Jun 11 2008

Syllabus

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AMST 303: American Consumerism

 

Instructor: Professor Krystyn Moon

Class Meetings: MWF 11:00-11:50PM

Classroom: Monroe 211

Office Hours: MW 9:00-10:00,

MWF 12:00-1:00PM or by appointment

Office: Monroe 220

E-mail: kmoon@umw.edu

Office Phone: (540) 654-1479

 

 

Course Goals:

This seminar looks at American consumer habits as it relates American identity in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and helps students develop many of the skills that are central to interdisciplinary learning.  This course is part of the core curriculum in American Studies.  As such, it will expose students to the following skills:

 

  • Explore a theme across disciplines related to the U.S.
  • Think critically about the limits of disciplinary knowledge.
  • Deepen student understanding of technology and multimedia.
  • Further develop students’ speaking, writing, and analytical skills.

 

AMST 303 also fulfills the university’s speaking intensive (SI) general education requirement.  As part of the SI requirement, this course will expose students to the following skills:

 

  • Understand and be able to explain the conventions and expectations of oral communication as practiced within the discipline of the course taken.
  • Apply theories and strategies for crafting messages (verbal, nonverbal, and visual) for particular audiences and purposes.
  • Craft oral messages after a conscious process in which various options are reviewed and will be able to explain and support their choices.
  • Plan, research, organize, support, and deliver ideas and arguments in a public speaking setting.

Assignments:

Class Participation—Because this course is a speaking intensive seminar, students are expected to contribute to class discussions once daily to receive a minimum passing grade, which is a “D.”  Grades will be based on whether a student participated and the substance of his/her comments.

Classroom Discussion Facilitation—Each student along with a partner will lead class discussion for two reading assignments.  One day must be reserved for a general discussion of the text (in which facilitators ask questions and peers answer them) and another day must include some kind of enrichment activity (role-playing, analysis of primary documents, a staged debate, etc.).

Speaking Center—Because this is a speaking intensive course, students are required to visit the Speaking Center before the last day of class for any of our speaking-related assignments—shopping blog presentations, classroom facilitation, or informal class discussion (NOTE: visiting the Center after an assignment is completed will not be accepted).  Be sure to schedule appointments early!!!  The Speaking Center schedule fills up fast, especially at the end of the semester. Failure to attend to the Speaking Center reduces your participation grade by a full letter grade.

Reflection Blogs— Every Monday morning by 8AM, students will post a one-paragraph (3-to-5 sentences) reflection on that week’s reading assignments.  No late blog posts will be accepted.

Literature Review—Students will write a 5-to-7-page essay on the relationship between consumerism and American identity during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, which is due on Wednesday, December 3 in class. The essay must incorporate at least five readings (articles or books) from our class.

The Consumerist Project: Students will have an opportunity to reflect on their own consumer habits during the semester through three distinct assignments (Pinterst Posters, Shopping Blogs, and Fieldwork) and a final paper.

Pinterest Posters—During the first and last weeks of classes, students will present their own “consumerist identities” using Pinterest (www.pinterest.com).  Students will be expected to create a poster of images and/or videos that represent them as consumers with a brief written commentary.  Students will then give a five-minute presentation on their poster to the class.

Fieldwork—Students will visit three local shopping sites—Downtown Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania Mall, and Wal-Mart—during class and write a summary in narrative form of what they saw.  These blog posts need to include the following information to receive full credit:

  • Name of location
  • Time and date
  • Weather conditions
  • Transportation for consumers
  • Transportation for retail goods and employees
  • Type of retail space
  • Shoppers and shopping patterns
  • Store(s)
  • Employees and/or owner (if applicable)
  • Selling patterns
  • Merchandise
  • Your connection/disconnection with this location
  • Anything unusual
  • Overall analysis

Students will visit Downtown Fredericksburg on September 26; Wal-Mart on October 24; and Spotsylvania Mall on November 14.  Blog posts are due by 8AM on Monday morning of the following week to receive full credit.

Shopping Blogs—This project will help students think about how the desire to consume is produced and give them an opportunity to produce that desire on the Internet.  To do this, students will post commodities (e.g. clothing, food, housewares, books, music, etc.) that they have found to be personally interesting to the class’s shopping blog.  Posts need to tell the reader the following:

  • Include an image or video of the item
  • List where the object can be obtained (check multiple locations and include them in the post)
  • List the cost(s) of the item (again check multiple locations; it might cost more or less depending on the vendor; and if so, why?)
  • Give any important information from the producer
  • Give any important information from the retailer
  • Give any important information from eWOM (electronic Word of Mouth)
  • Explain why s/he has chosen to post this particular item
  • Explain why others might be interested in it

Grades will be based on the creativity of the post; inclusion of links, images, and videos; organization and clarity; and grammar and usage.  All shopping posts will be due Friday mornings by 8:00AM on the days that a student is presenting to the class (see class schedule for particular dates).  Shopping blogs will be marked down a partial letter grade for each day it is late, including weekends.

Final Paper— Students will write a 5-to-7-page self-reflection essay on their relationship with American consumerism.  Students need to engage their Pinterest posters, shopping blog posts, and fieldwork.  Engaging the literature that students have read throughout the semester is also expected.  Papers are due on Friday, December 12 between noon and 2:30PM of finals week.

