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 A&H 384 - Topics in Social and Cultural History


​This research seminar studies history by focusing on American popular culture (institutions, forms, expressions, and behaviours that are familiar to the general population).

We begin in the 19th century with the appearance of “Indian Fighter” Buffalo Bill and the invention of silent film; and end in the 21st century with the rise of television therapist Dr. Phil and the explosion of social media in cyberspace. Although the focus is on the United States, the class looks beyond the nation’s borders to explore the ways that foreign countries, like the Netherlands, interpret American icons, like ‘the Marlboro Man,’ to serve their own national agendas. 

Three convictions steer the course. First, popular culture provides insight into contemporary society. A Hollywood ‘blockbusters’ tell us something about the global audiences that applaud the film. Second, culture that is popular shapes daily life. What a person sees on the nightly news influences how (s)he experiences his or her own life and perceives others. Third, it also provides a means to question and challenge commonly held ideals and convictions. First person narratives, film footage, artefacts and art, like this anti-Vietnam War poster, reveal the questioning and, in the process, shed light on the human side of historical events.

The class studies these notions throughout the term in the readings, short research projects and presentations, that deepen understanding of history and teach how to study the past. In the second part of the semester, they choose and explore a topic for their final research paper. Some study a familiar subject from a new angle. Others discover and delve into new topics. Most use their analyses in applications to internship and graduate programs in fields ranging from History, Gender and Media; to Law, literature, and Social Psychology.


Dr. Nancy Mykoff​


Social History and American Studies Track


One of the following is required in order to take this course:

  • A 200 or 300 level history course
  • A 200 level Antiquity Course
  • Instructor’s Permission

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