Taught by: Tim Retzloff
This class traces the patterns of American society after the Civil War and through the 20th century. In doing the coursework, you’ll encounter many of the well-known historical figures from high school and college history classes. You’ll also learn about the ideas and actions of many significant people with whom you are unfamiliar but who were in fact highly significant in their times. And, perhaps most importantly, you’ll consider the experiences and perspectives of ordinary people of diverse backgrounds. This course covers a lot of historical ground, but it does not demand the simple memorization and regurgitation of facts. There are no multiple-choice exams or exercises. Rather, you’ll be asked to consider sources of various kinds in various media – political speeches, memoirs, letters to the editor, paintings, radio programs, songs, documentary and feature films, short stories, and even a novel – and write intelligently about them using your historical skills and knowledge.
My goal in HST 203 is to have a class that encourages students to think historically, not just memorize things about history. For example, I am less concerned that you can conjure from memory the exact dates of our participation in World War I than I am getting you to think about how and why we got involved when we did, and how our participation affected the war and the postwar geopolitical order. Or how it can be that people and things that seem as different as Joseph McCarthy, Elvis Presley, Jackson Pollock, and the program Leave it to Beaver were all products of the 1950s, and how understanding that can give you a whole new perspective on a pivotal decade.