AJL16172 Contemporary Issues in US and UK Culture and Politics

Faculty of Arts
Autumn 2024
Extent and Intensity
0/2/0. 6 credit(s). Type of Completion: zk (examination).
doc. Jeffrey Alan Smith, M.A., Ph.D. (lecturer)
Guaranteed by
doc. Jeffrey Alan Smith, M.A., Ph.D.
Department of English and American Studies – Faculty of Arts
Contact Person: Tomáš Hanzálek
Supplier department: Department of English and American Studies – Faculty of Arts
Tue 10:00–11:40 G32, except Mon 18. 11. to Sun 24. 11.
Prerequisites (in Czech)
( AJL01002 Practical English II || AJ01002 Practical English II ) && ( AJL07002 Intro. to American Studies II || AJ07002 Intro. to American Studies II )
Course Enrolment Limitations
The course is also offered to the students of the fields other than those the course is directly associated with.
The capacity limit for the course is 20 student(s).
Current registration and enrolment status: enrolled: 0/20, only registered: 54/20, only registered with preference (fields directly associated with the programme): 51/20
fields of study / plans the course is directly associated with
there are 12 fields of study the course is directly associated with, display
Course objectives
This course will examine current political and cultural controversies, primarily in the United States but also in the United Kingdom, based on events in the news and the current contents of public discussion in those countries. Class discussions and presentations will aim to contextualize present-day issues, locating them in the broader streams of history and cultural development that help explain how and why they arose, what is at stake in them, who the groups in contention are, and how the contrasting positions in current debates reflect and help construct different racial, cultural and political identities.
Learning outcomes
Students will learn how to access and evaluate a wide variety of sources of US and UK news and commentary. They will know what issues currently animate public discussion in those countries, who the partisans and participants in them are, how they reflect and influence developments in party and electoral politics, and how they help construct different racial, cultural and political identities. They will know and be able to apply knowledge about American and British cultures and political systems to the analysis of "breaking" or newly arising events and developments as they occur, will be able to understand these with depth and insight, and will be prepared for further course and thesis work related to American and British cultural studies.
  • Class presentations and discussions each week will focus on whatever is currently in the news, as well as background topics and information of the following kinds:
  • 1. Regions, states, and other subdivisions of the US and UK
  • 2. Government structures and policymaking procedures in the US an UK, and how these differ
  • 3. Presidents, prime ministers, and other key personalities and "newsmakers"
  • 4. Political parties and organizations
  • 5. Political traditions and cultures; "red" vs. "blue"
  • 6. Racial and ethnic issues
  • 7. Class, mobility, and economic issues
  • 8. Popular cultures and stereotypes
    required literature
  • American political parties and electionsa very short introduction. Edited by Louis Sandy Maisel. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007, xvi, 175 p. ISBN 9780195301229. info
  • HAIDT, Jonathan. The righteous mind : why good people are divided by politics and religion. First Vintage Books edition. New York: Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 2013, xxiv, 500. ISBN 9780307455772. info
  • Books: Wright, British Politics; Wenz, Beyond Red and Blue; Articles: Woodard, "The Real U.S. Map," Parts 1 -5
    recommended literature
  • Gender and elections : shaping the future of American politics. Edited by Susan J. Carroll - Richard Logan Fox. Third edition. New York: Cambridge university press, 2014, xvi, 299. ISBN 9781107611610. info
  • HETHERINGTON, Marc J. and Jonathan Daniel WEILER. Authoritarianism and polarization in American politics. First published. New York: Cambridge university press, 2009, xi, 234. ISBN 9780521711241. info
  • Liars! cheaters! evildoers!demonization and the end of civil debate in American politics. Edited by Tom DeLuca - John Buell. New York: New York University Press, 2005, xii, 228 p. ISBN 0814719759. info
  • MARABLE, Manning. Beyond black and white : transforming African-American politics. New York: Verso, 1995, xviii, 236. ISBN 1859849245. info
Teaching methods
Presentations / live discussions, online discussions and postings on ELF, posted readings and film and TV viewings.
Assessment methods
75% final exam (emphasizing the contents of class presentations and discussions); 25% participation and postings in the online forums.
Language of instruction
Further comments (probably available only in Czech)
The course is taught annually.
Teacher's information
Details of the syllabus will be developed in part on the basis of students' interests. The tentative list of topics above offers a rough idea, but the specifics to be discussed each week will depend on events in the news. Students will also discuss and share information about news events in group discussion forums and post brief response essays on ELF.

Further background will be provided through readings linked to on ELF. Mainly, students should be expect to follow news from the US and UK regularly and avidly. Recommended ways of doing that include RSS feeds and newsreaders and a news aggregator called "Protopage," as will be explained in class.

The course is also listed under the following terms Autumn 2020, Autumn 2021.
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