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The American Counterculture: From Oz to Occupy Wall Street

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Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRN
July 13, 2015 - July 31, 20153M-F 8:30A-11:20AOpenAdam Sacks10423

Course Description

The overarching theme is the study of the sociological category of a subculture and the emergence of counternormative cultural expressions in music, literature, style and politics. The main objective of the course is to critically communicate and analyze the historical, philosophical and sociological foundations of the American counterculture from the nineteen fifties to the contemporary moment. This is material of which many pre-college students may already be aware and has recently returned to the public spotlight and thus provides a helpful introduction into university level academic methods and concepts.

The focus on the course is the emergence of the American counterculture beginning with the "beats," in the 1950's, to the "hippies" of the 1960s, continuing through the non-governmental political activist fringe culminating in the "occupy" movement of the current decade. Each thematic section will pair literary and musical examples, along with the changing political context, as well as the philosophical foundation. Specific themes will include race relations, civil rights, women's emancipation, gay rights, and alternative lifestyle and religious practices. Specific emphasis will be placed on the exponents of the Frankfurt School who as exiles in the US became leading intellectual touchstones of the counterculture including Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm and George Mosse. The interdisciplinary nature of such course material allows for the introduction and application of methods of sociology, history and political science, as well as literary and musical analysis. As an engaging way to first gain exposure and assimilate foundation academic categories and methods, this could be an ideal vehicle to provide the foundation for further study in a variety of fields of the humanities.

Students will have a basic grasp of basic methods and concepts of a variety of key fields within the humanities, as well as an acquaintance with some of the key philosophical, musical and literary texts of American culture of the second half of the twentieth century. In addition to receiving familiarity with basic methods and concepts of the humanities, students will be able to critical formulate their ideas through oral and written forms and be able to refine their skill in the formulation of analytic questions.

The most crucial prerequisite is a high level of interest in the material and motivation to improve critical reading and writing skills. While they are no specific expectations of previous training students oriented towards the humanities would be best served by this course.