This seminar aims at analyzing aspects of American mainstream culture from the 1930s to the contemporary period. By studying widely popular works, we will try to understand what the “mainstream” is, how it can be theoretically situated with respect to terms and concepts like mass culture, popular culture, highbrow and lowbrow, while also raising issues such as the crafting of “standards” for mainstream culture, the “cooptation” of counter-cultures into the mainstream, and the blurring of boundaries between “elite” and “popular” culture. We will also address the issue of the globalization of the American mainstream and the use of culture as a “soft power” tool.

Learning Objectives


As a result of this course, you will:

·      Learn about major landmarks in the history of American cultural industries

·      Be introduced to notions from the field cultural studies

·      Analyze cultural productions from a variety of genres and times

·      Think globally about the issue of culture and its political use

·      Be encouraged to use theoretical and analytical tools from various disciplines in order to apprehend the works we will be studying



Evaluation will be based on participation throughout the semester, short oral presentations of the texts and a diary of your cultural practices.




Week 1

Introduction: Culture in America


Week 2

When Style Becomes Substance: Classical Hollywood

OP: Cultural industries


Week 3

Counter Culture and the Mainstream

OP: Counter Culture


Week 4

Mainstream and Hegemony: the Case of Disney

OP: Hegemony


Week 5

Is the Whole World American? The Globalized Mainstream

OP: Soft Power

Week 6

The Mainstream and Its Audiences

OP: Cultural Capital