Seminar in Twentieth Century United States History
Dr. Alex Sayf Cummings
Office: 34 Peachtree 2124
This course is meant to provide a brief introduction to the historiography of the twentieth century United States and an opportunity to learn and apply fundamental methods of researching and writing history. The readings include classic and contemporary works of history that address perennial themes of gender, political culture, race, sexuality, and space. Over the course of the semester, students will develop a project of original research based on primary sources; class members will help each other identify a topic early in the semester and shape the project through a series of class workshops.
Students will be expected to master and apply skills for analyzing primary sources and situating their research in a broader literature or discourse about the twentieth century United States. Final papers will be evaluated on the degree to which they:
- derive insight from primary source materials such as newspaper articles, personal letters, photographs, and other media from the past
- relate findings in primary sources to the secondary literature by other historians
- conform to standards of citation, style, and intellectual integrity
- advance a thesis through clear, persuasive writing
Final grades will be determined on the following basis: 50% for the 10-12 page final paper and in-class presentation of your research findings; 25% for a book review posted to Videri.org; and 25% for your weekly responses and participation in class discussions and workshops.
The research seminar offers a unique opportunity to begin work on a larger project, such as a Master’s thesis or dissertation. Many seminar papers are eventually revised to become articles in academic journals or chapters of books. However, the research paper need not relate to a graduate student’s main area of study.
The course syllabus provides a general plan for the course; deviations may be necessary. Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State. Upon completing this course, please take time to fill out the online course evaluation.
Students who wish to request accommodation for a disability may do so by registering with the Office of Disability Services. Students may only be accommodated upon issuance by the Office of Disability Services of a signed Accommodation Plan and are responsible for providing a copy of that plan to instructors of all classes in which accommodations are sought.
Cummings, Fields, Hofstadter, Hurewitz, Jackson, and Rodgers are available at the campus bookstore. Others are available online and/or in library.
Aug. 28: Thinking the Twentieth Century
Introduction to historiography
Wendell Berry, “It All Turns on Affection”
Tony Judt, “The World We Have Lost”
Sept. 4: Tradition
Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It
First topic discussion
Sept. 11: Sexuality & Identity
Daniel Hurewitz, Bohemian Los Angeles and the Making of Modern Politics
Advise and Consent, dir. Otto Preminger
Sept. 18: Race & Identity
Barbara Fields and Karen Fields, Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life
Mae Ngai, “The Architecture of Race in American Immigration Law: A Reexamination of the Immigration Act of 1924”
Oct. 2: The Landscape
J. B. Jackson, Landscape in Sight
Elizabeth Blackmar, “Of REITS and Rights: Absentee Ownership in the Periphery”
Oct. 9: Industrialization & Deindustrialization
David L. Carlton, “The Revolution from Above: The National Market and the Beginnings of Industrialization in North Carolina”
Bethany Moreton, “The Soul of Neoliberalism”
David Havlick and Scott Kirsch, “A Production Utopia: RTP and the North Carolina Research Triangle”
Oct. 16: Modern & Postmodern
Cummings, Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright
Oct. 23: Writing
Work on drafts
Oct. 30: Big Frameworks
Daniel Rodgers, The Age of Fracture
Nov. 6: Writing
Work on drafts
Nov. 13: Writing
Work on drafts/meetings with instructor
Presentation of findings
Presentation of findings
- Leading Discussion
Each week one student or group of students will be responsible for taking an extra close look at the assigned readings. This task requires the week’s discussion leaders to grapple with the broader historiographical and methodological issues at stake in the text(s) under consideration and help frame the discussion at the beginning of class. Being the discussion leader involves three main tasks:
- Posting a 900 word reflection (about three double spaced pages) on the week’s readings to the class website, gelatoorphans.wordpress.com. This meditation should summarize the main thesis of the assigned text(s) and, in the case of multiple readings, compare and contrast their argument and methodological approach.
- Preparing at least five good, thoughtful questions about the readings, which should appear at the end of your post.
- Initiating discussion by offering your own views on the readings at the beginning of class.
The discussion leader’s reflection should be posted by midnight on the Sunday before the class, so that the other course members will have an opportunity to respond with their own posts before Wednesday.
- Weekly Responses
Each week, every student will post a 500 word response (about two double-spaced pages) to the week’s readings on the class website before 9am on the day of class. Points will be deducted for lateness. The response paper is a short assignment –Gravity’s Rainbow it is not, but it should show A. that you read the material and B. you gave careful consideration to the issues raised. You can gear your response toward one of the questions posed by the discussion leader. Since the assignment is short, you might focus on one aspect of the book or article. What categories of analysis did the author think were most important – race, gender, class, sexuality, space, etc? What were the text’s weaknesses? How do you think others probably criticized it? Was there a particular aspect of the topic that you found intriguing or wished the author had explored in greater depth?
- Book review
Participants in the course will write a review of one scholarly book relating to the history of the United States in the twentieth century of no less than 1,000 words. The review should be uploaded to the site Videri.org and formatted properly as an entry in the historiographical wiki. It should summarize the book’s argument and evidence and place it in context within the historical literature on the subject.
- The Final Paper
As in many graduate courses, the grade for this seminar is largely dependent on one major project. The entire course is geared toward producing a final product of substance, with readings frontloaded in the semester to provide a historiographical frame of reference and writing/workshopping slated for October and November.
