Course Syllabus

ENN 195.0926: Violence in American Art and Culture (LEC 18047)
T 1-4.25          C-723 

Justin Rogers-Cooper, Ph.D /
office: M-120E
Office Hours: M: 2-3 PM; TH: 12-1 PM; or by appointment

College Course Description
This course surveys the depiction of various types of violence and the use of violence as a theme or metaphor in North American literature, art, and popular culture. Emphasis is placed on New York City as a laboratory and resource for researching considerations of violence in poetry, drama, fiction, film and other visual art forms as well as popular culture (e.g., lyrics, comic strips, advertising, horror and suspense stories).

Section Description: A history of violence
This course will survey how art and literature represent the complex causes and effects of violence in American history. We will examine slavery, race riots, lynchings, urban riots, white supremacy, factory labor, terrorism, state terrorism, and fascism. We will approach these events through multi-disciplinary inquiries into collective behavior, crowd power, economic crises, ethnic identity, embodied racialization, and civil rights, particularly in the period of US history spanning 1850-1940. We will study representations of violence in literature, film, photography, and video, especially for how they provide us with perspectives of morality, emotion, and justice. The course will emphasize New York City wherever possible, though primarily through field trips to one or two museums, and through a final project that involves documents from LaGuadia’s mayoral archives on the Harlem riots of 1935, 1943, and 1964.

Course Goals
At the end of this course, students should be able to:

*          understand the historical context for violent civil disorders
*          define the relation between civil disorder and the economy
*          identify the role of individual and social emotions in framing violence
*          identify some major episodes of urban violence in American history
*          analyze how different media and narratives represent violence
*          improve their strategies for writing college essays
*          improve their strategies for research and critical thinking

Required Texts
Texts are available at the LaGuardia bookstore. It is extremely important that you purchase these texts and bring them to every class session for which they are assigned. 

1. Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills; ISBN: 0935312390 ($13.95)
2. Paul Lawrence Dunbar, The Sport of the Gods; ISBN: 0451531779 ($6.99)
3. F. Scott Fitzgerald, May Day; ISBN: 140994378X ($10.00)
4. Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here; ISBN: 045121658X ($15.00)

Total Cost: approximately $46 (prices may be cheaper for used books)

If you plan to order from Amazon, order all texts now. It is the responsibility of the student to have the text for class on-time.

Course Blog

Course Requirements
Students will two essays that respond to various course assignments, texts, and discussions.  
Students will complete the readings and participate in class discussions and workshops.
Students will post blogs when assigned.
Students will post comments to fellow students’ blogs when assigned.
Students will write for in-class assignments. 
Students will save their work on a USB drive/stick for any work they do in computer labs.


Blog: Students will blog once a week.

The blogs will connect ideas, themes, scenes, characters, situations, and/or events from the literary texts to those in the films we watch. Blogs should be 250 words. Students should compose the blogs in Microsoft Word and then copy/paste into a Blogger blog (instructions on how to set up a blog will be in class). Blogs should be written for a general audience, which means students must introduce the subjects and texts they plan to discuss before they make their connections between them.

All blogs are due Friday at 5 pm.

Essays: Students will write three five-page essays for this course.

The essays will create and support an original argument about how violence works in two different kinds of media (fiction, film, etc). The essays will compare and contrast how fiction and film represent violence, how they explain its origin, and how they articulate solutions. We will spend time in-class discussing the drafts through peer review.

Final Exam: The final exam will involve texts from LaGuardia’s mayoral archives.

The catch is that students must arrive at the final exam after examining key documents from the archive before the exam begins. The archive will have a folder for students beginning in the second week of class. The folder contains three documents. Students will study the documents and take notes about what they contain; they may even make copies and bring them to the final exam. When they arrive at the final exam, they will receive a fourth document from the professor. They will then write an essay that explains the contents of the documents and their relationship to urban violence, and connect them to key ideas and texts from class.


            Blogs: 30%
            Essays: 30%
            Quizzes: 10%
            Participation: 20%
            Final: 10%

Classroom Expectations
Students must respect each other and the professor at all times.
Students show that respect through active listening and participation.  
Students must silence all electronic devices and refrain from texting during class. Students that text openly during class will be asked to leave class.
Students will keep an open mind and will be self-conscious about their communication.
Students will not eat hot smelly food near the front of the class.

