HISU 384 Popular Culture and the Rise of Consumerism

This course will examine the development and meaning of popular and consumer culture in American history beginning in the 1830s and extending through the 1990s. Consumer culture in this course is defined as the commercialization of leisure and the mass arts, the growth of advertising and the creation of a service economy. We will investigate the ways in which historians have employed various theories about the social and cultural meanings of consumption in order to understand different historical problems. Topics of discussion will include how gender and race are expressed and re-figured through the selling of entertainment as a commodity; how ideas about democracy have been fundamentally altered within the context of a consumer culture; and the symbolic uses of commodities over diverse periods.