Us History College Syllabus Assignments

US Popular Music: A Cultural History


This course examines the historical significance of popular music in the United States from the late nineteenth century to the present. No formal musical training is necessary to enroll in the course. We will think about how to analyze musical sound as "text." More crucially, we will focus on the cultural, social, political, and economic dimensions (the "context") of genres ranging from Tin Pan Alley to blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, country, folk, soul, rock, disco, hip-hop, and classical. Readings include a textbook and selected primary and secondary documents. A listening mix accompanies the textbook and there will be a number of video viewing assignments as well. There will be three short essays in the course and one final paper. Each assignment asks students to develop a clear, compelling, and precise evidence-based argument to explore the relationship between musical sounds and their broader cultural significance.


Dr. Michael J. Kramer

History and American Studies

Office hours: Tuesday, 2-3pm, Harris Hall 212. 

Teaching Assistant:

Valeria Almendarez-Jiménez

Office hours: Tuesday/Thursday, 2-3pm, Crowe Café.


  • Larry Starr and Christopher Waterman, American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MP3, 4th edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). ISBN: 9780199859115. **Note: be sure to purchase the proper edition and to save the code to download the MP3 audio files from the Oxford University Press website. The MP3 files will also be available over blackboard, accessible on your own computer or any NU computer on campus through**
  • David Brackett, The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader, 3rd edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013). ISBN: 9780199811700. **Note: be sure to purchase the proper edition.**
  • Additional readings, viewings, listenings on Blackboard,


Attendance: Students are expected to attend all lectures and discussion sections. If a student misses more than three meetings, the instructor reserves the right to issue a failing grade.

Reading: This course features roughly 100-150 pages of reading a week in a textbook and additional readings.

Listening/Viewing: Multimedia is an essential part of this course for obvious reasons. Be sure to complete the listening and viewing assignments as well as your readings. In a course on popular music, it would be a shame to privilege reading over other modes of communication, expression, argument, and experience!

Assignments: Students must complete all assignments to pass the course. These are designed to be fun, but they are also demanding—and perhaps for some, frustrating. Please be aware that historical analysis and musical analysis are not a science in the strict sense of the term. There is no purely objective, machine-like way to develop interpretation within the traditions of historical or musical meaning-making. This means there is not some perfectly standardized way to evaluate your work. There is, however, a craft to this mode of thinking, writing, and reasoning. It is that craft that we will use evaluations to help you access, participate in, and improve your abilities. Your task is to develop effective and compelling evidence-based arguments informed by historical awareness and thinking. These will often work by applying your judgment and assessment to consider how things connect or contrast to each other: how do different or similar songs, performers, genres, historical moments, geographic locations, etc., relate to each other? And most importantly, why?

Rather than test the breadth of your absorption of course materials, the assignments test your ability to wield knowledge of US popular music in order to mount effective and compelling evidence-based arguments. If this mode of evaluation is not to your tastes, I recommend that you do not take the course.

Your assignments must be well written in order to communicate a convincing, compelling, and precise argument that is driven by our description and analysis of meaning in materials drawn from the course (and other sources if needed). We evaluate assignments based on the following rubric: (1) presence of an articulated argument, (2) presence of evidence, (3) compelling and precise connection of evidence to argument by comparing and contrasting details and their significance, and (4) logical flow and grace of prose: an effective opening introduction; the presence of clear topic sentences; the presence of effective transitions from one part of the assignment to the next; a compelling conclusion.

If you have any questions about evaluation in the course geared at helping you access and develop the craft of historical and musical analysis, please speak with the instructor or teaching assistants to discuss further.

History Department Writing Center: The History Department Writing Center is available for students working on your assignments. It is not merely for students having difficulty with their writing (we all have difficulty with our writing for it is difficult to write well). It is for students at any level or stage of the writing process: reading evidence, "brainstorming," generating an argument, connecting argument to evidence, structuring paragraphs and transitions, and improving style and tone. Wen-Qing Ngoie is the History Department Writing Center coordinator. Her office hours are at the Library Cafe (mezz. level) on Mondays and Tuesdays from 11am to 2pm, or by appointment. Students wishing to contact Wen-Qing should email

Academic Integrity: All Weinberg College and Northwestern policies concerning plagiarism and academic dishonesty are strictly enforced in this course. The instructor also reserves the right to assign a failing grade for the course if a student is found to have violated college or university policy concerning academic integrity. See for more details.

