A series of thought-provoking lectures on the effects of American pop culture will be offered free to the public at Merced College. The five satellite seminars will be held in Lesher Library’s Room 1theater on selected Tuesdays from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Lively discussions of the topics will follow each lecture. The series is sponsored by the College’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the Humanities Division, and the Learning Resource Center.
The series begins on September 28 with “(Mis)understanding History: Shaping Modern Myth and Popular Values.” The lecturer is Dr. Robert McElvaine, the Elizabeth Chisholm Professor of Arts and Letters and Chairman of the Department of History at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.
The seminar will explore the impact of 20th Century popular culture on mass “(mis)understanding of history with an examination of the extraordinary influence of two films: D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” (1915), and Oliver Stone’s “JFK” (1991). Dr. McElvaine will argue that the so-called “culture wars” is a phony war in which the forces of popular culture, so often vilified for undermining traditional values, have in fact been working in concert with American business to maximize consumption.
“Creating and Marketing Youth: Youth Music and Culture in 20th Century America” is the seminar for October 12. Dr. Tricia Rose, professor of American Studies at UC Santa Cruz, is the lecturer. In this seminar, Dr. Rose will explore the development of mass culture and its relationship to issues of race and the emergence of youth culture in the first half of the 20th Century.
The seminar will attempt to link the development of rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues to changing social formations in the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. Rose will argue that youth music and culture can contribute to important forms of social change and can foster cross-racial exchanges.
On October 26, Dr. Susan Bordo, professor of English and Women’s Studies at the University of Kentucky, will present “The Empire of Images: Growing Up Male and Female in a World Dominated by Popular Culture.” In this seminar, Dr. Bordo will examine the power of mass imagery. She will argue that these images – no longer acquired from parents, clergy, or teachers – contribute to the “rules” for success in American society. “These images have resulted in an unprecedented emphasis on the ‘fit’ body, physical attractiveness, and sexual allure,” she says.
“Courting Disaster? Changing Values about Love, Sex, and Marriage” is the seminar topic for November 9. Presented by Stephanie Coontz, professor of History and Family Studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, the lecture will explore the history of marriage, the family, and traditional values. Professor Coontz will look at the disconnect between the way marriage has been portrayed in popular culture and the way it has been experienced in real life over the past 100 years.
The fifth and final seminar will be held on November 16. “Sports in Popular Culture: Are We Winning or Losing” is the topic presented by Dr. Richard Lapchick, chairman of the DeVos Sports Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida. Dr. Lapchick will explain why sports are an integral part of American popular culture, as he traces the development of sports through American history. He will show how sports have impacted society positively by contributing to healthy bodies, teamwork and self-esteem. Nevertheless, he says, sports have become big business and a cultural environment has developed that engenders negative role models.
For more information on the satellite seminar series, contact Merced College English instructor and Phi Theta Kappa adviser Patricia Schade at (209) 384-6366.