Header image for the course page

American Culture Studies

Topics in American Culture Studies: "What's Opera, Doc?" Music, Taste, and American Identity

American Culture Studies 3360 - Spring 2020

What do cartoon character Elmer Fudd, nineteenth-century performer Jenny Lind, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have in common-and perhaps more importantly, what might their relationships with musical performance reveal about class, race, and access in American culture? In this class, we will examine the role of musical performance in shaping an American public identity (or identities). Asking how taste is informed by historical and contemporary modes of access to culture, we will consider the following in relation to genres and musical styles including (b ut not limited to) ragtime, jazz, hip-hop, rap, symphonic repertoire, opera, and blues: How do technologies of acquisition and consumption shape musical genres? How are certain genres of music racialized or appropriated? How might performance venues or forms of mass media shape or control modes of access? And crucially, how might access to certain genres reveal larger structures of power and access to resources in American culture? We will begin by examining the historical roots of musical performance in the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with especial focus on performance spaces in St. Louis. Students will have the opportunity to develop individual research projects associated with specific genres under instructor supervision. This course will allow students to critically approach notions of taste, pleasure, and privilege in the formation of an American identity and is an approved AMCS Fieldwork course. Attendance mandatory during the first week.

Section 01

Topics in American Culture Studies: "What's Opera, Doc?" Music, Taste, and American Identity
INSTRUCTOR: Steigerwald Ille
View Course Listing