, society and culture, especially as evidenced in the McCarthyite 'witch hunts'; and contests over the definition of American culture during the 1950s.


Seminar Content

1. 'The American Century': The United States in 1945
Course introduction and overview.

2. McCarthyism in an International Context

Required Reading:
Ellen Schrecker, The Age of McCarthyism (selections)
John Diggins, The Proud Decades, chs. 1 and 2

3. McCarthyism in American Life

Required reading:
Ellen Schrecker, ed., The Age of McCarthyism (selections)
John Diggins, The Proud Decades, chs. 3 and 5

4. HUAC Goes to Hollywood

Required reading/viewing:
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Dir. Don Siegel, 1955)

5. Suburban America

Required Reading:
John Diggins, The Proud Decades (177-98)
Karal Ann Marling, As Seen On TV, chs. 3 and 4
John Cheever, 'The Wrysons' (photocopy supplied by instructor)

6. Women in Postwar America

Required Reading:
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Karal Ann Marling, As Seen on TV, chs. 1 and 5

7. Youth Culture

Required Reading/ Viewing:
Rebel Without a Cause (Dir. Nicholas Ray, 1955)
Karal Ann Marling, As Seen on TV, ch. 5

8. The Cultures of Art, Architecture and Music

Required Reading
John Diggins, The Proud Decades, ch. 7
The American Avant-Garde: Art in Theory, 1900-1990, ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (photocopy supplied by instructor)

9. The Beats

Required Reading:
Ann Charters, The Portable Beat Reader (selections)

10. The Eisenhower Years

Required Reading
John Diggins, The Proud Decades, chs. 4, 10, Conclusion
Karal Ann Marling, As Seen on TV, chs. 2 and 7

Required Viewing

Reading Lists

** Should Be Purchased
Karal Ann Marling (1996) As Seen on TV: The Visual Culture of Everyday Life in the 1950s Harvard U. P. 0674048830
Sylvia Plath (1966) The Bell Jar Faber and Faber 0571081789
Ellen Schrecker (2002) The Age of McCarthyism Palgrave Macmillan 0312393199
Ann Charters (ed.) (2003) The Portable Beat Reader Penguin Classics 0142437530
John Diggins (1988) The Proud Decades: America in War and Peace 1941-60 W. W. Norton 0393956563


This module is at CQFW Level 6