Fall 2004

Required readings (order online or at any bookstore)

Larson, Eric, Devil in the White City
Alger, Horatio, Ragged Dick
Johnson, James Weldon, Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
Coles, Simon, Suspect Identities
Nick Carter, Detective: The Solution of a Remarkable Case
Kasson, John, Houdini, Tarzan and the Perfect Man


Review essay, 10%
Short (3-5 page) paper, 20%
Midterm, 20%
Final paper 30%
Class participation, 20%

There is a discussion site--click on the image below


This course explores two simultaneous tendencies in American life at the turn of the last century. On the one hand, the rise of industrialization made Americans fascinated with personal transformation--with self making, with economic mobility, and with the possibility of changing your place in life. This new, modern world highlighted the difference between the real and the fake. In an age of mass copies and new identities, how could you tell the genuine, honest man from the con man? As much as they loved magic and personal transformation, Americans of this era loved detection, and the wide range of new techniques--like fingerprints, mug shots, and criminology generally--designed to pin identity down. The course will also focus on this simultaneous, contradictory fascination with fascination with both self transformation and with stabilizing identity.

The course makes extensive use of this game-like website, which is designed to reproduce some of the ambiguities of historical research itself



Wed. Aug. 30 introduction: The pace of change. (Begin Larsen, Devil in the White City)

Wed. Sept. 8 (Review Essay due) Making modern individuals: Character and self making

Wed. Sept. 15 The World of Strangers (discuss Larsen, Devil in the White City)

Wed. Sept. 22 Mass production and Commodities/ Money and Value

Wed. Sept. 29 Detecting (discuss Coles, Suspect Identities )

Wed. Oct. 6 Art and Authenticity Discuss Levine, "William Shakespeare and the American People" (available online)

Wed. Oct. 13 Making Race/The Immigrant menace Discuss Alger, Ragged Dick

Wed. Oct. 20 Midterm exam

Wed. Oct. 27 The New Woman (discuss Johnson, Autobiography)

Wed. Nov. 3 Criminal and Racial types

Wed. Nov. 10 Discuss Nick Carter, Detective

Wed. Nov. 17 short paper assignment Classifying the Body: Read Sekula, "The Body and the Archive". The link will work if you're on campus. If you are off campus you can get access by going here, clicking on "jstor" and entering your G number. If you can't get the link to work, you can dowload a .pdf file here. (Caution: the .pdf file is more than 9 megabytes .)

Wed. Dec. 1 Magic and spiritualism: The movies

Wed. Dec. 8 Discuss Kasson, Houdini, Tarzan and the Perfect Man