American culture of the 50s

Course Dates: 21/04/21 - 09/06/21
Time: 18:00 - 19:30
Location: Online
Was 1950s America an affluent, homogeneous society or a post war nation in turmoil? Join this exploration of the
underside of 1950s American culture through the lens of literature, history, film, music and art.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £129.00 Senior fee £129.00 Concession £79.00

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Course Code: HLT172

Full Wed, eve, 21 Apr - 09 Jun '21

Duration: 8 sessions (over 8 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

We will explore the political, social and cultural context of 1950s America through a study of representative and sometimes surprisingly radical literature, history and film of the period. We will also have an overview of important themes of the 1950s in art and music. The course has different tutors for each specialism, providing different ways in to understanding the decade.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

Sessions will be divided into different sections, taught by specialist tutors.

21 April - History (tutor: Mark Malcomson)
Presidents: the key personalities of the period; key international and foreign affairs events/incidents

28 April - History (tutor: Dale Mineshima-Lowe)
'America's domestic expansion and boom in the 1950s': social history - society, domestic politics, economics

5 & 12 May - Film (tutor: Mick McAloon)
In the 1950s, the emergence of Cinemascope and a revolution in screen acting enabled filmmakers (such as Elia Kazan, Vincente Minelli, Douglas Sirk and Nicholas Ray) to push the boundaries of Hollywood melodrama, and in doing so reveal the underlying anxiety of Eisenhower optimism.

19 May - Art - (tutor: Ian Tucknott)
Art in the 1950s: Abstraction to Assemblage: This session will provide a survey of art in America as it developed through the 1950s, beginning with the abstract paintings of Barnett Newman and his pursuit of the sublime, and the development of grid-based abstraction in the work of Agnes Martin. We’ll also explore the turn toward the incorporation of everyday objects, symbols and experiences within art through the varied practices of Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Bruce Connor and the photography of Lisette Model.

26 May - Music (tutor: Trish Shaw)
Emergence of a distinctively American sound and international dominance, from jazz, pop, rock and folk to the concert hall, musical theatre and film music

2 & 9 June - Literature (tutor: Patricia Sweeney)
2 June -"The great nation of America in the 1950s: where are we now and where are we going?"
9 June - "Subverting the status quo: cities, suburbs and small towns - all is not what it seems"
Authors include Shirley Jackson, Flannery O'Connor, John Cheever and James Baldwin.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

-Understand how America changes socially, politically and economically during this period
-Explore the literary works of the period and how they reflect the cultural changes taking place in the country
-Develop an awareness of how the film and motion picture industry reflects not only the 'norm' but critiques the
-Gain an awareness of the major trends in art and music of the decade.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

Anyone with an interest in American culture is welcome.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Sessions will include lectures,short interactive talks, and working in small and large groups. Power point, online clips, visual images and film extracts will be included. Readings will be given in preparation prior to some of the classes.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

Materials will be provided by the lecturers. Please bring a notebook and a pen.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

America in the 70s: culture and society (HLT165) is from 5 May - 23 June on Wednesdays, 14.45-16.45.
Look for other literature courses on our website at, culture and writing/literature.

Mark Malcomson See more
Mick McAloon See more
Dale Mineshima-Lowe See more
Trish Shaw See more
Patricia Sweeney See more
Ian Tucknott See more

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.