As with all newly emergent technologies, the early automobile rallied enthusiasts and detractors alike, spurring heated debates about class, labor, and the role technology has-and should have-in an industrialized, urban society. The automobile becomes the consumable object understood as the prized achievement of 20th century industrial manufacturing and engineering; to think of industry is to imagine the auto, and vice versa. How does an inefficient, clumsy, noisy, hard to use technology become a force in reshaping American cities, from streets to suburbs? How does its obscure origin moments inform race and class divides in St. Louis? Can we see past the many mythologies of American transportation history to understand it as an object of derision and of radical democratic and capitalist ideals? We'll study the national origin stories of this industry and its social and political consequences through the rich transportation manufacturing context of St. Louis. We'll examine makers and drivers, consider 'the street' as a contentious geography of social, political, and economic competition, and investigate what we've forgotten about the racial history of car manufacturing and car use, and why. Our adventures will build upon archival materials, including primary documents like magazines, newspapers, etiquette manuals, print advertisements, travel fiction, images, and other popular publications of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Grounding these examinations will be scholarly readings in history and history of technology, American studies, culture studies, and sociology. Students will develop final projects that explore the many ways that the automobile-as a site of contested narratives, cultural values and ideologies-is an object vexed with multiple meanings and ideologies that influenced broader social, political, and civic cultures of the urban landscape.
Course Attributes: EN H; BU BA; AS HUM; FA HUM; AR HUM