TR 8:30-9:45 am
One of the defining features of American culture is rampant consumerism. How did America come to be this way, and how should we think about it? This course will consist of an overview of the development of consumer culture and diverse interpretations of its character and significance. We will begin with the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century, but the bulk of the course will consider the nineteenth and twentieth-century origins of modern mass consumption. Students will study the institutions and ideas that gave rise to consumerism and the changing patterns of consumption: where people shop, what they buy, and how they pay for it. We will also consider how consumerism takes distinct shape for certain groups of Americans, such as women, children, and immigrants. Finally, the class will evaluate consumer culture’s challenges to other social and religious values.
Primary assignments will include a midterm, a 3-4 page book review, a 3-4 page object analysis, and a 10-15 page semester paper. Major texts will include Regina Lee Blaszczyk, American Consumer Society 1865-2005, Pietra Rivoli, The Travels of a T-Shirt in a Global Economy, Jim Farrell, One Nation under Goods: Malls and the Seductions of American Shopping, and Vincent Miller, Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture.