Monday 21 July 2014

AMER20041 Aspects of American Political Culture





Aspects of American Political Culture (AMER20041)




This course seeks to analyse and interpret the processes and outcomes of American government and institutions through social and cultural as well as political themes and discourse. While the course aims to analyse each institution - executive, legislature, judiciary - it will do so by examining in close detail the part played by the media especially (television, film, documentary, news outlets) but also political parties and other interest groups. There are four key stages to the course. 1] The examination of beliefs, ideas and freedoms expressed through the constitution and examined in the context of the state of modern US culture and society. 2] The choice, election, role and persona of the President in recent history. 3] The impact and influence of the media in American politics with particular reference to elections, the rise and fall of traditional print journalism, and the renaissance in political documentary films over the last decade. 4] The Supreme Court, its constitutional, political and moral role within America. Each of these sections will look at not only political and historical texts and articles, but will use contemporary newspaper cuttings, TV documentaries, and Hollywood films as a basis for discussion and analysis. The course is designed to complement and enhance the introductory teaching of politics and culture at Level One and engage students with more up-to-date commentaries on the state of American public life.


There is a required textbook. Recommended is either:


David McKay, American Politics and Society 87th ed) (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013) or:

Bailey, Peele, Cain, Peters (eds) Developments in American Politics 7 (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014)

Bailey, Peele, Cain, Peters (eds) Developments in American Politics 6 (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010)


Other titles are also perfectly acceptable as background and related reading. They are:


Robert Singh Governing America: The Politics of a Divided Democracy (Oxford: OUP, 2003)

M. J. Heale, Contemporary America: Power, Dependency, and Globalization Since 1980 (Blackwell History of the Contemporary World)

T. Lowi, B. Ginsberg, K. Shepsle American Government 10th Edition (London: Norton, 2009)

Alan R. Gitelson et al American Government (9th ed) (Oxford: Houghton Mifflin, 2009)


Further reading includes:

Tim Stanley Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration between LA and DC Revolutionized American Politics (Thomas Dunne, 2014)

Edward Luce Time To Start Thinking: America and the Spectre of Decline (Abacus, 2013)


Lance Bennett When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007)

Doris Graber Mass Media and American Politics (Washington: CQ Press, 2005).

Iwan Morgan and Philip Davies Right On? Political Change and Continuity in George W. Bush’s America

Jon Kraus, Kevin J. McMahon & David M. Rankin Transformed by Crisis: The Presidency of George W.Bush and American Politics

We will be looking at a series of documentary films aimed at historical assessments of the genre as well as up-to-date analyses of the state of contemporary American political culture. These include:

Primary (1960)

The War Room (1993)

The Fog of War (2004)

Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

Why We Fight (2005)

Taxi to the Dark Side (2008)

Standard Operating Procedure (2009)


Some will be screened, some in clips but all are worth getting a hold of if you can. In addition a series of chapters, articles and related documents will appear on Blackboard and you will be notified of these.






Sam Jones  English Literature, American Studies and Creative Writing Programmes Administrator| 

The School of Arts, Languages & Cultures l  Room W113 Samuel Alexander Building |The University of Manchester |Oxford Road Manchester, M13 9PL |  Tel. +44 (0) 161 275 8590|

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