AMERST 5850: Class And Culture

Dr. Sherry Linkon

Course Description

This course is designed to help you achieve the following learning goals: 

  • Understand the complexity of class as a social and analytical category
  • Develop your ability to critically analyze representations of the working-class 
  • Understand how popular culture shapes working-class consciousness and activism 
  • Understand how class culture is complicated by the intersection of multiple cultural identities – race, gender, sexuality, place, ethnicity

To help you achieve these goals, we will use a combination of class discussions, individual research, presentations of your research, and one-on-one conversations

Required Texts

Nan Enstad, Ladies of Labor, Girls of Adventure
Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb, The Hidden Injuries of Class
A significant number of additional readings will be posted in WebCT in PDF format, or you may borrow a CD from me to print out copies of the PDFs


About half of this course will be conducted online, using the discussion board feature of WebCT. Whenever the course schedule lists an online discussion, we will meet virtually instead of face-to-face. You may participate in the online discussion at whatever time of day or night you prefer, though I will always set a deadline by which you need to make an initial and concluding post to the discussion. You’ll find guidelines for effective online discussion in WebCT.​​​​​​​

In WebCT, I will also post PDFs of all of the course readings other than the two books. You may download and print this directly from WebCT, though please be advised that this takes up a lot of bandwidth; I recommend that you do this on a computer with a very fast internet connection. I also have a CD with these PDF files, which you may borrow to print from.​​​​​​​

Assignments and Grading​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​Everyone will write one short paper and complete a multiple-piece “inquiry” project. Graduate students will also write a culminating paper, drawn from the research involved in the inquiry project. Grades will be calculated as follows:​​​​​​​


Semester Assignments
Project Due dates percentage for undergraduates percentage for graduate students
Class autobiography Inquiry project September 16 20% 20%
Critical Paper December 7 70% 50%
Participation in Discussions All Semester 10% 10%

Specific grading criteria for each assignment will be distributed as part of the assignment sheets.​​​​​​​


Theme Date Preparation Activities Assignments due
Theories of Class 8/26 Complete Class Questionnaire Class meeting: your “starting point” class theories

​​​​​​​WebCT orientation
8/31 View People Like Us, video available in library of the CWCS Class meeting: discuss film  
9/2 Read Zweig excerpt Online discussion of reading  
9/7 Read Sennet & Cobb Online discussion of reading  
9/9 Read Metzgar excerpt Online discussion of reading  
9/14 E-mail Sherry w/ questions about the theoretical readings Class meeting: map common ground and differences among the theories  
9/16   Online discussion of theories Class autobiography
Representations of the working class 9/21   Class meeting: discuss sample representations  
9/23   Class meeting: discuss sample representations  
9/28 Read Rubin & Butsch essays Online discussion of readings  
9/30 Read Lipsitz essay Online discussion of Lipsitz  
10/5 E-mail Sherry w/ questions about the readings Class meeting: mapping theories of pop culture  
10/7   Work on your presentations  
  10/12   Class meeting: presentations of individual text sets Text analyses
How representations shape class consciousness 10/14   Class meeting: theorizing about how representations affect consciousness  
10/16 Read Enstad, Introduction Online discussion of Enstad  
10/21 Read Enstad Chs. 1 & 2 Lab session: work with sample representations from circa 1910  
10/23 Read Enstad Ch. 3 Class meeting: discuss Enstad & related representations  
10/28 Read essay from Bringing Class Back In Read Fiske essay Online discussion of reading  
10/30   Individual meetings with Sherry, work on projects  
11/2   Class meeting:
11/4   Class meeting:
Analysis of the relationship between your texts and audience response
Class, race, gender, sexuality 11/9   Online discussion: intersections in Enstad  
11/11 No class – University closed for Veteran’s Day
11/16 Read Lott, Introduction and chapter three Online discussion: unpacking Lott  
11/18   Class meeting: More work w/ Lott  
11/23   Individual meetings with Sherry, work on projects  
11/25 No class – Happy Thanksgiving!
11/30   Class meeting:
12/2   Class meeting:
Analysis of how intersections play out in your text set
12/7     Graduate papers due