History | A Century of Dissent: American Radicalism from the 1860s to the 1960s
A379 | 14096 | D. Abnet


In this course, we will explore the role of dissent in American
society and culture from the Civil War through the conflicts of the
1960s. Bookended by two periods in which people believed the nation
was coming apart, the course looks at how dissent and radicalism
have been important in defining the limits and possibilities of the
American nation. We will examine this topic by focusing on two
related aspects of radicalism. First, we will examine how movements
and individuals typically associated with radicalism in American
history—particularly right-wing, feminist, utopian, Marxist, and
abolition/civil rights groups—influenced the development of the
United States. Here we will explore who joined these groups, why
they did so, what they believed, what cultures they created, how and
why they succeeded or failed, and how they related to other
Americans and the rest of the world. Second, we will look at the
broader meanings of radicalism within American culture. Here we will
try to understand the relationship between radicalism and American
nationalism and the place of radicalism within American popular and
political culture. Ultimately, by analyzing films, speeches,
literature, music, and a variety of other kinds of sources in
lectures and discussions, we will try to understand why and how so
called radicals challenged conventions of American life.

In addition to helping students gain a better understanding of key
themes in American history, this course hopes to assist students in
the development of their analytical, writing, and critical thinking
skills. Course work is designed to increase students’ abilities to
think historically, read, watch, and listen critically, analyze a
wide variety of historical evidence, and process and explain their
thoughts, both in writing and speech, in a sophisticated but concise
manner.