In this course we study car collecting and customizing as vernacular art traditions, and survey of some of the astonishing range of human behaviors around cars and trucks. To better understand cars we also will learn of the history of the automotive industry, environmental issues arising from cars, and U.S. policy on automotive safety, emissions, and fuels. This course satisfied the Arts & Letters group for general education requirements.
Car Cultures thus takes a multi-disciplinary approach to one of the most pressing issues of our time: how can the world’s people meet their transportation needs without depleting energy supplies, polluting the air and water, or ending up hopelessly jammed in traffic? These questions have no easy answers, because the habits and desires of American drivers, and the infrastructure of our society, have made us resistant to change, and have spread to other parts of the world. As with many social issues in the U.S., automobiles arouse zealous critics and stubborn defenders. Our course cannot promise breakthrough solutions, but it begins from the premise that motorists’ creativity and love of their cars can be part of solutions to the problems cars cause.
The major assignment for the course is a project involving folklore or ethnographic fieldwork. Each student, or team of students, will select and research some aspect of car enthusiasm or automotive behavior, whether monster trucks, tuners or rat rods, muscle cars or microbuses, advertisements or repair shops, parking lots or critical masses of cyclists. There is so much about our automotive behavior that is curious, mysterious, and revealing.
Folklore/Ethnic/Women’s Literature courses focus on works in Folklore, ethnic American writing, and writing by women.
English Minor courses offer students centuries of cultural experience and representation in poetry, prose, drama, film, TV, new media, and folk artifacts. The English minor can focus and extend the values of a liberal arts education, while also providing extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.