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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Susan A Glenn
HSTAA 365
Seattle Campus

Culture, Politics, and Film in Twentieth Century America

Explores relationship between film and twentieth century U.S. cultural, social, and political history. Examines the ways that films responded to, participated in, and helped shape understandings of modernity, national identity, political power, race and ethnic relations, gender, and crises such as economic depression and war.

Class description

VLPA Culture, Politics,and Film in Twentieth Century America.

How did Americans experience the transition to modernity in the first decades of the twentieth century? How did they make sense of the slide from l920s prosperity to the economic, social, and political crisis of the Great Depression? What were the ideological and political ramifications of World War II and the Cold War? And how did films both interpret and participate in these historical upheavals? This course examines the relationship between film and American cultural, social, and political history from the l920s to the 1950s, a period when film was considered a central aspect of the nation’s cultural apparatus and a key transmitter of social values and political ideology. We will ask what films of this era reveal about the fantasies, preoccupations, and conditions of the time in which they were produced and explore their contributions to social and historical consciousness. The films we will watch in this course have in common their engagement with questions of national identity and national belonging. We will ask about how these films challenged or reinforced traditional values and understandings of “Americanness,” including ideas about success and upward mobility, class, race, and ethnic relations, power, politics, and political leadership, as well as their commentaries on the role of the individual in mass society and the significance of sexuality and gender in upholding or undermining the social order. Students are expected to attend all lectures,in-class film screenings, and discussion sections. NO ADD CODES WILL BE GIVEN OUT AFTER THE FIRST CLASS MEETING. This is a "W" course.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Lecture/discussion/viewing of films and film clips. Note that students may NOT add this class after the first class meeting. Required readings are included in a course packet.

Recommended preparation

Some background in 20th century US history is recommended, but not required.

Class assignments and grading

Students will write three essays (5-6 double spaced pages) based on readings and films for the course. Regular attendance at lectures, in-class film screenings, and discussion sections is required.

Grading is based on three essays as well as attendance and participation section meetings. Regular attendance at lectures, in-class film screenings, and discussion sections is required.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Susan A Glenn
Date: 02/14/2014