Simpson Colloquium 101
The scapegoating of hipsters everywhere, from the New York Times to Law and Order, should lead us to be curious about how such a universally derided individual could come into being. By way of a solution, this course explores the birth and history of the modern individual through the idea of “cool.” Using an interdisciplinary approach, together we will explore the questions: what is “cool,” and how did it and its synonyms come to describe individuals and things? To investigate this, we will look at figures, moments, and artifacts evoking “cool” – from a Romantic emphasis on individual creativity in the late 18th century to the bike-jacketed teenage rebellion of 1950s cinema, from Andy Warhol’s Factory pop art projects to Project Runway’s effort to teach all of us something about style.
Meet Your Professor
JJ Butts, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English
I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where, like every other kid there drawn toward book learning, I was pretty certain I was the least cool person that I knew (see course description for relevance). Like many Simpson students, my college experience at Appalachian (“Appuh-latch-un,” not “Appuh-lay-chin” or “Appuh-lay-shun”) State University was close to home. There, I studied anthropology and archaeology, and devoted an absurd amount of time to sabotaging my future hearing prospects at concerts by bands like Superchunk and Polvo, at a moment when the independent music scene suddenly became mainstream. This is when I first came to understand the intricacies of subcultures and their connections to aesthetics, personal and social identity, and consumerism. Somehow, I eventually stumbled into English—another area in which style and form matter as much as content—where the subdiscipline of cultural studies allowed me to combine my anthropological interests with critical reflection on a wide range of “texts.”
After putting my degree to good use selling shoes in an outlet mall, I moved to Syracuse, New York for graduate study in English. There, in the Rust Belt, I encountered fascinating dynamics of class, space, race, sexuality, religion, and culture that were wholly different from the ones I grew up with in rural Appalachia. I spent much of my graduate career involved in labor solidarity and global justice campaigns while my doctoral research focused on how writers participated in conversations about modernization and diversity that determined the contours of American culture under the welfare state.
A decade since leaving Syracuse, I have lived in D.C., Brooklyn (NY), Waverly, Cedar Falls, and Des Moines, and have held full-time positions at Hunter College and Wartburg College as well here at Simpson, where I joined the faculty in 2011. My courses here focus on modern and contemporary American literature and culture, including ethnic literatures and film. My family and I enjoy travel, hiking, eating out, going to concerts, and exploring the quirkier sides of the Des Moines metro area. Apparently, there is some truth in the old adage about being able to take the boy out of the mountains but not the reverse, as I have taken up the clawhammer banjo and mountain dulcimer alongside the guitar and electric bass.
My name is Kelli Salemink. I will be a senior for the 2013-2014 year and will be the Destination Leader for “The History of Cool” with Professor JJ Butts. I am a Psychology major and Spanish and Art History minors. I would like to be an elementary school guidance counselor someday so I will be going to grad school after Simpson.
A little about me, I love the Iowa Hawkeyes so I am not a fan of ISU or Nebraska so if you are one.. gee I don’t know if we will get along.. Just Kidding! Well, I’m known for being a very random person that always keeps everyone else interested and am always entertaining. Easiest way to describe me in three words: Phoebe from Friends J I do tend to randomly start singing/humming and dancing about so don’t be alarmed if I do this! I love art, music, hanging out with friends and LOVE to dance and have a good time.
All kidding aside, I like to get to know new people and try out new activities. I am very easy going and laid back. I am a great listener and am very helpful so don’t ever hesitate to ask me anything! Also, don’t be afraid to just randomly strike up a conversation with me if you see me around campus, honestly I don’t even care if you yell at me across campus (unless I beat you to it J). I am easy to reach so feel free to email me if you have questions/concerns.
P.S. If you haven’t noticed already, I do tend to ramble, but that is one of the reasons why people like to talk to me. They always end up laughing and even if it’s at me, I don’t care because I know I have made their day better.
P.P.S As you can tell I am super cool and if you take this class you will be too!
Meet Your Writing Fellow
Hello! My name is Marilyn Bagley and I am going to be a Junior in the fall. I am going to be the Writing Fellow for Professor Butts’ Simpson Colloquium class. My official job is to assist with paper writing techniques, research strategies, and answer any questions about assignments. However, feel free to come to me with anything, whether it is class related or not. I am originally from Norwalk, Iowa and attended Norwalk High School. I was very active in the music department and also participated in Speech and Drama activities. At Simpson, I am an English major with a Secondary Education minor. After graduation, I hope to obtain a job at a local high school such as Carlisle or Indianola. When I am not in class or working on homework, I love watching cartoons, going home to visit my kitty, reading, playing board games, being outside, and spending time with my friends. I am a huge animal lover and am a member of the ARL theme house on campus, as well as regularly volunteering with puppies and kitties at local shelters. I love movies and can watch the same ones over and over again. My all-time favorites would have to include The Lion King, The Wedding Singer, Despicable Me and Harry Potter. I’ve probably seen every episode of Law and Order: SVU, Spongebob, How I Met Your Mother, and Vampire Diaries. As far as music goes, you can find anything from Brad Paisley to Trey Songz to Destiny’s Child on my playlists. I love getting to know people and can’t wait to meet all of you! Feel free to add me on Facebook, shoot me a text, or send me an email if you have any questions. I hope each of you enjoys your journey at Simpson, and I’m so excited to be a part of it!