|Module Title||CONTEMPORARY AMERICA|
|Co-ordinator||Dr Martin Padget|
|Other staff||Dr Robert Harrison, Professor Timothy S Woods|
|Pre-Requisite||AS10120 , AS10220|
|Co-Requisite||AS30020 , AS30120|
|Course delivery||Seminars / Tutorials||20 Hours 10 x 2 hr|
1. To build upon the knowledge gained by students in Part 1 American Studies by familiarising single Honours American Studies students with crucial events and important changes in U.S. society since the 1960s.
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 supplement the existing range of modules in American Studies and thereby enhance students' overall understanding of American culture.
Section A: The Impact of Vietnam
We start by tracing the roots of America's involvement in Vietnam and then examine the tactical problems of counter-insurgency, noting the discrepancy between the weaponry involved and the apparent results. Particular attention will be paid to the experience of American soldiers on the ground in Vietnam and how that experience has been represented in documentary and fictional writing and on film. The difficulties that Americans have faced in coming to terms with the conflict will be illustrated with reference to the experiences of the veterans. In this section we are as much concerned with what the experience of Vietnam meant to Americans, and with the ways in which they handled that experience, as with the experience itself.
1. Representing the Vietnam War
2. The US and Vietnam, 1945-75
3. The Nature of the Conflict in Vietnam
Section B: Reagan's America
After an examination of the historical context, including the Carter interregnum, stagflation, the energy crisis, the Iranian hostage crisis and the perceived international decline of the U.S., we examine the Reagan constituency and the Reagan agenda, especially the attempt to roll back the influence of government and restore America's military strength and national pride. We shall explore the components of the "New Right", including a devotion to the free market and religious fundamentalism, noting the sometimes uneasy relationship between them. Two key issues of the Reagan years will attract particular attention: the politics of abortion, which touched on issues of gender roles, as well as individual rights; and the "underclass" debate, which called into question the rationale behind the welfare policies of the last fifty years. This discussion will be set against cultural representations of the Reagan years, describing both the "yuppie" ethos and the underside of 1980s America.
4. Reagan and the 'New Right'
5. The Culture Wars: Religion and Society in Contemporary America
6. The 'Underclass' Debate
Section C: American Cultures at the Close of the Century
This section begins with an examination of the euphoric reaction to the end of the Cold War, which seemed testimony to the strength and validity of America's ideology and institutions, and "victory" in the Gulf War, which seemed to confirm her status as the sole remaining superpower. It then proceeds to an examination of the anxieties that undercut this mood of triumphalism, including the uncertainties created by cultural fragmentation, the conflict between libertarianism and fundamentalism, the growing crisis of governance, relative economic decline, the deterioration of the inner cities, and the mounting divisions between rich and poor that led to discussion of a "Third World America", most vividly exemplified in the Los Angeles riot.
7. 'Greed is Good'
8. A Multicultural Society
9. Polarised Communities
10. Dystopian Visions
This module is at CQFW Level 6