This course examines the influence of shared meanings and practices on a variety of dimensions of contemporary American social life, including race, class, religion, political participation, close relationships, economics, and social commitment. We will consider the following questions: What is culture? How does culture operate in society? How does culture interact with social institutions and with individuals? How do we study culture sociologically? Fundamentally, cultural sociology is a way of seeing society; the goal of the course is for you to learn to see the structured meanings and practices that order all of our lives, and the possibilities the culture provides for us to influence our society's future course. Our emphasis is distinctly on the contemporary American cultural mainstream. We will discuss in class the question of whether or not such a "mainstream" exists and, if so, how we might understand it. Our starting assumption is that it is essential for Americans to understand the themes of their own culture if we are to be responsible global citizens. This course counts toward the "culture and identity" requirement for the major. Prerequisite: 100-level sociology course or permission of instructor.