FT 012-D The Automobile and American Culture
Preston Bost, Department of Psychology
In September 1893 brothers Charles and Frank Duryea tested what was to become America’s first commercially produced gasoline-powered automobile, the Duryea Motor Wagon. The Motor Wagon was not fast, or agile, or commercially successful, but the Duryea brothers understood that much bigger achievements were just over the horizon. Within ten years, over 100 companies were producing automobiles, racing competitions were popular events, and the era of the horse-drawn carriage was effectively over. Now over one hundred years later, Americans’ infatuation with the automobile is as intense as ever; this course is about how nearly every facet of daily life—work, relationships, finances, and popular culture, to name a few—is shaped by our collective relationship with cars. Over the course of the semester, we will look at the automobile from a wide variety of angles. How are cars designed, produced, marketed, and consumed? What effect has the automobile had on the shape of cities and their architecture? What is the role of automobile production in the nation’s economy and the lives of its workers? How has the automobile impacted the lives of women? How are automobiles portrayed in popular culture? Why does driving get so many people killed? What questions does the automobile raise about the role of governmental regulation? We will also consider Indiana’s prominence in early automobile production. Students can expect a wide variety of texts and video, guest lecturers from several departments at the College, and regular discussion and small group work.