USC Catalogue

The interdisciplinary major in American Popular Culture helps students to assess from a variety of perspectives the icons and ideas they encounter every day, to think critically about the images and assertions of the mass media and commercial culture, and to see the experience of popular culture as it interacts with questions of gender and ethnicity in the American context. Students choose five classes, including one upper-division elective, from a curriculum organized to explore: critical approaches to popular culture; gender and ethnicity in American popular culture; and popular culture in the arts. Thirty six are required, four at the lower-division and 32 at the upper-division level.


Lower-Division Requirements

Choose one course (4 units)


AMST 205 Introduction to American Popular Culture, Units: 4

AMST 206m The Politics and Culture of the 1960s, Units: 4

AMST 285gm African American Popular Culture, Units: 4


Upper-Division Requirements

Choose four courses (16 units), at least one from each of the groups below.


Critical Approaches to Popular Culture: choose at least one:


AMST 301gp America, the Frontier, and the New West, Units: 4

COLT 365 Literature and Popular Culture, Units: 4

COMM 384 Interpreting Popular Culture, Units: 4

ENGL 392 Visual and Popular Culture, Units: 4

HIST 380 American Popular Culture, Units: 4


Gender and Ethnicity in American Popular Culture: choose at least one:


AMST 357m Latino Social Movements, Units: 4

AMST 365 Leadership in the Community — Internship, Units: 4

AMST 385 African American Culture and Society, Units: 4

AMST 395m African American Humor and Culture, Units: 4

AMST 448m Chicano and Latino Literature, Units: 4

AMST 449m Asian American Literature, Units: 4

ENGL 343m Images of Women in Contemporary Culture, Units: 4


Popular Culture in the Arts: choose at least one:


AHIS 363m Contemporary Art and the Culture Wars, Units: 4

AHIS 370g Modern Art III: 1940 to the Present, Units: 4

CTCS 392 History of the American Film, 1925–1950, Units: 4

CTCS 393 Postwar Hollywood, 1946-1962, Units: 4

CTCS 394 History of the American Film, 1977–present, Units: 4

ENGL 371 Literary Genres and Film, Units: 4

ENGL 375 Science Fiction, Units: 4

ENGL 381 Narrative Forms in Literature and Film, Units: 4

HIST 481 Producing Film Histories, Units: 4

MUJZ 419m The Jazz Experience: Myths and Culture, Units: 4

MUSC 422 The Beatles: Their Music and Their Times, Units: 4

Electives (16 units)

Choose four additional courses from the lists above or below. One must be an upper-division course in a department you have not already chosen for the major.

Additional Electives for American Popular Culture Major:

AHIS 100g Introduction to Visual Culture (4, Sp) The description and analysis of various forms of visual culture, including both mass media and “high” art representations, both Western and non-Western images.

AHIS 250m Modernity and Difference: Critical Approaches to Modern Art (4, Fa) Consideration of various categories of “The Modern” as they have been constructed in Western art of the late 19th and 20th centuries.

AHIS 255g Culture Wars: Art and Social Conflict in the Modern World (4, FaSp) Examination of social conflicts and political controversies in American culture through the lens of visual art and photography.

AHIS 270 L.A. Now: Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (4) Explores the production, display and critical reception of contemporary art, taking Los Angeles as its laboratory.

AHIS 364 Myths, Arts, Realities: Visual ­Culture in California, 1849 to the Present (4) Diverse interpretations of “the California experience and lifestyle” in paintings, sculpture, photography, cinema, public art and popular culture of the last 150 years.

AHIS 365m African American Art (4) A survey of the fine arts produced by people of African descent in the United States from the nation’s inception in the late 18th century until the contemporary movement.

AHIS 370 Modern Art III: 1940 to the Present (4, Sp) Questions of social engagement and political structure address this examination of major movements in art since 1940.

ANTH 240gm Representing 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina (4, FaSp) Critically examines visual, textual, and per­formative representations of culture and identity, with the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina serving as topical anchors. Recommended preparation: ANTH 263.