The paper should be a work of original scholarship. It should be no less than 10 double-spaced pages in 12-point Times New Roman font. It must draw on primary or archival sources to offer an interpretation of historical events; if you have any doubts about what constitutes a primary or secondary source, let me know and we can discuss the possibilities for researching your paper. The Atlanta area is blessed with a wealth of repositories for documents, including:
- The Southern Labor History Archives at Georgia State
- The Auburn Avenue Research Library
- The Carter Center
- The National Archives in Morrow, GA
- Various collections held at Georgia Tech, Emory, the institutions of the Atlanta University Center, etc.
Archives offer a wide variety of documents, such as personal letters, photographs, and maps, but you can also build your paper’s argument on an analysis of sources such as sound recordings and oral history interviews.
One thing which has not changed is that none of us, no matter what continent or island or ice cap, asked to be born in the first place, and that even somebody as old as I am, which is 80, only just got here. There were already all these games going on when I got here. An apt motto for any polity anywhere, to put on its state seal or currency or whatever, might be this quotation from the late baseball manager Casey Stengel, who was addressing a team of losing professional athletes: “Can’t anybody here play this game?”
Kurt Vonnegut, 2003
Georgia State University Policy on Academic Honesty
Please read these guidelines carefully. You must cite your sources. You cannot take words from a book, article, webpage, song, or anything else and treat them as if they were your own. The consequences of plagiarism and other forms of dishonesty are very serious, so do not hesitate to ask if you have any doubts about how you are using other people’s material in your work.
As members of the academic community, students are expected to recognize and uphold standards of intellectual and academic integrity. The University assumes as a basic and minimum standard of conduct in academic matters that students be honest and that they submit for credit only the products of their own efforts. Both the ideals of scholarship and the need for fairness require that all dishonest work be rejected as a basis for academic credit. They also require that students refrain from any and all forms of dishonorable or unethical conduct related to their academic work.
The University’s policy on academic honesty is published in the Faculty Affairs Handbook and the Student Handbook, On Campus, which is available to all members of the University community. The policy represents a core value of the University and all members of the University community are responsible for abiding by its tenets. Lack of knowledge of this policy is not an acceptable defense to any charge of academic dishonesty. All members of the academic community, including students, faculty, and staff, are expected to report violations of these standards of academic conduct to the appropriate authorities. The procedures for such reporting are on file in the offices of the deans of each college, the Office of the Dean of Students, and the Office of the Provost.
In an effort to foster an environment of academic integrity and to prevent academic dishonesty, students are expected to discuss with faculty the expectations regarding course assignments and standards of conduct. Students are encouraged to discuss freely with faculty, academic advisors, and other members of the University community any questions pertaining to the provisions of this policy. In addition, students are encouraged to avail themselves of programs in establishing personal standards and ethics offered through the University’s Counseling Center.
2. Definitions and Examples
The examples and definitions given below are intended to clarify the standards by which academic honesty and academically honorable conduct are to be judged. The list is merely illustrative of the kinds of infractions that may occur, and it is not intended to be exhaustive. Moreover, the definitions and examples suggest conditions under which unacceptable behavior of the indicated types normally occurs; however, there may be unusual cases that fall outside these conditions which also will be judged unacceptable by the academic community.
Plagiarism is presenting another person’s work as one’s own. Plagiarism includes any paraphrasing or summarizing of the works of another person without acknowledgment, including the submitting of another student’s work as one’s own. Plagiarism frequently involves a failure to acknowledge in the text, notes, or footnotes the quotation of the paragraphs, sentences, or even a few phrases written or spoken by someone else. The submission of research or completed papers or projects by someone else is plagiarism, as is the unacknowledged use of research sources gathered by someone else when that use is specifically forbidden by the faculty member. Failure to indicate the extent and nature of one’s reliance on other sources is also a form of plagiarism. Failure to indicate the extent and nature of one’s reliance on other sources is also a form of plagiarism. Any work, in whole or part, taken from the internet without properly referencing the corresponding URL may be considered plagiarism. An author’s name and the title of the original work, if available, should also be included as part of the reference. Finally, there may be forms of plagiarism that are unique to an individual discipline or course, examples of which should be provided in advance by the faculty member. The student is responsible for understanding the legitimate use of sources, the appropriate ways of acknowledging academic, scholarly or creative indebtedness, and the consequences of violating this responsibility.
Cheating on examinations involves giving or receiving unauthorized help before, during, or after an examination. Examples of unauthorized help include the use of notes, texts, or “crib sheets” during an examination (unless specifically approved by the faculty member), or sharing information with another student during an examination (unless specifically approved by the faculty member). Other examples include intentionally allowing another student to view one’s own examination and collaboration before or after an examination if such collaboration is specifically forbidden by the faculty member.
Unauthorized Collaboration: submission for academic credit of a work product, or a part thereof, represented as its being one’s own effort, which has been developed in substantial collaboration with or with assistance from another person or source, is a violation of academic honesty. It is also a violation of academic honesty knowingly to provide such assistance. Collaborative work specifically authorized by a faculty member is allowed.
Falsification: it is a violation of academic honesty to misrepresent material or fabricate information in an academic exercise, assignment or proceeding (e.g., false or misleading citation of sources, the falsification of the results of experiments or of computer data, false or misleading information in an academic context in order to gain an unfair advantage).
Multiple Submissions: it is a violation of academic honesty to submit substantial portions of the same work for credit more than once without the explicit consent of the faculty member(s) to whom the material is submitted for additional credit. In cases in which there is a natural development of research or knowledge in a sequence of courses, use of prior work may be desirable, even required; however, the student is responsible for indicating in writing, as a part of such use, that the current work submitted for credit is cumulative in nature.