The Pursuit of Pleasure: A History of Fun in America
Kathleen B. Casey, Visiting Assistant Professor of History
Honors College, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Sem 10 meets Mon and Wed, 4:00-5:15pm, in Honors House, Rm 195
Office Hours: Mon and Wed, 1-3pm; Tues and Thurs, 10:00am-12:00pm
Office location: Honors House, Rm 185
“Leisure is not simply a vessel whose contents reveal a unified culture, nor is its relationship to other spheres of life such as work and family one-dimensional. Leisure activities may affirm the cultural patterns embedded in other institutions, but they may also offer an arena for the articulation of different values and behaviors.” - Kathy Peiss
Amusement parks, saloons, dance halls, street corners, sports arenas, and movie theatres. Throughout American history, countless people spent their hard-earned wages and scarce free time in these places of pleasure. Beginning with a brief discussion of the mid-nineteenth century, this course will explore the experience of urban Americans pursing pleasure in the early twentieth-century city. We will consider the appeal various entertainments held for pleasure-seekers, asking ourselves a range of questions: How did the physical spaces, locations, prices, advertising, and reputations of these venues welcome some and exclude others? What types of amusements have been considered “good, clean fun” or utterly immoral, and how do these attitudes reflect the critics who held them and the periods in which they were expressed? Looking at the ways in which different generations have defined “fun” can teach us about how Americans understood themselves, their nation, and their political, social and economic circumstances. Through critical reading, writing and discussion, we will develop our analytical skills while substantively increasing our historical knowledge and sharpening the tools we use to find meaning from the past.
This course is structured around regular reading and short writing assignments, discussions, and three formal writing assignments. Instead of asking you to memorize important dates, terms and laws, this class asks you to try out new ways of thinking about the past. Ideally, this course will inspire you to ask new fundamental questions about what counts as “history” and how the past continues to shape the present. Most importantly, it will help you learn how to question what scholars in any discipline have to say, and convincingly articulate your own ideas in class and in writing.
Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century, John Kasson
Weird and Wonderful: The Dime Museumin America, Andrea Dennett
Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York, Kathy Peiss
Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns,Inning 1, PBS, 1994
Course Requirements and Grading Rubric:
Students will complete all the readings and come to class prepared with discussion comments and questions to share. Students will periodically complete homework assignments, including preparing discussion questions, written paragraphs about the readings, and peer reviews, worth a total of 10% of the final grade. Each student will also write three formal essays, each worth 20%, 25%, and 25% of the final grade.
Discussion Comments and Questions:
Regularly writing thoughtful comments and questions in response to the readings will be essential to your success in this class. Discussion comments not only show that you completed the reading, but that you understood it and have begun to think about it critically. They also help shape a productive class discussion. From time to time, I will collect these and assign you a homework grade out of ten points for each one. However, the quality of your questions and your willingness to share them on a regular basis will also inform your final participation grade.
Here are six helpful tips on crafting effective discussion comments/questions that you should use throughout the semester:
1. Write in clear, complete, error-free sentences. You should still annotate key points in the margins of the reading, but you should also type your questions or neatly handwrite them on a separate sheet of paper that you are comfortable handing in (or post them on D2L, where indicated on syllabus).
2. Note anything about the reading that you found confusing or unclear and state why. (In other words, move beyond observation). You might note a concept that the author did not adequately define or arguments you didn’t follow. Consider what questions would you ask the author if he or she were in the room.
3. Note what surprised you about a reading and, more importantly, why. For instance, how did the reading clash with any preconceived notions you had about this subject?
4. Think about what criticisms you have of the text. What did you agree/disagree with and why? What claims are you skeptical of? What evidence was lacking and why?
5. Consider how this reading matches up with others we have done in this class or with your previous knowledge of this subject. Note any contradictions, inconsistencies, patterns, or ways in which ideas in different readings about leisure in America relate to one another.
6. While it is often tempting to try to update the subjects we read about in the present time and sometimes these connections are clear and very useful to make, do make a concerted effort not to get too far off topic by focusing first on the ideas as they relate to the time period under discussion.
Participation is worth 20% of your grade. For a total of 20 points, I will calculate your participation grade based on the following criteria:
1. Preparation 5 points
Have you arrived on time with the reading and/or writing completed?
Have you annotated the reading and brought it with you to class?
Have you prepared thoughtful comments and questions about the reading to share?
