Jerseyana: History, Culture, Music, Movies, Highways and Bi-Ways of the Garden State

Michael Rockland (American Studies)

New Jersey is often put down (especially by the cities that bookend it, New York and Philadelphia, which sometimes describe N.J. as “a cultural wasteland.” So does Saturday Night Live and the Woody Allen movies. Are they jealous? There is certainly the famous Jersey joke, but the state has a rich cultural history. Just in entertainment, Frank Sinatra, Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, Count Basie, Bruce Springsteen, Susan Sarandon, and Jon Bon Jovi come to mind. So does “The Sopranos.” So do some of the finest movies. And there’s a reason Thomas Edison made all his great inventions here. New Jersey has a certain vitality that engenders creativity. Although I have written four books on New Jersey and also acted in a New Jerseyoriented movie that we will screen, this is going to be a participatory course, because you know a great deal about the subject already if you are from New Jersey or even from out-of-state studying here. You may be more expert on the subject than I am or certainly will bring a fresh perspective. So I’m not going to lecture. Instead, we’re going to have spirited debates. Get ready!