ANTH 263g Exploring Culture through Film (4, FaSpSm) Concepts of social anthropology using filmic representations of societies throughout the world in contrast to written ethnography.

ANTH 380 Sex and Gender in Anthropological Perspective (4) Cultural construction of gender in a number of non-Western societies is compared to ideas of sex and sexual differences in American society.

ANTH 470 Multidisciplinary Seminar in Visual An­thro­pology (2 or 4, Irregular) Application of broad­cast journalism, cinema, and anthropology to ethnographic film making.

COMM 206 Communication and Culture (4, FaSpSm) Examines cultural institutions, ideologies, artifacts, and productions; role of culture in everyday life; cultural studies as methodology; culture and power.

COMM 307 Sound Clash: Popular Music and American Culture (4) Music as inter-cultural communication and method for exploring race and ethnicity in the constitution of American culture and American self; role of music industry.

COMM 310 Media and Society (4) Interplay between media and society, including family and children’s socialization, inter-group relations and community, pornography and violence, gender and race, media ethics, conduct of politics.

COMM 312 The Business and Culture of Celebrity (4) Employs the concept of “celebrity” as an optic through which to view and assess some of the key aspects of the communication revolution. 

COMM 360 The Rhetoric of Los Angeles (4) Representations of Los Angeles communicated in diverse media; the city as a rhetorical text; analysis of cultural identities, art, architecture, and representations in popular culture.

COMM 366 Designing Media and Communication Projects for Social Change (4, FaSpSm) Students explore the theoretical and practical issues involved in designing effective media and communication

COMM 371 Censorship and the Law: From the Press to Cyberspace (4) The study of current and historical battles over the limits of free expression from press and public parks to television, movies, music and cyberspace. (Duplicates credit in former JOUR 371.)

COMM 384 Interpreting Popular Culture (4) Popular culture as an indicator of cultural values, a producer and reflection of cultural meaning, and a means of communication; theory and case studies.

COMM 396 Fashion, Media and Culture (4) Fashion as a form of communication and culture; fashion’s role in identity, body politics, art, nationhood, celebrity and Hollywood culture, youth cultures and subversive practices.

COMM 413 Propaganda, Ideology and Public Controversy (4) Seminar examining the relationship between propaganda, ideology, critical thinking and rhetoric; application to contemporary controversies, both domestic and global; role of public argument. (Duplicates credit in COMM 370.)

COMM 415m African American Rhetoric and Image (4) Interactive course addresses how people of color use symbols to construct identities and communities and disrupt networks through media, politics, entertainment and technology. Recommended preparation: COMM 201.

COMM 426 Religion, Media and Hollywood: Faith in TV (4) How religion, ethics and spirituality are embedded, embodied and emplotted in television drama; how secular texts represent “lived religion” to increasingly diverse audiences.

COMM 432 American Media and Entertainment Industries (4) Examines the history, technology, regulations and business practices of American broadcast and entertainment industries.

COMM 456 Entertainment, Marketing and Culture (4) Explores blurring of entertainment, marketing and culture in advanced information economies; intersections of culture and media and their social ramifications.

COMM 458m Race and Ethnicity in Entertainment and the Arts (4, FaSpSm) Examines how race and ethnicity as social categories are shaped by communication media; focuses on how race and ethnicity sustain entertainment and media industries. Prerequisite: COMM 206.

COMM 465 Gender in Media Industries and Products (4) Examination of the effect of gender stratification in media industries upon the cultural products they create, especially gender and gender/race role portrayals.

CRIT 371 Art in the Public Realm: Contemporary Issues (4, FaSpSm) Critical frameworks and theoretical perspectives of contemporary public art issues explored through case studies and discussions with artists, architects, and designers engaging the public realm. (Duplicates credit in former PAS 371.)

CTCS 192gm Race, Class, and Gender in American Film (4, Sp) Analyzes issues of race, class and gender in contemporary American culture as represented in the cinema.

CTCS 403 Studies in National and Regional Media (4, max 8, FaSp) Detailed investigation of traditions, achievements, and trends of film and/or electronic media in a particular country or region.

