SHE Level 4
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code MHV324406
Module Leader Oonagh Walsh
School Glasgow School for Business and Society
Subject History
  • B (January start)

Summary of Content

The last century has been described as 'The American Century'. Across a range of spheres, the United States has had a formative influence upon Western popular culture, shaping cinema, popular music, television, literature, fashion and food, and has given rise to new consumer markets at home and across the world, especially in relation to the young. This module will examine American popular culture and its influence both at home and abroad, and will focus in particular upon elements that offer insights into America's social, political and racial formation. Starting with the iconic figure of the nineteenth-century cowboy, the module will progress thematically and chronologically to the present, and examine the persistence of the cult of rugged individualism that has facilitated the rise of demagogues such as Donald Trump.


Indicative content: The key themes and developments that will be covered during the module: -360 1. Introduction to Pop Culture -360 2. The Cowboy in American culture: from John Wayne to George Bush 3. The Rise of the Automobile: mechanics and morals 4. Race and Sport: Joe Louis, Max Schmeling and the 1938 World Heavyweight Championship 5. The Wizard of Oz: American Isolationism and the Second World War 6. Soap Suds: the Rise and Impact of American Soaps and Sitcoms 7. Creating the Teenager: Brando, Dean and Presley 8. Music, Women and Race: Billie Holiday to Motown 9. Disillusionment: the Vietnam War in American Cinema 10. Evangelism: Billy Graham, Jim Bakker and TV Preachers 11. Rugged Individualism: America's most enduring cultural model 12. Revision and Review

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, the student should be able to:1 Demonstrate an informed understanding of the key issues and events of the twentieth century in the USA that shaped her popular culture. 2 Understand the social, economic and political implications of factors such as technological change, the growth of cities, immigration, race and gender upon the formation of popular culture3 Critically analyse and discuss historical debates about key issues from the period using a variety of source materials including film, literature and newsreel4 Construct extended oral and written arguments supported by relevant historical evidence from a variety of sources5 Analyse and assess the quality and reliability of historical source materials.

Teaching / Learning Strategy

The module is structured on a one weekly 1 hour lecture and a weekly 2 hour seminar basis. The seminar will follow up the previous week's lecture, with primary source based discussions on that theme. Use will be made of blended learning technologies, as well as face-to-face teaching, seminar presentations, and student-led discussion. Transferable skills are developed through group presentations, developing teamwork and oral presentation skills.

Indicative Reading

Heide, Robert, and John Gilman, Box-office Buckaroos: The Cowboy Hero From the Wild West Show to the Silver Screen. New York: Abbeville P, 1990. Davis, Robert M. Playing Cowboys: Low Culture and High Art in the Western. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1992. Aquila, Richard, ed. Wanted Dead or Alive: The American West in Popular Culture. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1996. Avery, Robert K., and David Eason, Critical Perspectives on Media and Society. New York: Guilford P, 1991. Barnett, Steven, Games and Sets: The Changing Fact of Sport on Television. London: BFI Publications, 1990. Barnouw, Erik, Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1982. Baughman, James L. The Republic of Mass Culture: Journalism, Filmmaking and Broadcasting in America since 1941. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1992. Bennett, Andrew, Popular Music and Youth Culture: Music, Identity and Place. London: MacMillan, 2000. Brooker, Peter, and Will Brooker, ed. Postmodern After-Images: A Reader in Film, TV and Video. London: Arnold, 1992. Browne, Ray B., and Pat Browne, eds. The Guide to United States Popular Culture. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State U Popular P, 2001. Cantor, Muriel G. The Soap Opera. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1983. Clover, Carol J. Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1992. Cross, Gary, Time and Money: The Making of Consumer Culture. London: Routledge, 1993 . Davis, Robert M. Playing Cowboys: Low Culture and High Art in the Western. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1992. Doane, Mary Ann . The Desire to Desire: The Woman's Film of the 1940s. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987. Dorfman, Ariel. Empire's Old Clothes: What the Lone Ranger, Babar, and Other Innocent Heroes Do to Our Minds. New York: Pantheon, 1983 . Easthope, Antony. What a Man's Gotta Do: The Masculine Myth in Popular Culture. New York: Routledge, 1990. Frazer, June M. and Timothy C. Frazer . "Father Knows Best and The Cosby Show: Nostalgia and the Sitcom Tradition."in Journal of Popular Culture 27.3 (1993): 163-172. Hoberman, J. Darwin's Athletes: How Sport Has Damaged Black America and Preserved the Myth of Race . New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997. Sammons, J.T. Beyond the Ring: The Role of Boxing in American Society . Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990. Wiggins, D.K. Glory Bound: Black Athletes in a White America . Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1997 Neal, Mark Anthony, 'Legislating Freedom, Commodifying Struggle: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Struggle for Black Musical Hegemony' in What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture . Routledge, 1999, pp 25-54, Floyd JR, Samuel A. 'Black Music and Writing Black Music History: American Music and Narrative Strategies', Black Music Research Journal Vol.28, No.1. (2008) University of Illinois, pp 112-121 Mittell, Jason, Television and American Culture . New York: Oxford University Press (2009). . pp. 191-192.

Transferrable Skills

-360b7 Making oral and written presentations -360b7 Cooperative group work b7 IT skills through the use of Blackboard, blogging and electronic information retrieval b7 Writing skills through both short and extended writing b7 Debating skills

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Independent Learning (FT) 144.00
Seminars (FT) 24.00
Assessment (FT) 20.00
Lectures (FT) 12.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Course Work 01 n/a 50.00 n/a 2500 essay
Course Work 02 n/a 50.00 n/a 2 questions - 1000 each question