Syllabus: HST 344, The Automobile and American Life, Spring, 2012

Sorry folks -- formatting went crazy here upon moving from Word to this blog. Dates and assignments are correct, however.

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.
Tom Wolfe, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby.

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 18 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.”

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

Week 4/February 6 Advertising, Styling, Design and the Art of the Automobile
Reading: Heitmann, pp. 64-71.
Film: “Automobile Advertising 1910-1940.”

Week 5/February 13 On the Road
Reading: Heitmann, Chapter 4.
Films: “Grapes of Wrath;” “Route 66;" “Detour;” Keroauc: On the Road"

February 17: Exam 1 -- on this exam you will be tested on the Keroauc book.

Week 6/ February 20 Religion, Courtship and Sex
Readings: Heitmann, Chapter 5.
Films: “Thelma and Louise”; “Motorcycle Diaries”

Week 7/ February 27 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 2

Week 8/March 5 World War II: Detroit, the Arsenal of Democracy
Readings: Heitmann, Chapter 7
Film: “Jitterbugs.”

Week 9/ March 12 The Post War Industry and Technological Suppression

Readings: Heitmann, pp. 133-154.
Film: “Tucker”

Week 10/ March 19 Chrome Dreams of the 1950s
Jan & Dean and the Beach Boys
Readings: Heitmann, pp.154-163.
Film: “American Graffiti”

Week 11/ March 26 The Rise of the American Muscle Car
Readings: Heitmann, pp.164-178.
Films: “Goldfinger;” “Thunderball” “Bullitt.”

Test 2 March 30 -- you will be tested on the Wolfe book at this time

Week 12/ April 2&4 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 11, 16 and 20 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"

April 18 Stander Symposium

Week 15/April 23 The Automobile Industry and the Future; Sum Up
Reading: Heitmann, pp.194-206.
Film: “The Revenge of the Electric Car”

April 27 Last Day of Classes
Heitmann, Epilogue.

FINAL EXAM, Friday, May 4, 12:20 --2:10 p.m. On this exam you will be tested on the Ben Hamper Book.


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