CTCS 404 Television Criticism and Theory (4, Sp) The evaluation of television programs and their reception from various theoretical perspectives which may include cultural studies, race and ethnic studies, psychoanalysis, gender and queer studies, and semiotics.

CTCS 406 History of American Television (4, Fa) History of television as an entertainment, information, and art medium. Emphasis on programming and institutional history, including issues of regulation, censorship, aesthetics and activism.

CTCS 407 African American Cinema (4, Irregular) Intensive survey of African American cinema; topics include history, criticism, politics, and cinema’s relationship to other artifacts of African American culture.

CTCS 408 Contemporary Political Film and Video (4) Examination of a variety of politically engaged films and videotapes recently produced in the U.S. and abroad, with particular emphasis on aesthetic strategies.

CTCS 409 Censorship in Cinema (4, Fa) An inquiry into the practice and patterns of censorship in cinema.

CTCS 411 Film, Television and Cultural Studies (4, max 8, FaSp) Detailed examination of film/television from the perspectives and insights of Cultural Studies; focus on the production and reception of cultural texts, practices, and communities.

CTCS 412 Gender, Sexuality and Media (4, max 8, FaSpSm) Examines how gender and sexuality are figured in cinema and television with an emphasis on the development of feminist media theory. 

CTCS 414 Latina/o Screen Cultures (4, FaSpSm) Examination of Latino/a moving image production including film, video, and digital media in the context of the politics of race, class, gender, sexuality, and international relations.

CTCS 462 Critical Theory and Analysis of Games (4, FaSp)

CTCS 478 Culture, Technology and Communications (4, FaSp) Cultural study of communications technology and its relationship to society. Evaluation of the social and cultural impact of technologies from the telegraph to the Internet.

DANC 212g Dance in Popular Culture (4, FaSpSm) Examination of the role of dance in popular culture in a studio setting. Practical studies in styles and their evolution in recreational and professional settings.

DANC 302g Hip Hop Don’t Stop: Exploring Black Vernacular Dance (4, max 8, FaSp)Introduction to the history and practice of Urban Folk Dance including hip hop, freestyle, street dance and the relevant social dances of the 20th century. (Duplicates credit in former DANC 402.)

ENGL 341 Women in English Literature before 1800 (4) English poetry, plays, novels, and discursive prose by and about women from 1375 to 1800. (Duplicates Credit in former ENGL 469)

ENGL 342 Women in English and American Literature after 1800 (4) Women as writers and as subjects, with special emphasis on feminist and liberationist traditions and on changing female images after 1800. (Satisfies New General Education in Category B: Humanistic Inquiry. Duplicates Credit in former ENGL 470)

JOUR 467 Gender and the News Media (4) Gender and news media evolving images of women and men in print and electronic media. Impact of gender in content and style of news, television and cinema. Open to non-majors.

LING 375 Sociolinguistics (4) Linguistic and cultural pluralism in the U.S.; distributional and structural characteristics of selected urban and minority dialects; the relationship between dialects and “media standard.” Prerequisite: LING 210.

SOCI 342m Race Relations (4, FaSp) Past and present relations between the White majority and the “conquered minorities” (Blacks, Chicanos, American Indians), as well as Asian immigrants; conflict vs. assimilation perspectives.

SOCI 410 The Sociology of Popular Culture (4) From the entertainment capital of the world, course surveys sociological research on artistic producers and critical theories of the connections between popular culture and society.

THTR 295 Theatre in Los Angeles (2, max 8, FaSp) Current state of American theatre, through a study of acting, playwriting, criticism, stage design, lighting, and dramatic styles.

THTR 488mw Theatre in the Community (4, Fa) Research and actively develop the theory of theatre as a moving political, social, economic and spiritual force of change within the local community.

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Department of American Studies & Ethnicity

Located in Kaprielian Hall on the University Park campus, ASE faculty, graduate students, and staff are available to assist you with information and resources about our academic programs and research specialties.


University of Southern California

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Kaprielian Hall 462

Los Angeles, California 90089-2534