Special Needs: Students with special needs and disabilities that have been declared and documented through the Northwestern Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) should meet with the instructor to discuss any specific accommodations. For further information, see the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) website:


Class and discussion section attendance and participation: 40%.

Assignment 1: 10%

Assignment 2: 15%

Assignment 3: 15%

Final: 20%

The syllabus page shows a table-oriented view of the course schedule, and the basics of course grading. You can add any other comments, notes, or thoughts you have about the course structure, course policies or anything else.

To add some comments, click the "Edit" link at the top.

Course Summary:

Download a PDF of this syllabus

Dr. Connolly – PNW – “Reacting to the Past” via Outlook or Blackboard
Class: Tuesdays & Thursdays 9:30-10:45 A.M.
Office Hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays 12:30-1:45 P.M., Wednesdays 10 A.M.- 12 P.M. or by appointment
Office: Schwarz 208


This class introduces students to American history between the Colonial Era and the Civil War using an innovative role-playing method called “Reacting to the Past.” RTTP not only introduces students to historical eras and their sources, it allows students to understand those eras by replicating their context and “playing” historically accurate roles. This is unlike any history classes you have taken previously, so to familiarize yourself with RTTP please read the essay “Reacting to the Past: Pedagogical Introduction” posted on the class Blackboard site.

Our RTTP class will play three games:

  1. American Founding: The Constitutional Convention of 1787 (Aug-Sept)
  2. The Trial of Anne Hutchinson: Liberty, Law, and Intolerance in Puritan New England (Sept-Oct)
  3. Kentucky 1861: A Nation in the Balance (Nov-Dec)

Class Objectives:

  • Explain the development of American institutions prior to 1877.
  • Explain the development of the American economy and its effect on the development of the United States prior to 1877.
  • Understand the social or cultural implications of events during the major periods of change in the U.S. prior to Reconstruction.
  • Understand the complexity of historical knowledge and identify various historiographical points of view.
  • Analyze events, actions, and ideas for historical significance.
  • Construct accurate and effective historical arguments.


  • Tindal and Shi, America. Volume One/ 13th Edition (New York, 2014).
  • Carnes and Winship, The Trial of Anne Hutchinson: Liberty, Law, and Intolerance in Puritan New England. (New York, 2013)

These books are available at the bookstore or through online vendors. Materials for the Constitution and Kentucky games are supplied by the professor on the class Blackboard site.

Students are encouraged to conduct additional research on these topics to boost their class performance and improve their ability to defend/explain their position and succeed in debate. While the Internet offers tremendous resources, not all of it is reliable. Students should check with the professor if they are unsure of a source’s reliability. The PNW Library is the best place to look for resources.

Assignments and Grading: In each game, there will be approximately 10 pages of writing. The nature of your writing assignments depends on the role you play in the games. These writing assignments comprise 2/3 of your grade for each game. Pay attention to the appendix attached at the end of “Introduction to Reacting” (on the Blackboard site), as it will give you important pointers for effective writing on these assignments. Content, grammar, and organization will all be considered in computing grades.

You will post all your written assignments, save the role assessment at the games’ conclusion, to the discussion board and the appropriate forum. This gives your allies (and enemies) a chance to read your ideas and either support or rebut them. In addition, you will submit all your work to the professor via Blackboard – each game will have assignment portals under the “Learning Materials” tab through which you can submit material. All assignments will be run through SafeAssign to guard against plagiarism.

You – or rather, your game persona – will be speaking in class all the time – speeches your character must give on an assigned date and topic, and expressions of support or cross examination when others are speaking. Your class participation will comprise 1/3 of your grade for each game. Those characters who win the game and/or fulfill a majority of victory objectives described in your roles – will receive a grading bonus on your class participation of ½ a grade – ie. you’ll get bumped up from a B- to a B, or a A- to an A. Do not read your papers aloud as a substitute for participating – I will note a grade penalty.

There is no midterm or final for this class, only papers and participation.

  • A (90-100) – outstanding student achievement, far above average university- level work in meeting course requirements
  • B (80-89) – above-average student achievement at the university-level in meeting course requirements
  • C (70-79) – average university-level achievement that meets course requirements
  • D (60-69) – below-average student achievement, that barely meets course requirements
  • F (59 and under) – failure of the course requirements, which means that course work was poor and not worthy of credit or was not completed at all

Odds and Ends:

Academic dishonesty in any class assignment will result in an F for the entire course.