 

Grading:

The instructor will give an unsatisfactory mid-semester report for anyone with a grade of D or below on work completed at that time. Students must complete ALL assignments in order to pass this course.  Below is the grade breakdown:

o   Class Participation—20%

    • Reflection Blogs—20%
    • Classroom Discussion Facilitation—10%
    • Shopping Blog—10%
    • Fieldwork—20%
    • Final Essay—20%

 

Grading Rationale:

Academic performance is rated according to the following system:

A            4.00 quality points—Excellent

A-          3.70 quality points

B+         3.30 quality points

B            3.00 quality points—Commendable

B-          2.70 quality points

C+         2.30 quality points

C            2.00 quality points—Acceptable

C-          1.70 quality points

D+         1.30 quality points

D           1.00 quality points—Marginal

F            0.00 quality points—Failure

Honor Code:

The instructor believes that the Honor Code is an essential, positive component of the Mary Washington experience.  You should know that if you cheat or plagiarize in this class, you will be taken to the Honor Council.  So, do not do it.  On the other hand, I also believe that having friends or family read and comment on your writing can be extremely helpful and falls within the bounds of the Honor Code (assuming the writing itself remains yours).  If you have questions about these issues, then you should talk to me as soon as possible.

 

Accommodations:

If a student receives services through the Office of Disability Services and requires accommodations for this class, please make an appointment with the instructor as soon as possible to discuss his/her approved accommodation needs.  Bring the accommodation letter with you to the appointment.  The instructor will hold any information the student shares in the strictest confidence unless the student gives the instructor permission to do otherwise.  If a student needs accommodations (note taking assistance or extended time for tests), please consult with the Office of Disability Services (x1266) about the appropriate documentation of a disability.

 

Reading List:

Juliet B. Schor and Craig J. Thompson (eds.), Sustainable Lifestyles and the Quest for Plentitude

Peggy Orenstein, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture

Elizabeth Chin, Purchasing Power: Black Kids and American Consumer Culture

Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not)Getting by in America

Alison Isenberg, Downtown America: A History of the Place and the People Who Made It

Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story

Sara Bongiorni, A Year without “Made in China”: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy

Susan Strasser, Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market

Karl Marx, “The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret,” The Consumer Society Reader, 331-342 (blog)

John Fiske, “Shopping for Pleasure: Malls, Power, and Resistance,” The Consumer Society Reader, 306-329 (blog)

Thorstein Veblen, “Conspicuous Consumption,” The Consumer Society Reader, 187-204 (blog)

 

Schedule:

Week 1: Introduction & Orientation

  • August 25: Introduction
  • August 27: Pinterest Poster Presentation
  • August 29: Pinterest Poster Presentation

Week 2: Theoretical Essays

  • September 1: Marx, “The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret” (blog)

**** Blog post is due at 8AM on Monday ****

  • September 3: Veblen, “Conspicuous Consumption” (blog)

**** Blog post is due at 8AM on Wednesday ****

  • September 5: Fiske, “Shopping for Pleasure: Malls, Power, and Resistance,” (blog)

**** Blog post is due at 8AM on Friday ****

Week 3: Creating Mass Markets, Part I

  • September 8-10: Strasser, Satisfaction Guaranteed, 3-162

 **** Blog post is due at 8AM on Monday ****

  • September 12: Shopping Blog Posts

Week 4: Creating Mass Markets, Part II

  • September 15-17: Strasser Satisfaction Guaranteed, 163-293

**** Blog post is due at 8AM on Monday ****

  • September 19: Shopping Blog Posts

Week 5: Where We Shop, Part I

  • September 22-24: Isenberg Downtown America, 1-202

**** Blog post is due at 8AM on Monday ****

  • September 26: Visit Downtown Fredericksburg

**** Your Fieldwork Post is due on Monday, October 8 ****

Week 6: Where We Shop, Part II

  • September 29-October 1: Read Isenberg Downtown America, 203-319

**** Blog post is due at 8AM on Monday ****

  • October 3: Shopping Blog Posts

Week 7: Not Getting By

  • October 6-8: Ehrenreich Nickel and Dimed

**** Blog post is due at 8AM on Monday ****

  • October 10: Shopping Blog Posts

Week 8: And the Children

  • October 13: Fall Break
  • October 17-19: Chin Purchasing Power

**** Blog post is due at 8AM on Wednesday ****

Week 9: Globalization

  • October 20-22: Bongiorni A Year without “Made in China”

**** Blog post is due at 8AM on Monday ****

  • October 24: Visit Wal-Mart

Week 10: Gender and Consumption

  • October 27-29: Orenstein, Cinderella Ate My Daughter

**** Blog post is due at 8AM on Monday ****

  • October 31: Shopping Blog Posts

Week 11: Future or Fiction?

  • November 3-5: Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story

**** Blog post is due at 8AM on Monday ****

  • November 7: No Class (ASA Conference)

Week 12: Cultural Strategy Sells

  • November 10-12: Cultural Strategy, 19-47, 64-132 (blog)

**** Blog post is due at 8AM on Monday ****

  • November 14: Visit Spotsylvania Mall

Week 13: Plentitude

  • November 17-19: Schor and Thompson, Sustainable Lifestyles, 1-25, 63-124, and 176-232

**** Blog post is due at 8AM on Monday ****

  • November 21: Shopping Blog Posts

Week 14: Thanksgiving

  • November 24: Review Session
  • November 26-28: No class

Week 15: Pinterst Presentations

  • December 1: Pinterest Presentations
  • December 3: Pinterest Presentations

**** Literature Reviews are due on Wednesday in class ****

  • December 5: Please attend the Fall History and American Studies Symposium

Week 16: Finals Week

  • December 12 Final essays are due in my mailbox between noon and 2:30PM

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