American civilization

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(course codes: AN13000BA, AN2300OMA)

SEMINAR, 1st year
Spring 2016

Time: Wednesday 18:00 – 19:40

Place: Room 109. Main Bldg.
Instructor: Attila Lénárt-Muszka


Course description
This seminar course is designed to improve first-year students’ language skills through acquainting them with some of the core topics of American civilization, including geography and regionalism, government, basic political concepts, politics and the Constitution, society, national holidays, and everyday life. Special emphasis will also be put on certain aspects of American English. Students will be graded on the strength of their class performance, an individual short presentation, and in-class tests (quizzes and an end-term test).

  • Class participation is of utmost importance, therefore, every student is encouraged to join the classroom discussions. Personal opinions are not graded, every idea is valid and worthy of the attention of the class.

  • Each student is required to prepare a 7-to-10-minute PowerPoint presentation on a topic that is to be assigned on week 1. The presenter should send the instructor the ppt for approval via e-mail three days before the presentation is due.

  • Occasional quizzes may be expected but they will be announced in advance.

  • An end-term exam. The class that is scheduled for the end-term test must be attended by all members of the group.

  • A 1000-1200-word essay that is relevant to either one of the topics we discuss in class. The essay must either reflect on one of the assigned readings or be a critical evaluation of certain practices or ideas that we cover during the semester. Please do not summarize articles in your paper, I am interested solely in your own personal ideas and arguments.

    • Plagiarism is not tolerated.

The course material will be distributed electronically. You are expected to prepare for each class by reading the chapter or article assigned for the given session.
Class participation (25%), Presentation (15%), Short quizzes (15%), Essay (10%)

End-term test (35%)

Grades will be assigned according to the following conversion formulae: 0-60% = fail; 61-70% = satisfactory; 71-80% = average; 81-90% = good; 91-100% = excellent.

  • Students are allowed to miss three classes. Absence from more than three classes results in a fail grade.

Schedule of Classes
Week 1 (17/2) Orientation, Asking and Answering Questions Regarding the Semester

Week 2 (24/2) “We are symbols, and inhabit symbols.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Week 3 (2/3) “...but I preferred reading the American landscape as we went along. Every bump, rise, and stretch in it mystified my longing.” Jack Kerouac

Week 4 (9/3) “Think of how it all started: America was founded by slave owners who informed us, ‘All men are created equal.’ All men, except Indians, niggers, and women. Remember, the founders were a small group of unelected, white, male, land-holding slave owners who also, by the way, suggested their class be the only one allowed to vote. To my mind, that is what's known as being stunningly – and embarrassingly – full of shit.” George Carlin

Week 5 (16/3)Campaigns and elections are the process in which democracy separates the willing from the able, and goes with the willing.” John Stewart

Week 6 (23/3) Got Bentsch Amerike, land vos ikh lib.” “God Bless America” in Yiddish


Week 8 (6/4) “White America is in the minority.” Malcolm X

Week 9 (13/4) “Let me tell you, I keep on hearing these same folks talk about values all the time.  You want to talk about values?  Hard work – that’s a value. Looking out for one another – that’s a value.  The idea that we're all in it together, and I'm my brother's keeper and sister's keeper – that’s a value.” Barack Obama

Week 10 (20/4) Easter Monday – no class

Week 11 (27/4) “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.” Ronald Reagan

Week 12 (4/5) “I do hope that some of my dissents will one day be the law.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Week 13 (11/5) “In my parents' generation, rebellion was pop culture. It's not anymore.” Shia LaBeouf

Week 14 (18/5) End-term Test

Week 15 (18/5) Evaluation

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