Students must quickly familiarize themselves with the Blackboard system and how it applies to this class. This class uses Blackboard to communicate with the entire class and with each student separately, to provide the class syllabus and course materials, to allow students access to their grades, and to facilitate discussion (via the “discussion board”) of class topics.

Students MUST use Blackboard and their PNW email accounts – this is the only reliable way the professor can contact students and communicate class information. All assignments will be submitted via Blackboard.

Students give themselves grades by the work they complete in class – professors do not “give out” grades. There will be no grade inflation or changing of grades upon the appeal of students who “need” certain grades. Students receive what they earn by their work.

Beverages are allowed in class, but no meals. Eat your lunch and dinner elsewhere.

If students with a disability need accommodation, please contact the professor to make arrangements.

The syllabus is a tentative class schedule. It may be changed at the professor’s discretion.

Class DateClass topicAssignments due that day
August 25Introduction to “Reacting to the Past” method & America in the 1780s
August 27American Political Theory – Distribution of rolesRead: Tindall & Shi Chapter 6
Read: America’s Founding
Gamebook (Blackboard)
pgs. 7-33, 50-144
Quiz at beginning of class to award tie breaker vote
September 1Washington’s Welcome & Election of Pro Tempore and Secretary – Presentation of Virginia Plan, beginning with Resolution #3
September 3Debate on Virginia Plan continuedPapers accepted
September 8Presentation and Debate on New Jersey PlanPapers accepted
Debate on New Jersey Plan continuedPapers accepted
Debate on New IssuesPapers accepted
Debate on New Issues &  Election of Committee on Style and ArrangementPapers accepted
Final Vote & Post Mortem2-­3 page assessment of the student’s success
Settling of New EnglandRead: Tindall & Shi Chapter 2
Read: Trial of Anne Hutchinson pgs. 1-­66
Puritanism and New England religion & Assignment of RolesRead Trial of Anne Hutchinson, pgs. 67-­107
October 1Faction MeetingsStart thinking about Paper One
October 6Church: Pastor’s Sermon & First Presentation of Immigrant Petitions Court: Winthrop Statement & First Hutchinson StatementsPost first papers
October 8Church: Immigrant Petitions & Hutchinsonian Reply to Pastor’s Sermon (if they choose)
Court: Winthropians’ Reply & Hutchinsonians’ Reply
Post first papers
October 13NO CLASS
October 15Church: Immigrant Petitions/reptitions & Hutchinson Statements
Court: Winthropians reply, Hutchinsoninans reply
Last call for first papers
Start thinking about Paper Two
October 20Church: Last minute petitions
Court: Winthropians & Hutchinsonians debate
Post second papers
October 22Court: Winthropians & Hutchinsoninans debatePost second papers
October 27Court: Final Presentations of Winthropians & Hutchinsonians
Sermon by John Cotton
Court Decision
Post second papers
October 29Post MortemCotton’s Sermon due
November 3Texas, Mexico, and the Growth of Sectionalism
Assignment of Roles
The Center Falls Apart: America in the 1850sRead: Tindall and Shi
Chapter 15
Read: Kentucky Gamebook pgs. 4-­65
Explanation of Format, Regional Caucuses meet, & Election of a Speaker
Speaker administers oath to legislators
Assigned Speakers
Debate: What is the future of slavery in Kentucky?
Read: Kentucky Gamebook pgs. 66-­199
Debate – May Kentucky secede? Is it constitutional?
Assigned Speakers
Speeches and Newspapers accepted
Debate – Conditional Unionism – do we approve the Crittenden Amendments?
Mandatory Votes
Speeches and Newspapers accepted
December 1Debate – To arms! Lincoln and Davis’s Addresses & the intent of the Lincoln and Davis Governments
Assigned Speakers
Speeches and Newspapers accepted
December 3Debate – Does Ft. Sumter change things? Coercion and the possibility of Neutrality
Mandatory Votes
Speeches and Newspapers accepted
December 8Debate – Shall Kentucky secede?
Mandatory Votes
Speeches and Newspapers accepted
Post Mortem2-­3 page assessment of the student’s success in the game due by time of final exam

Filed Under: Dual Credit, Faculty, North Central

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