American Consumer Culture

Jan 2017

Professor Jacobs is a wonderful professor. She's highly engaging and encourages students to engage with the material in a way that both sharpens our historical skills and encourages connections and analysis with other parts of history, especially our present. Her seminars were focused around helping us develop the skills and timeline needed to write a 15 page research paper. She takes this seriously. She will help you every step of the way and give structured assignments to take you through formulating a topic, researching and assembling a corpus of material, and finally writing. She gives feedback at every step and is willing to help you at her office hours constantly. This also ties into how the readings are structured to help you with your historical skills, particularly argumentation, as she'll mention frequently that your job in writing the research paper is to present an argument with evidence, just as the authors you read in class do. She ran the seminar incredibly well, incorporating our weekly work in with the readings, and often brought in cookies or other treats for class. Readings for Consumer Culture included two novels, a book on fast food, a book on Wal-Mart and a book about the baby boom. Readings for Nuclear Age included a book about the baby boom, detente, African American movements, the oil crisis, the Iran hostage crisis and the origins of environmentalism. Both classes involved readings, primary sources and a short, two page analysis (weekly), a 5 page primary source journal (where you summarize your sources) and a 15 page research paper (which, as I've written, she helps you with extensively). The lecture class was a very standard lecture, focusing more on the material than on developing your own history paper. The topic was fairly narrow -- the Roaring 20s, the Depression years and World War II, and then a bit of the post-War period. The years covered are about 1920 to about 1950, covering primarily the presidencies of Roosevelt and Truman, with special attention paid to the government and responses to the government, as well as issues of class, consumption, labor, race and gender. Her lectures were engaging and interesting, and covered a lot in very little time. Very little was said about military history or about the battles of World War II. Readings focused on the economic crash in 1929, people's responses to Roosevelt, demagogues like Huey Long and Francis Townsend, the impact of World War II on the home front and on veterans, as well as primary sources outlining government policy and response during the Roosevelt years. Discussion section focused on improving our understanding of the reading alongside material from the lectures. Assignments included only two exams (term and passage IDs, as well as one essay, the prompts she gives in advance) and a short five-page paper based on newspaper research (which should be easy for anyone who has written any type of history paper based on primary work). As a professor, Professor Jacobs is truly a gem and not to be missed. Her classes are interesting and timely, and her passion for teaching is obvious and welcomed. She'll also learn your name on the first go (seriously, only one introduction needed)! I wholeheartedly recommend professor Jacobs if you have any interest at all in the topics she's teaching.