This course investigates the history of popular entertainments in the United States from the colonial era to the present. Moving briskly among some of the myriad sites, sounds and spectacles that have captivated diverse American audiences, this course tracks how entertainment genres, venues, personalities and phenomena have shaped U.S. culture in enduring and significant ways. This course examines how U.S. entertainment–as simultaneously industrial operation and cultural production–has mapped routes of social encounter, mobility and resistance, while also serving as a platform for individual expression and imaginative escape.
Sample reading list:
Annie Baker, The Flick
Branden Jacob-Jenkins, An Octoroon
James Shapiro (ed.), Shakespeare in America . . . from the Revolution to Now
Robert Simonson, Performance of the Century
Sarah Vowell, Assassination Vacation
Roughly 150 pages of reading per week, with occasional screenings, field trips and performances as required. Several short papers and a final project.