Main Street USA: Designing American Idealism
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Level: Undergraduate
Division: Parsons The New School for Design
School: School of Art and Design History and Theory
Department: Art and Design History
Course Number: PLVS 3008
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • Visual Culture
This course will take an interdisciplinary approach to consider both the physical and conceptual design of Main Street. A symbol of cultural, political, and economic values, Main Street has been represented throughout history in literature, advertising, and popular culture as a, or the, central site of American values. This course will utilize sources from the nineteenth century to the present, including magazines, catalogs, novels, films, televisions shows, and theme parks to examine how the design of Main Street has shaped American ideals over history. Academic discourses on memory, nostalgia, urban/suburban design, gender, and cultural identity will be studied alongside primary sources. We will analyze images from a variety of sources such as The Sears, Roebuck and Company Catalog, Norman Rockwell, Sesame Street, Disney, the Western, shopping malls, Twin Peaks, and the Levi’s Go Forth campaign as a means to deconstruct debates surrounding the origins, identity, and politics of Main Street. Who is Main Street designed for? Is Main Street still a “real” place, or a myth rooted in nostalgia? How does design appropriate Main Street today? In the most recent political debate contrasting “Main Street” and “Wall Street,” this course will situate Main Street’s current role and condition in American culture and politics.
Course Open to: Majors Only
Course Pre/Co-requisites:
Open to: All university undergraduate degree students. Pre-requisites: first-year university writing course and at least one prior history or methods course in art, media, film, or visual culture.


Open to Undergraduate students.