HIST 3364: Consumer Culture in the U.S.
This course considers what happened to culture and society when economic abundance triumphed over economic scarcity. It starts with the industrious and industrial revolutions in England and North America, which together introduced abundance to a world previously characterized by economic scarcity. The course then looks at the development of a consumer society and culture in the United States by focusing on the “institutions of abundance”—department stores, mail-order catalogue, and advertising agencies—that taught Americans that they were a people of plenty.
Since receiving her PhD from Harvard University in 1995, Alexis McCrossen has been a part of SMU’s history faculty. She teaches courses on the history of consumer culture, cultural institutions, and the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her publications include the books Holy Day, Holiday: The American Sunday, Land of Necessity: Consumer Culture in the United States-Mexico Borderlands, and the forthcoming book Marking Modern Times: Clocks, Watches, and Other Timekeepers in American Life. She serves on the editorial board of the Oxford Companion to US Cultural and Intellectual History and is active in various professional organizations devoted to the study of US culture and society.
Learning Outcomes and Benefits
After taking this course students will be able to:
- Knowledgably discuss the industrious and industrial revolutions that introduced permanent abundance to the world’s economy
- Knowledgably discuss the history of consumer society and culture in the U.S. between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries
- Identify the central “institutions of abundance” that characterize a consumer culture
- Demonstrate improved skills associated with historical thinking and writing, particularly research, analysis, and argumentation
- Reflect on the ethical, economic, cultural, and social consequences of past and present forms of consumer culture