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Entertaining Social Change

AMST 315
Spring 2020
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: ENGL 309, FGSS 315
Certificates: Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory
Course Cluster: Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory Certificate

"Our problem," Tom Frank writes," is that we have a fixed idea of what power is, of how power works, and of how power is to be resisted." This is especially true of "entertainment" as a transformative power. Our aim will be to advance critical entertainment studies. A thread that connects all of our texts will be: how has the systemic critique of social contradictions been popularized as fascinating in modern times? We will consider the diverse strategies that progressive songwriters/performers, radical historians (working with cartoonists), and mainly moviemakers have developed to entertain Americans--to teach, persuade, provoke, seduce, and move them through laughter, tears, and not least of all ideas--so that Americans will be more inclined to entertain social critique that inspires social change. We will explore the popularizing (and sometimes the selling) of social critique in several genres: graphic history (Howard Zinn, Paul Buhle); songs/song lyrics of folk-protest singers (such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Phil Ochs), of folk-rock stars (such as Jackson Browne, Ani DiFranco, and Father John Misty), and of the developers of hip-hop (such as Gil Scott-Heron, Public Enemy, and NWA); and politically edgy comedy (Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert). We will devote most of our attention to movies (STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, THE PEOPLE SPEAK, MALCOLM X, MEDIUM COOL, NETWORK, EL NORTE, SMOKE SIGNALS, BEFORE THE FLOOD, THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION, SALT OF THE EARTH, MATEWAN, 99 HOMES, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, THE BIG SHORT). And we will place special emphasis on self-reflexive movies about entertainment and about labor/social movement organizing.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: SBS AMST
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (AMST)(CSCT)(ENGL)(ENGL-Literature)(FGSS)
Past Enrollment Probability: 50% - 74%

Last Updated on DEC-07-2021
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