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American Ideas (ENG5101)

Professor: Jae H. Roe

Office: J818
Office Hours: Monday 10:00~12:00, Tuesday 15:00~17:00, Thursday 15:00~17:00
Office Phone: 705-8808

In this course, students will be introduced to some of the major ideas that have shaped the
making of the U.S.A. and the meaning of American-ness. Students will read and discuss these
ideas (in essays, speeches, etc.) in connection to cultural texts (novels, films, etc.) that
illustrate the influence of such ideas. The course is designed to provide a historical and
intellectual foundation for studying American culture.

Students will take a midterm exam and write a final essay. Students will be expected to
participate in discussions throughout the semester and to give presentations at the end of the

Course Materials
Course Reader (photocopied)
Network (film)
Cool Hand Luke (film)
The Virginian (novel by Owen Wister)
Do the Right Thing (film)
The Awakening (novel by Kate Chopin)
American Psycho (film)
White Noise (novel by Don DeLillo)
It’s a Wonderful Life (film)

Semester Outline

Week 1: “A Model of Christian Charity” (John Winthrop)

“The Way to Wealth” (Benjamin Franklin)
“The Declaration of Independence” (Thomas Jefferson)

Week 2: From Democracy in America (Alexis de Tocqueville)


Week 3: “Nature” and “Self-Reliance” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“Civil Disobedience” (Henry David Thoreau)
Cool Hand Luke

Week 4: “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” (Frederick Jackson

“The Gospel of Wealth” (Andrew Carnegie)
The Virginian (Owen Wister)
Week 5: The Virginian

Week 6: “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” (Frederick Douglass)

From The Souls of Black Folk (W. E. B. Du Bois)

Week 7: “I Have a Dream” (Martin Luther King)

“The Ballot or the Bullet” (Malcolm X)
“What We Want” (Stokely Carmichael)
Do the Right Thing

Week 8: Midterm

Week 9: “Declaration of Sentiments” (Elizabeth Cady Stanton)

“Is It a Crime for a U.S. Citizen to Vote?” (Susan B. Anthony)
From The Feminine Mystique (Betty Friedan)
The Awakening (Kate Chopin)

Week 10: “Assimilation in America” (Milton Gordon)

From Racial Formation in the United States (Michael Omi & Howard Winant)
From The Woman Warrior and China Men (Maxine Hong Kingston)
From Hunger of Memory (Richard Rodriguez)

Week 11: From The Culture of Narcissism (Christopher Lasch)

American Psycho

Week 12: “The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” (Fredric Jameson)

White Noise (Don DeLillo)

Week 13: White Noise

Week 14: “Morality and the Liberal Ideal” and “The Procedural Republic and the
Unencumbered Self” (Michael Sandel)
It’s a Wonderful Life

Week 15: Presentations