Sex, Race, and Popular Culture
What did people used to do for fun 100 years ago? Fifty years ago? How did they escape from their everyday lives – and why does it matter?
In this course we will examine the many forms of popular culture that arose and changed over time, from the mid-19th century to the present. From dime store novels, to sports, music, theater, and fashion, we will use popular culture to investigate marginalized people who often left few records of their own. Thus we will look at questions of gender, race, and class: popular culture has been both exploitive and empowering, constructing these power hierarchies of gender, race, and class while simultaneously giving ordinary people a way to challenge power structures. Therefore, we will also look at the political uses of popular culture.
We will read together scholarly work on popular culture by a range of social and cultural historians; and we will also make extensive use of primary material, including photographs, music, and film. In addition, we will consider the ways in which popular culture today reflects or challenges the historical themes we uncover in this course.