The History of Your Life: The United States since 2000—Syllabus

Studies in United States History | AMH 3930-2
Florida State University | Spring 2022
Professor Paul Renfro | he/him

Course Description

This course examines the history of the United States since 2000. It will familiarize students (most of whom were born around the year 2000) with the historical developments that have shaped their lives—the global “war on terror,” widening income and wealth inequality, the explosion of the Internet and social media, intensifying battles over immigration and national and cultural identity, and beyond.

Course Objectives

At the end of the course, students will be able to: (1) identify and narrate change and continuity in the history of the United States since the year 2000; (2) evaluate evidence using the tools of historical and humanistic inquiry; and (3) recognize the importance of gender, sexuality, race, class, religion, and other analytical frames in US history.

Course Assignments

Attendance and participation: 30 percent
Leading discussion (2): 20 percent (10 percent each)
Film response: 20 percent
Editorial analyses (2): 30 percent (15 percent each)

  1. Attendance and participation (30 percent of your total grade): This is a (large) seminar-style course that stresses student engagement and in-class participation. Students should come to class prepared to discuss the text(s) assigned for that day. Those who attend class—and those who contribute in meaningful ways to our class discussions through insightful observations, analysis, and questions—will earn high marks in this category.
  2. Leading discussion (20 percent—10 percent each): Students will pick two of the assigned readings or other texts listed on the syllabus, and on the designated dates they will present those texts to their peers. These presentations will take place on the meeting date for which the text is assigned (unless otherwise noted). They should include summarization and analysis followed by thought-provoking questions, which the presenter(s) will ask as they lead discussion. These questions must be sent to the professor by 4 p.m. on the day before you are scheduled to lead discussion. Presentations should run between eight and ten minutes, after which the presenter(s) should open up discussion with their questions.
  3. Film response (20 percent): Students must view the two assigned films (The Social Network [2010] and American Sniper [2014]) and compose a response to one. These short responses (three or so double-spaced pages) should be analytical (not descriptive) in nature. They should focus on the context in which the film was produced and released, the arguments articulated in the film, as well as the historical significance of these arguments. Your responses must engage with at least three other course texts.
  4. Editorial analyses (30 percent—15 percent each): At different points throughout the semester, students will write responses to two editorials published during the time period under examination (2000–21). Students can find such editorials via the FSU libraries’ ProQuest newspaper database or by searching the websites of various publications, such as TIME, the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, etc. Just as the strongest film responses will historicize the assigned movies and place them in conversation with our in-class discussions and other course materials, the strongest editorial analyses will build upon the knowledge produced in our class to situate each editorial within the appropriate historical context. Like the film responses, your editorial analyses must engage with three (or more) other course texts. Each response should be about three double-spaced pages in length.

Course Texts

Students are not required to purchase any texts for the class, although they may have to cough up a few bucks to stream the assigned films. All course materials will be available through Canvas or the FSU libraries, or they will be presented during class meetings. Students must familiarize themselves with course materials before the class meeting for which they are assigned. For example, if a text is assigned for Tuesday, students should come to class on Tuesday prepared to discuss that text.

Schedule of Class Meetings

Week 1 | Introductions
Thursday, January 6
Read: Alex Gertner, “Don’t Equate the Coronavirus Crisis to 9/11,” New York Daily News, April 8, 2020.

Week 2 | Bubbles and Ballots
Tuesday, January 11            
Read: William Quinn and John D. Turner, Boom and Bust: A Global History of Financial Bubbles (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2020)—chapter 9, “The Dot-Com Bubble.”

Thursday, January 13
Read: Robert S. Erikson, “The 2000 Presidential Election in Historical Perspective,” Political Science Quarterly 116, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 29–52.

Week 3 | September 11 and Its Afterlives
Tuesday, January 18
Skim: “Plane crashes in to the word [sic] trade center,” Metafilter blog, September 11, 2001.

Thursday, January 20
Read: Mary Marshall Clark, “Herodotus Reconsidered: An Oral History of September 11, 2001, in New York City,” Radical History Review 111 (Fall 2011): 79–89.

Week 4 | The Wars of Your Lives
Tuesday, January 25
Hear: “Curveball,” episode of the podcast Blowback (61 minutes; 2020).

Thursday, January 27
Read: Lisa Mundey, “The Combatants’ Experiences,” in Understanding the US Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ed. Beth Bailey and Richard H. Immerman (New York: New York University Press, 2015), 175–93; and Andrew C. McKevitt, “‘Watching War Made Us Immune’: The Popular Culture of the Wars,” in Understanding the US Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 238–58.

