The Age of Irony: U.S. History in the 20th Century

Fall 2018
Winter 2019
Spring 2019
Class Size: 34
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

Susan Preciso
English literature
Sara Ryan
labor studies/history, industrial relations

Irony describes the emotion, whatever it is, occasioned by perceiving some great gulf, half-comic, half-tragic, between what one expects and what one finds . — Paul Fussell, My War: How I got irony in the infantry

We will frame this study of 20th Century American history, literature, and culture by looking at the ways that the U.S. emerged as a global power and the social movements that shaped the nation at home. The whole century presented a “great gulf” between what Americans expected at the beginning of the century and the reality that we found by century's end. Building on our fall quarter study of WWI and progressivism, we will focus in winter on WWII and the civil rights movement, examining the ways that this conflict and the struggle for civil rights that followed it shaped American life and thought, especially the development of our sense of irony as reflected in politics and culture. During spring quarter, we will explore this history of the Vietnam War Second Wave Feminism. The historical context will inform our understanding of American cultural artifacts, including novels, poetry, and films.  

We will think historically about a variety of topics and learn to do history by practicing historical research, analysis, and interpretation, culminating in students' own projects. Students will write articles based on their research and will publish them in a program web-zine. 

All students will participate in an online, real time, text based seminar each week. The online component will require approximately 4 hrs of work each week.

Our reading will include, among many other texts, Paul Fussell’s Wartime , Akira Iriye’s The Globalizing of America, 1913–1945, Ronald Takaki’s Double Victory, bell hooks’ Feminist Theory: from Margin toCenter, and classic ironic American literature.

This is an all-level program, ideal for returning and transfer students, especially those pursuing the Upside Down program. It is a broad liberal arts program designed for students who want to improve their historical knowledge, research skills, and (multi)cultural literacy.

Anticipated credit equivalencies include American history, American literature, cultural studies, and research and writing.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

teaching, public policy and administration, and advanced studies in humanities.


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Hybrid Online Learning - This offering delivers 25 - 49% of its instruction online, rather than via face-to-face contact between you and your instructors.

$15 fee per quarter for entrance fees.

Class Standing: Freshman–Senior
Class Size: 34

Scheduled for: Evening

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Wednesday, April 3, 2019 - 6:00 pm
SEM 2 D2105 - Workshop

Advertised schedule:

Wednesdays, 6-9:30 and five Saturdays per quarter, 10a-5p, plus 4 hours online weekly. Fall quarter Saturdays: October 6, Oct 20, November 3, November 17, and December 1

Located in: Olympia

2018-11-19Description Updated