2. Quality of contributions to class discussions, 5 points
Are your comments relevant and do they reflect understanding of the assigned text(s), previous remarks of other students, and insights about assigned material?
Do your comments frequently help move the seminar conversation forward?
Do you take a leading role in group work?
3. Frequency of participation, 5 points
Do you actively participate at appropriate times?
Do you speak at least a few times during every session but take care not to dominate class discussion or speak over others?
4. Attendance, 5 points
Each student may miss up to two classes (regardless of the reason) without penalty. After that, you will lose one point off of your final grade for every additional class that you miss. For example, missing three classes will cause your A- to be downgraded to a B+.
Writing is an important part of this class and improving your writing skills will be essential to your success in this class. I encourage each of you to take advantage of the Honors College Writing Specialist, Lydia Equitz. She is available to work with students at all stages of their writing by appointment in Honors House, Rm 189.
While I will not collect or line-edit rough drafts of your formal paper assignments, I encourage you to visit me in person during my office hours and by appointment to discuss your ideas, outlines, drafts, and general progress on the paper assignments. The sooner you contact me the better. After you receive the grades for formal assignments 1 and 2, you may also choose to revise these papers for a better grade. If you choose to revise a paper by the given deadline (one week after you receive your first grade), you will receive the average of the grades you received for the first and second drafts. For each day that your formal assignments are late, you will lose one letter grade.
Our class is based on thinking, speaking and writing critically about complex issues. Lively discussion is highly encouraged here, but we must always maintain respect for other viewpoints and engage in meaningful dialogue with those viewpoints. To achieve our goals of fostering engaging, intellectually-productive discussion and writing, we have to work together as a class to foster a mature, respectful, and supportive environment. Debate is highly encouraged, but personal attacks do not further our intellectual pursuits and will result in a penalty to your participation grade. I expect all students to demonstrate mature behavior and college-level classroom etiquette. To this end, all cell phones must be turned off and put away during class (no texting!), and computers may only be used at my discretion for class-related activities.
Plagiarism can be a serious problem in classes that require a lot of writing, like this one. Plagiarism is a violation of the academic honor code and it carries severe sanctions, including failing the assignment, course, or even suspension or dismissal from the university. The UWM Library has a useful webpage about plagiarism that you should familiarize yourself with: http://guides.library.uwm.edu/content.php?pid=12765&sid=85301
There are a set of principles, policies, and procedures at UWM that you should know about concerning harassment, religious holidays, disability accommodation, academic misconduct, incompletes, grade appeals, and other important matters.
Each class moves at a slightly different pace and I am happy to spend more or less time on specific topics if they inspire productive discussions. I am also open to students proposing new and interesting topics of discussion, particularly those related to current developments in the topics we are discussing in class. Therefore, I reserve the right to make any additional changes throughout the semester to the syllabus regarding reading assignments and due dates for written assignments as I see fit. I may announce changes to the syllabus in class and/or via email so be sure to make note of such changes and check your email regularly. If you have any questions about any of the objectives, policies or assignments outlined in this syllabus, please do not hesitate to talk to me about them.
Schedule of Readings and Assignments: Mon. Jan. 23
Post critique (noting at least one strength and/or one weakness) of sample review on D2L
discussion page by 11:59 pm Sunday
Wed. Feb. 15
Finish Weird and Wonderful, 124-143
Write two paragraphs about Dennett’s book – one paragraph of summary, one paragraph of critique, questions, comments. (You may draw from your own previous discussion questions as well as our class discussions)
Mon. Feb 20
CMS-Documenting Sources, Course Reader
Writing Workshop – Bring paragraph 1 of Paper 1 to class, plus lap top
* For extra credit, volunteers may email one paragraph (intro or body) from Paper 1 draft by midnight Sunday. Paragraph may be shared anonymously with the class.
Wed. Feb. 22
“The Rise of the Saloon” by Roy Rosenzweig, 35-63, Course Reader
Bring 3 discussion comments on reading to class
Mon. Feb. 27
Class Debate and Local Option Vote – Wets vs. Drys
*PAPER ONE DUE Wed. Feb. 29
“Sport and the Urban Social Structure” from City Games by Steven Reiss, 53-92, Course Reader
Post one discussion question/comment to D2L by 11:59 pm Sunday
Mon. Mar. 5
“Casey at the Bat,” Written by Ernest Thayer, 1888, D2L