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Powerful Impressions: Culture and Politics in the Post-1945 United States - HIS00149I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Edd Mair
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

Over the past eighty years the United States has become both an unparalleled hegemon in economic and military terms, and a global popular culture powerhouse. In this module we will take a cultural approach to study power relations defining the post-1945 United States. We will study cutting edge historiography on topics ranging from how did suburbanization manifest white supremacy, though the policing of the family unit under patriarchy, the struggle for racial equality and the backlashes against it, the reasons for the U.S.’s many violent interventions abroad, and the long historical roots leading to the 2021 attack on the Capitol. Our approach will allow us not only to consider complex historical processes (‘what happened’), but also to examine primary sources in a range of media (films, songs, reportage, cartoons and prose), in order to interrogate how representations and perceptions shaped, reflected, and challenged power relations. From advertisements targeting suburban housewives, through military cartoons targeting the reluctant conscript, from the subversive impulses of New Hollywood films, to the televised efforts to make Americans embrace neoliberalism, with many other stops on the way to the Presidential Twitter account - we will develop new methodologies to assess the relationship between culture and power.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide students with the opportunity to study particular historical topics in depth
  • To develop students’ ability to examine a topic from a range of perspectives and to strengthen their ability to work critically and reflectively with secondary and primary material

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have acquired a deep knowledge of the specific topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to use and synthesise a range of primary and secondary sources
  • Be able to evaluate the arguments that historians have made about the topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to study independently through seminar-based teaching

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 1-hour plenary/lecture and a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW) during which there are no seminars. Students prepare for and participate in eight 1-hour plenaries/lectures and eight 2-hour seminars in all.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. Demobilisation and Reconversion at the root of the American Century
  2. Fear and Loathing in the Age of Plenty
  3. Race and the Fight Against Segregation
  4. The Vietnam War and its Legacies
  5. Feminism and Sexual Liberation
  6. Reagan and the Triangulation of American Politics
  7. 9/11 and the Never Ending War
  8. Minority Rule and the Crisis of American Democracy


Task Length % of module mark
Assessed Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students will complete a referenced 1200 to 1500-word essay relating to the themes and issues of the module. This will be submitted in either the Week 5 or Week 9 RAW week (on the day of the weekly seminar).

For summative assessment, students will complete an Assessed Essay (2000 words, footnoted). This will comprise 100% of the overall module mark.

Summative assessments will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Assessed Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • Gilmore, Glenda and Sugrue, Thomas J. These United States: A Nation in the Making, 1890 to the Present. New York: W.W. Norton, 2015.
  • de Grazia, Victoria. Irresistible Empire: America’s Advance through 20th Century Europe. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2005.
  • Tyler-May, Elaine. Fortress America: How We Embraced Fear and Abandoned Democracy. New York: Basic Books, 2017.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.