American Studies
American Studies

Christine Zumello


AMS 370 • Wall Street Vs Main Street

30308 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BUR 436A


The course will start by exploring the love and hate relationship between Wall Street and Main Street. Through a historical and conceptual approach we will address the polysemy of the two expressions and their meaning in contemporary America. The Great Recession will provide a context to map out the construction of the consumer society through the development of credit at all costs since World War II (including student debt). This has led to the development of a fringe, marginal, and growing population of unbanked or underbanked who rely on alternative lending practices. Public or private institutions, in turn, are responding either by trying to map out public policies, such as financial literacy initiatives, or, like financial institutions, by tapping into the money making opportunities provided by  regulatory gaps or financial engineering.

The goal of the course is to expose some aspects of economic individual (micro) and institutional (macro)  dimensions of American democracy which have direct consequences on the social and political fabric of the country. The learning outcome will also strengthen the ability to read across different media (primary sources, secondary sources, films, documentaries, scholarly and journalistic articles).

Possible texts (sample)


Clark, Kim; Rosato, Donna, 2015, “7 Steps to total Financial Fitness”, Money, 44(2), 50-61, March

Traub, Amy & Catherine Ruetschlin, 2012, “The Plastic Safety Net”,

“Abusive Debt Collection Practices”, Harvard Law Review, 2014.



Margin Call, JC Chandor, 2011

Inside Job, CH Ferguson, 2010

The Big Short, A McKay, 2015

Wall Street, Oliver Stone, 1987 (and sequel : Wall Street, Oliver Stone, 2010)


Assignments (include % of grade)

Oral presentation of two readings with poster 20%

Self reflection/precis (short paper) 20%

Attendance/Class Participation 20%

Final Research paper 40% 

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