American Studies Module Catalogue
Semester 1 - 2015/2016
America and Americanisation
No. of Periods:
This module deals with Americanisation - the process by which American products (eg foods such as Coke, burgers, pizza etc) and patterns of living (in popular entertainment, or auto-culture) have been exported to and received by the rest of the world. Study will consider this with regard to the history of this process and to theories such as globalisation. Case studies will be made of particular examples in the UK, for instance McDonalds and shopping malls, in which students will be invited to assess the impact of the United States on their own lives.
This module introduces debates over the principles and processes of adaptation by reference to specific critical discussions of literary work and film adaptations from a comparatively wide chronological period (Ulysses; An American Tragedy / A Place in the Sun; Gone with the Wind). Its main focus is on fairly recent films and their literary source (or vice versa), such as The Stepford Wives, Romeo & Juliet, Clueless, Ten Things I Hate About You, Brokeback Mountain, Fight Club, Pride and Prejudice, Election, Naked Lunch and Daughters of the Dust. Films such as these are examined to show how a range of cultural tendencies (such as multiculturalism, changes in gendered identity, the effects of space and place on individuals) cross between these forms, being reshaped, to a greater or lesser extent, in the process.
This module concerns the pervasive presence of conspiracy theories and their associated fears and paranoias in the contemporary United States. UFO conspiracies, New World Order conspiracies, 9/11 conspiracies, moon landing conspiracies, assassination conspiracies, all have become more popular and more publicly accepted in the last 20 years. Why has the US proved such a fertile ground for their generation? Is America peculiarly susceptible because of its history, or does the popularity of conspiracy theories have more to do with how information is conveyed in a low attention span/high technology society in which trust in official narratives and explanations has collapsed? To investigate this, the module will examine both classic (the JFK assassination for instance) and current conspiracy theories (The Da Vinci Code). However, the concern is not to prove these theories true or false – instead interest lies with the rise of a “conspiracy culture” in which doubt and a belief (or a suspicion) that things are never what they appear to be and that there is always something “behind the scenes”, has become increasingly powerful. The major focus of the module will be on America, but we will draw conclusions with wider import about the contemporary world.