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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Linda L Nash
HSTAA 371
Seattle Campus

Consumption and Consumerism in the Modern U.S.

Surveys the rise of consumer society in the late-nineteenth-and twentieth-century United States including theories of consumption, the experience of consumer culture by different social groups, the role of the state in fostering consumption, the material impacts of consumer society in the U.S. and beyond, and critiques of consumerism.

Class description

What is “consumer society,” and how did it develop in the United States? How have scholars explained the rise of consumerism and which explanations are most convincing? How has the experience of consumer society varied along lines of race, class, and gender? What has been the role of the American state in fostering and restraining consumption in different historical moments? How has the rise of American consumer society shaped landscapes both within and beyond the United States? What are the implications of a globalized consumer culture for environments, working people, and democracy both within and outside of the U.S.?

These are some of the questions we will engage as this course surveys the rise of consumer society in the late nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States through readings, films, and lectures. More general learning goals for the course include: (1) mastering critical reading skills for primary and secondary historical literature; (2) understanding differences among disciplinary approaches to the topic of consumption/consumerism; (3) improving/refining analytical writing skills; and (4) learning the techniques of historical research and argument.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Lectures, films, readings, and class discussion.

Recommended preparation

Ability to read critically and solid writing skills are essential. College course that has covered post-1865 US history desirable but not required.

Class assignments and grading

Several short reading response papers (c. 1-2 pages); two medium-length essays; participation in class discussions; final exam.

Details of grading will appear on course syllabus.


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 Linda L Nash
Date: 01/28/2012