Pleasing the Crowd: Public History and the Material Culture of the American Circus


Fall 2012


Gallery Classroom, 18 West 86th Street *


This course explores the cultural and material history of popular entertainment in New York City, using the Bard Graduate Center's fall 2012 exhibition, Circus and the City, as its point of departure. The course will look at the historiography of popular entertainment in the United States, examine issues relating to the conception and design of interpretative historical exhibitions, and offer students the opportunity to handle and analyze objects. Selected readings will include the exhibition catalogue, The Circus Age by Janet Davis, James and Lois Horton's Slavery and Public History, America's Instrument by James Bollman and Philip Gura, and other works that offer insights into the intersection of popular entertainment, material culture, and public history. The class will also visit several local museum exhibitions and collections and required assignments include a few short papers, an in-class presentation, and a final project. 3 credits.


*Please note: the first two meetings (9/10 and 9/17) are actually in the 5th floor classroom of 38 West 86th Street; all other classes move to 18 West 86th Street on 9/24.