Class Description and Requirements

HIUS 316: Viewing America 1945 to the Present, Spring 2008


This course will examine how Americans experienced some of the major events that shaped their lives. We will view what millions of Americans did by watching feature films, news reels, and footage from popular television shows and news broadcasts. We will also read primary and secondary texts that explore among other topics, the domestic impact of World War II, America's reaction to the atomic bomb, the rise of the military-industrial-university complex, the emergence of the Cold War, the culture of anxiety that accompanied it, suburbanization, the "New Class" of experts, the Civil Rights movement, changing gender roles in the work place and at home, the origins and implications of community action and affirmative action, the War in Vietnam, the Great Society, the counterculture, Watergate, the environmental movement, challenges to the authority of expertise, the decline of political parties, structural changes in the economy, the mobilization of interest groups from labor to religious organizations, the emergence of the New Right, the challenge to big government, the end of the Cold war, and the role of the electronic media in politics.

Course Organization

There will be three formal class meetings a week.

  1. I will lecture on Mondays and Wednesdays.
  2. Your discussion section will meet once a week, either on Wednesday or Thursday.
    • Discussion Sections will be organized around assigned readings, a feature film, and materials available in each Viewing America Unit.
  3. Films will be shown publicly Tuesday nights at 7:00pm in Clemons 201.
    • All of the films are available on video or laser disk and may be also be viewed by checking them out from Clemons or an external movie rental provider.

Course Requirements


Attendance at lectures and discussion sections is required. You are also required to complete each week's reading and viewing assignments before each discussion section. The reading for the course includes assigned books (which are available at the university book store and on reserve), articles (which are available electronically through the course Toolkit Materials page and on reserve), primary source documents, background material, and graphs and charts included in each Unit.

Discussion sections:
In this section there are no excused absences. If you miss a class you have two options. You can take a zero for participation for that day, or you can email me a 500 word essay (approximately 1 single spaced page) that summarizes the assigned readings and explains how those readings relate to the themes of the course. If you choose to do an essay, it is due by BEFORE lecture on the Monday following the missed discussion. (It’s due, that is, by 10:00 am, five days after the missed discussion).
The best essays on secondary sources will spend around 250 words clearly stating the reading’s thesis and explaining the most important arguments the writer uses to support that thesis. The remaining 250 words will evaluate the reading on its own terms and discuss how it supports and/or contradicts the primary themes of the course. If the reading is a primary source, the best essays will do all of the above, but will also discuss the reading’s important historical context. There is no need to do outside research, but any outside sources you do use must be cited.

Reading, Viewing, and Listening

The reading assigned for the course averages about one hundred and fifty pages a week. In addition to the reading for the course, a feature length film will be assigned each week. Each Unit also contains visual and audio materials that must be reviewed before each discussion section. Required viewing and listening will average approximately three hours a week.

Writing Requirements

In place of a traditional five to seven page paper, and continuing with the course theme of "Viewing America," students are asked to write a series of five Visual ID's based on images supplied on the course website. Students will be presented with ten images relevant to materials presented in course readings, films, web sources, and lectures. Choosing five, they will for each selected image write a page-long caption that dates, describes, and identifies the action and individuals presented in the image within the context of the course.

Students should indicate the relevance of the images' subjects to broad themes discussed in the course, conducting close readings of the images as they would with written passages or concepts presented for identification. Consider the audience for the caption an informed member of the general public encountering the image as part of a book or exhibit discussing America from 1940 to the present.

Each image is to be treated individually of the others, though students may reference or compare Visual ID's if they discern relevant themes that link images. The images may include both materials already presented to the class and visuals unfamiliar to students. Some may be obscure, while it is likely one or more may be iconic images from the era. Students are encouraged to creatively analyze the images and make links among multiple course themes.

Images will be drawn from the period from the beginning of the course (1940) through the Vietnam War era, inclusive. This assignment will be submitted electronically via Collab on March 24.


An in-class mid-term exam is scheduled for Wednesday, February 27. The final exam will be taken in-class, Friday, May 2, 2008, at 9 a.m.

Journal Entries

We live in a highly specialized world. Often, we forget to "connect the dots." Journaling is one way to step back, reflect and connect one or two dots. I will give each student a journal. (Feel free to journal on your lap-top instead if that is more convenient.) More precious than that, I will give you each two minutes from my lecture time, each time I lecture. Use these two minutes at the end of lecture to jot down the most important idea that occurred to you over the course of the hour. It can be related to the class, but does not have to be. If you figure out that hip hop lyric you have been struggling with all day, that's fine. What I do ask is that you write, draw or compose something that you think might be worth looking at a week later, or even ten years later.

I will be happy to look at any entry if you e-mail it to me. If you want a response, I will send you one within 48 hours.

Create Your Own Unit (CYOU)

During your first section meeting, you will be divided into CYOU Project Teams. Each CYOU Project Team will consist of around ten members and be tasked with creating its own unit to add to the Viewing America website. Teams may choose to design their units around the theme of their choice. Before deciding on a particular theme, however, teams should have thought through the following questions:

The project teams that can answer these questions most convincingly will be the most successful. Once a theme has been chosen, teams will have to begin preparing their unit by creating their own website. Each team will elect a team leader and assign responsibility for each component of the unit. Each memeber of the team should sign his or her name to the portion of the assignment that they are personally responsible for.

One page executive summary of CYOU project is due in section on February 20. An oral presentation summarizing each teams' CYOU project is due in sections. Completed website projects and group oral presentations are due in section the April 14..


Writing Assignment 20%
Midterm Exam


CYOU Project and Presentation 20%
Participation 15%
Final Exam 25%


I welcome your feedback. I have changed the course every year in response to student comments. I hope that you will visit me during office hours, catch me before of after class, or before or after the films. You can e-mail me at or relay your comments through your TAs. If you want to make an anonymous comment, you made do so using the Anonymous Feedback function of the Toolkit website.