Week 5 | The Internets
Tuesday, February 1
Read: Nicholas Carlson, “Flashback: This Was the Internet in 1995,” Business Insider, April 6, 2013.
Hear: “Silicon Valley is as American as Apple (Pie),” conversation between Margaret O’Mara and Andrew Keen, Keen On, June 30, 2020.

Thursday, February 3
Due: Please come to class on Thursday, February 3 prepared to discuss The Social Network (2010). Your analytical responses to The Social Network are due on Sunday, February 6 at 11:59 p.m. (via Canvas).

Week 6 | A “Mandate” for “Born Again” Christianity?
Tuesday, February 8
Read: Anna Cornelia Fahey, “French and Feminine: Hegemonic Masculinity and the Emasculation of John Kerry in the 2004 Presidential Race,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 24, no. 2 (June 2007): 132–50.

Thursday, February 10
Read: Kevin M. Kruse, “Compassionate Conservatism: Religion in the Age of George W. Bush,” in The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment, ed. Julian Zelizer (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), 227–51.

Week 7 | Breaking Levees, Building Walls
Tuesday, February 15
View/hear: discussion with Andy Horowitz, Vann R. Newkirk II, and Rebecca Snedeker, New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University, August 28, 2020.

Thursday, February 17
Read: Teddy Cruz, “Border Update: Magical Realism the American Way,” Log 6 (Fall 2005): 51–57; and Barbara Sostaita, “George Bush’s Book of Immigrant Portraits Won’t Redeem His Legacy,” Teen Vogue, September 15, 2020.

Week 8 | Breaking the Economy
Tuesday, February 22
Read: Adam Tooze, Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World (New York: Penguin Random House, 2018)—chapter 6, “‘The Worst Financial Crisis in Global History.’”

Thursday, February 24
Read: Tooze, Crashed—chapter 7, “Bailouts.”

Week 9 | Hope and Change?
Tuesday, March 1
Read: Michael Tesler and David O. Sears, Obama’s Race: The 2008 Election and the Dream of a Post-Racial America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010)—introduction and chapter 2, “Racialized Momentum: The Two Sides of Racialization in the Primaries.”

Thursday, March 3
Read: Gary Gerstle, “Civic Ideals, Race, and Nation in the Age of Obama,” in The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First Historical Assessment, ed. Julian Zelizer (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018), 261–80.

Week 10 | Hope and Continuity (part I)
Tuesday, March 8
Read: Eric Rauchway, “Neither a Depression nor a New Deal: Bailout, Stimulus, and the Economy,” in The Presidency of Barack Obama, 30–44.

Thursday, March 10
Read: Sarah Ross Coleman, “A Promise Unfulfilled, An Imperfect Legacy: Obama and Immigration Policy,” in The Presidency of Barack Obama, 179–94.

March 15 and 17 | SPRING BREAK

Week 11 | Hope and Continuity (part II)

Tuesday, March 22
Read: Kathryn Olmsted, “Terror Tuesdays: How Obama Refined Bush’s Counterterrorism Policies,” in The Presidency of Barack Obama, 212–26.

Thursday, March 24
Due: Please come to class on Thursday, March 24 prepared to discuss American Sniper (2014). Your analytical responses to American Sniper are due on Sunday, March 27 at 11:59 p.m. (via Canvas).

Week 12 | Race and Injustice in the Age of Obama
Tuesday, March 29
Read: Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Fear of a Black President,” The Atlantic (September 2012).

Thursday, March 31
Read: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016)—introduction.

Week 13 | From “Hope” to “Nope”?
Tuesday, April 5
Read: Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign (New York: Crown, 2017)— introduction and chapters 1 and 2, “‘Or I Wouldn’t Have Run’” and “The Mercenaries and the Missionaries.”

Thursday, April 7
Read: Dylan Riley, “What is Trump?New Left Review 114 (November–December 2018): 5–31.

Week 14 | On the Border and On Edge
Tuesday, April 12
Read: Sophia Jordán Wallace and Chris Zepeda-Millán, Walls, Cages, and Family Separation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2020)—chapter 2, “The Wall.”

Thursday, April 14
Read: Daniel Denvir, “After 2020, There’s No Going Back to the Old America,” Jacobin, September 9, 2020.

Week 15 | Illness, Insurrection, and Empire
Tuesday, April 19
Read: David Roth, “After the Sacred Landslide,” Defector, January 9, 2021.

Thursday, April 21
Read: Daniel Denvir, “The Best Thing the US Can Do for Afghanistan is Stay Out of It,” interview with Tariq Ali, Jacobin, October 20, 2021.


Featured image: Supporters of President Donald Trump wave a flag during an election watch party, November 3, 2020, in Chandler, Arizona. Matt York/Associated Press.

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