American Cultural Studies

Crossing under the Hudson

The Lincoln and Holland Tunnels are key links in the transportation infrastructure of New York and New Jersey. What comes to mind when we think of these tunnels? Traffic. Honk. Beep. Beep. Exhaust.

Moving beyond that view, Gillespie takes a fresh look at their planning and construction. With a lively and entertaining approach, Gillespie explores these two monumental works of civil engineering and the public that embraced them. He describes and analyzes the building of the tunnels, introduces listeners to the people who worked there—then and now—and places the structures into a meaningful cultural context with the music, art, literature, and motion pictures that these tunnels, engineering marvels of their day, have inspired over the years.

Angus Kress Gillespie, Ph.D.
Professor of American Studies, Rutgers University

Speaker requests that a microphone be made available. Program only available in Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Somerset, and Union counties.

Fiddle and Tradition in America: A History and Demonstration

Until the early twentieth century, the fiddle was the centerpiece of American folk music and folk culture. Since then it has been the focus of a musical preservation impulse and a search for authentic folk expression, often referred to as “traditional” music. This presentation explores the dynamic role of fiddle music in American life from the eighteenth century to the present.

Historian and working musician Matthew Backes discusses the origins, styles, and interrelated histories of a range of fiddle traditions while providing demonstration of technique and repertoire. The presentation begins as an interactive introduction to the fiddle and ends by raising big questions about the meaning of tradition itself and the place of music in the making, recording, and understanding of cultural change.

Matthew Backes, Ph.D.

Baseball Parks and American Landscapes

Why do people have such strong feelings about the places where they have played and watched baseball – places that range from city streets to rural lots, from Little League Fields to multi-million dollar stadiums? Why is the baseball park such an important part of cities and towns across America? Part of the answer lies in the way baseball is embedded in American culture and history, and part lies in the way people become emotionally attached to the landscapes and cityscapes they share with their families and friends. Stanton Green’s photographic tour of baseball parks examines the complex relationship between baseball as a key aspect of American culture and the places and landscapes in which it is played. The host organization must profide a DVD player and a projector for this presentation.

Stanton W. Green, Ph.D.
Professor of Anthropology, Monmouth University

Becoming American: Baseball’s place in the Assimilation of Immigrants

During the early twentieth century a series of immigrant groups largely from Europe found their place in America through baseball. On the streets of the lower east side first generation Americans played stickball while their parents spoke their native languages in the adjoining tenement buildings. In the ballparks, fans cheered for their countrymen – Italians, Jews, Irish, Polish players – who excelled on the field. And the tradition continues into the twenty-first century as American baseball becomes increasingly international through the recruitment of Latin American and Asian ballplayers. This multimedia presentation explores the intriguing role that baseball has played in assimilating the waves of immigrants to the U.S. The host organization must provide a DVD player and a projector for this presentation.

Stanton W. Green, Ph.D.
Professor of Anthropology, Monmouth University

Popular Culture: Or Why Study “Trash?”

A look at how popular culture illuminates the American character, examined through the books people really read and the films we really see. If we are what we eat, we are surely what we choose to read and view. Also, today’s popular culture is often tomorrow’s celebrated or elite culture. Shakespeare and Mozart were the popular entertainers of their day. Jazz was once a four-letter word in more ways than one.

Michael Aaron Rockland, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of American Studies, Rutgers University

Program generally available in Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties; other counties are available with speaker’s consideration. Este programa está disponible en español.

What’s American About American Things?

A look at American artifacts and cultural productions of all kinds to see what is American about them. An examination of everything from American landscape painting to modern dance to the Constitution to soap operas and comic strips to jeans to fast food to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn to rock and roll and rap and the surprising discovery of what these disparate “things” share.

Michael Aaron Rockland, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of American Studies, Rutgers University

Program generally available in Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties; other counties are available with speaker’s consideration. Este programa está disponible en español.

Growing Up in the 1950s: The Hopes and Frustrations of a Prosperous Age

This presentation focuses on the conflicting currents of the 1950s. The prosperity of the age led many people to believe they could create a stable family life similar to the ones depicted in TV shows such as Ozzie and Harriett and in the Fun With Dick and Jane books they read in school. Good jobs, inexpensive suburban homes, affordable cars, food and entertainment, plus the middle class “acceptance” of assigned roles for men, women, and children reinforced the hopes of a generation. However, the Cold War, the exclusion of African-Americans, the women’s movement, rock and roll and the “discovery” of sex created a strong counter current to mainstream culture.

Philip C. Dolce, Ph.D.
Chair of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department, Professor of History at Bergen Community College

Program available in Bergen county. This program requires a computer projector.

Ethnicity in America

An examination of how various ethnic groups struggle to become American while simultaneously maintaining their identity and integrity. How the “melting pot” as a metaphor describing American life has been replaced by the “salad bowl” or “the mosaic.” A look at the extraordinary diversity of the country that has sometimes been called “the United Nations in miniature.”

Michael Aaron Rockland, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of American Studies, Rutgers University

Program generally available in Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren counties; other counties are available with speaker’s consideration. Este programa está disponible en español.

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