Sunday, January 6, 2013

Syllabus "Automobile and American Life" Spring 2013


 HST 344  -- Science, Technology and the Modern Corporation: The Automobile and American Life

            Class Meeting: MWF 1-1:50 p.m., HM 125

            Instructor: John A. Heitmann

            Office: 435HM (x92803).

            Office Hours: 2:00-2:50 MW or by appointment
            Blog page:

            Texts:  John Heitmann, The Automobile and American Life.
                        Jack Keroauc, On the Road.
                        Ben Hamper, Rivethead.
Jason Vuic, The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History

                        Grades: The final grade for this course will be based on two hour exams, (60%), occasional quizzes, and final exam (30%). The grade scale is as follows: A  94 to 100; A-  90 to 93; B+  87-89; B 84-86; B-  80 - 83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73.  A similar pattern applies to lower grades.  Letter grades are assigned a mid-point numerical grade. Additionally, attendance can influence your final grade: if you miss more than 3 classes, one letter grade will be deducted from your grade; if you miss more than 6 classes, a two letter grade reduction will take place.  A good grade for this course is a C+.  Grade averages may be influenced by such factors as trends over the time of the course; for example, how you finish is far more important than how you start. Policies for exams strictly follows History Department Guidelines, and make-ups will only be offered with a valid, documented excuse.

            Attendance at lectures is crucial if you are to expect a good grade in the course, and I want you to be at every class if that is at all possible. On many occasions material presented is not covered in the readings, and so many of the ideas discussed central to the development of modern science are complex and often confusing. Your attitude and what you bring in to the classroom can make the difference between a mediocre offering and a most positive educational experience. 
            Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated and offenses will be punished accordingly. A first offense will result in a failing grade for the exam or paper in question; a second offense will result in a failing grade for the course.
Course Purpose:  It has been said that the automobile is the perfect technological symbol of American culture, a tangible expression of our quest to level space, time and class, and a reflection of our restless mobility, social and otherwise. In this course we will explore together the place of the automobile in American life, and how it transformed business, life on the farm and in the city, the nature and organization of work, leisure time, and the arts. This is a most complex transition that we will study, as the automobile transformed everyday life and the environment in which we operate.  It influenced the foods we eat; music we listen to; risks we take; places we visit; errands we run; emotions we feel; movies we watch; stress we endure; and, the air we breathe.


            The week of:

Week 1/January 14                  Introduction; What our cars tell us about ourselves. The car in everyday life: the automobile age and its contradictions.  Automotive Pioneers
                                                            Reading: Heitmann, Introduction, Chapter 1.
Films: “Wild Wheels”; “Horatio’s Drive.”

January 21 -- MLK Day -- No Class
Week 2/January 23                  Putting America on the Road; Henry Ford and the Model T
                                                            Reading: Heitmann, Chapter 2.
                                                            Film: “Automobile Parade;” “Gussle’s Day of Rest.”

            Week 3/January 28                  Stealing Cars; The Rise of General Motors
                                                            Reading: Heitmann, pp. 54-63.
                                                            Film: “Master Hands;” "Roger and Me."

Week 4/February 4                  Advertising, Styling, Design and the Art of the Automobile
                                                            Reading: Heitmann, pp. 64-71.
                                                            Film: “Automobile Advertising 1910-1940.”  

            Week 5/February 11                On the Road
            Reading: Heitmann, Chapter 4.
Films: “Grapes of Wrath;” “Route 66;"            “Detour;” Keroauc: On           the Road"

February 15:  Exam 1 -- on this exam you will be tested on the Keroauc book.

Week 6/ February 18               Religion, Courtship and Sex
                                                            Readings: Heitmann, Chapter 5.
Films: “Thelma and Louise”; “Motorcycle Diaries”

Week 7/ February 25               The Interwar Years: The Great Depression, Aerodynamics, and Cars of the Olympian Age            
                                                            Readings:  Heitmann, Chapter 6.
                                                            Films: “The Crowd Roars;”  “Burn Em’Up Barnes.”

            Mid-Term Break: Holiday March 1

Week 8/March 4                      World War II:  Detroit, the Arsenal of Democracy
                                                Readings:  Heitmann, Chapter 7
Film: “Jitterbugs.”       

Week 9/ March 11                   The Post War Industry and Technological Suppression
Readings: Heitmann, pp. 133-154.
                                                            Film: “Tucker”
            Week 10/ March 18                 Chrome Dreams of the 1950s
                                                            Jan & Dean and  the Beach Boys          
                                                            Readings: Heitmann, pp.154-163.
                                                            Film:  “American Graffiti”
Week 11/ March 25                 The Rise of the American Muscle Car
                                                            Readings: Heitmann, pp.164-178.
                                                            Films: “Goldfinger;” “Thunderball” “Bullitt.”

            Test 2 March 27 -- Exam #2 -- you will be tested on the Vuic  book at this time
            Easter Recess, March 28-April 1
            Week 12/ April 3         Oil Shock I: Japan, James Bond, and Mobile Lovemaking
                                                            Readings: Heitmann, pp. 178-184.
                                                            Film: “Easy Rider;” Toby Halicki's "Gone in Sixty Seconds"

            Week 13/ April 8         The Automobile World Upside Down, 1980s to the Present.

                                                Readings: Heitmann, pp.185-194.
                                                Film:  “Fast and Furious; Tokyo Drift;”  "The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant"

Week 14/ April 15/19   The Automobile Industry and the Future; Sum Up
Reading:  Heitmann, pp.194-206.
Film:  “The Revenge of the Electric Car”

April 17  Stander Symposium
Week 15/April 22        Last Day of Classes
                                    Heitmann, Epilogue.
FINAL EXAM, Tuesday, April 30, 2:30 --4:200 p.m. On this exam you will be tested on the Ben Hamper Book.

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