Students that miss more than four hours of class may fail the class.  
Students that miss more than four hours of class must confer with the professor.
If you are late twice it will count as one absence.  
If you do miss class, it is your responsibility to keep up with our work.
Email another student to find out what was missed.

Plagiarism and academic integrity
All work you submit must be your own.  You may not copy or paraphrase someone else’s words or ideas without properly citing the source. All instances of plagiarism or academic dishonesty will result in an “F” and possible action by the college.

Course Schedule

Reading assignments are due on the day that they appear.

T 3.5: Revolutionary Violence and Slave Revolts
Reading: N/A

Class Intro
Declaration of Independence
The Constitution of the United States
From David Walker’s Appeal

Film: “Scientific Racism: The Eugenics of Social Darwinism”
All blogs are due Friday at 5 pm.
Essay One Assignment

T 3.12: Enslaved Africans in America
Reading: Handout: Slave and Citizen (3-128)

Film: The Trail of Tears
All blogs are due Friday at 5 pm.

T 3.19: The Rise of Factory Capitalism
            Reading: Life in the Iron Mills (9-66)
Film: The Industrial Revolution
            Film: Characteristics of Early Factory Girls
            Film: The Ghosts of Slater Mill
No Blog Due

T 3.25: Spring Break

T 4.2: Lynching, Race Riots, and Jim Crow
Reading: Handouts: “The Lynching of Jube Benson,” Mob Rule in New Orleans
Peer Review: Bring Three Copies of Essay One Draft
The Civil War Draft Riots
Rise and Fall of the first KKK

Film: from Ken Burns: The Civil War
Film: The Gangs of New York (DVD 476, LAGCC library)
Film: Black Wall Street
            No Blog due.

T 4.9:   Ghosts in New York
            Reading: The Sport of the Gods (1-81)
            Essay One Due

Film: Within Our Gates (1919/1930)
            All blogs are due Friday at 5 pm.
            Essay Assignment Two

T 4.16: Ghosts in New York
            Reading: The Sport of the Gods (81-138)
            Film: The Birth of a Nation
            All blogs are due Friday at 5 pm.

T 4.23: New York in World War I
Reading: May Day
Film: “World War I: Entry of the United States”
Film: “Origins & Development of Trench Warfare”
Film: “The Espionage Act of 1917 and Sedition Act of 1918”
Film: “Up South: African-American Migration in the Era”
Film: “Unit 5: World War I: Treaty of Versailles”
Film: “Unit 6: First Red Scare”
Film: “Unit 7: Palmer Raids”
Film: “Unit 8: Sacco and Vanzetti”

            No Blog Due

T 4.30: Amerika
            Reading: It Can’t Happen Here (15-71)
            Essay Two Peer Review
Film: “The White House Coup”
            Film: “In Search of History: The Plot to Overthrow FDR”
Film: “War on the Weak: Eugenics in America”

T 5.7    MUSEUM: Seeing the Civil War
            Reading:  It Can’t Happen Here (71-149)
            Meet at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
            Exhibition: “Photography and the American Civil War”
No Blog due.
T 5.14  Amerika
            Reading: It Can’t Happen Here (149-227)
            Essay Two Due
Film: “History of Eugenics in America Part 1.”
            Film “History of Eugenics in America Part 2”
            Film: “Prescott Bush, Part I.”

Film: “History of Eugenics in America Part 3”
            Film: “History of Eugenics in America Part 4”
            Film: “History of Eugenics in America Part 5”           
            Essay Assignment Three
All blogs are due Friday at 5 pm.

T 5.21  New York in World War II
            Reading: It Can’t Happen Here (227-286)
            Meet at New York Historical Society
            Exhibition: “World War II & NYC”
            Getting to the NYHS:
All blogs are due Friday at 5 pm.

T 5.28 Amerika
            Reading: It Can’t Happen Here (286-330)      
Film: “History of Eugenics in America, Part 6”
            Film: “History of Eugenics in America, Part 7”
            Film: “History of Eugenics in America, Part 8”
            No Blog Due

T 6.4: The Harlem Riots
Reading: In Darkness and Confusion, Ann Petry (handout)
Essay Three Peer Review     
1943 Harlem Riots
Double Victory Campaign
Video: from The War: Segregation, Its Impact
Video: from The War: African-American Troop Training

All blogs are due Friday at 5 pm.


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