Sociology 490: Senior Seminar in Sociology

Fall 2004


Meets:              MWF  11:00 AM – 12:25 PM


Room:              EDUC 226


Instructor:            Dr. J. Daniel McMillin


Office:              DDH AA208. Office Phone: 664-2386.  Department Phone: 664-2368. 



Office Hours:            MW  12:30 – 2:00 PM, or by appointment.




This quarter the Senior Seminar is grounded in a book titled Social Things: An Introduction to the Sociological Life (2002) by Charles Lemert.  In this book Lemert explores the link between individuals and the invisible social structures that surround them, i.e., how these structures impact their lives.  He, as did C. Wright Mills in an earlier work, The Sociological Imagination (2000), examines the ways in which experiences of individuals are shaped by social structure and how these structures have been shaped by historical forces.  Once we understand the nature of social structure, we will explore the relevance of this concept to contemporary forms of knowledge production.  We will achieve this by coupling an academic treatment of a social issue with a cultural expression of the same or a similar issue.  For example, we will read Patricia Hill Collins’ book, Black Sexual Politics: African Americans and the New Racism (2004).  This book is coupled with Zura Neale Hurston’s novel; Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937, Forward by Mary H. Washington 1990) a cultural treatment of race, gender, and inner growth. We will read Alford A. Young, Jr.’s book titled The Minds of Marginalized Black Men: Making Sense of Mobility, Opportunity, and Future Life Chances (2004).  This book explores how poor Black men see racism and socioeconomic inequality in relation to their lives.  The book by Young is coupled with The Last of the Mohicans (2003), an example of pure heroic masculinity, written by James Fenimore Cooper.  We end the course with The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work (1997, Introduction 2000) by Arlie Russell Hochschild.  This book focus on the work/family balance and how so many people see, whether they acknowledge it or not, their work as the locus of the most important activity and relationships in their life.


Course Goals


In this course we will:


1.)        gain an understanding of social structure, and the sociological imagination.         

What is social structure?  How do we recognize it and its consequences?  What is the nature of the sociological imagination and how does it help us understand the neighborhood, the state, the region, the nation, and the world in which we live?


2.)        learn to apply the concept of social structure to our reading of academic and popular "texts," and to our lives and the lives of other people situated quite differently than ourselves in the various social structures that compose the world in which we live.


For each work we read ask how is social structure incorporated into the content of this book?  What is the dominant ideology/discourse used to explain/legitimate the topic under consideration?  Does the author "deconstruct" any dominant knowledge claims?  Does the author provide an alternative explanation for the topic under study?  


3.)        learn to apply the concept of social structure, and the sociological imagination, to popular forms of knowledge production. 


Is social structure reflected in popular culture, like novels and films?  Do the novels we read capture the impact social structural forces on individual lives?




Sociology 301, Sociology 300, and a second methods course (which may be taken concurrently with this class) are prerequisites for this course.  These prerequisites apply to those of you who are graduating under the 2001 – 2003 CSUB Catalog or an earlier catalog.  Individuals graduating under the 2003 – 2005 or a later CSUB Catalog must have all of the following classes completed before enrolling in Senior Seminar: Sociology 300, 301, 302, and the second methods course.  Beginning fall quarter 2005 all students, regardless of the catalog they are graduating under, must complete the required theory and methods courses before they will be allowed to enroll in Senior Seminar.  There will be no exceptions to these required prerequisites. 




Reaction Paper (Four Papers @ 50 Points Each)


You are required to write four reaction papers.  The first reaction paper will be on Social Things (2002).  You will be asked to apply the concepts in this text to your own life. Subsequent reaction papers will ask you to compare and contrast academic and popular culture pairings.  In other words, you are required to write a reaction paper that compares and contrasts each academic book with the novel it is paired with.   For example, you will write a reaction paper that compares and contrasts Black Sexual Politics (2004) and Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).  These reaction papers will allow you to: a.) demonstrate your ability to trace the presence of social structure in both academic and popular treatments of the topic under study, b.) demonstrate your knowledge of the topic under study, and c.) demonstrate your ability to apply the themes/theories/findings in an academic study to a popular text.


Your reaction papers must conform to the ASA citation and reference style.  This can be found on the Department web page, on the Applied Research Center web page, or on my web page.  You will be marked down if you do not follow the ASA citation and reference style.




There is no term paper.


Class Participation (Each Assignment @ 25 Points)


Form 1.            Leading class discussion: You are required to lead a class discussion on one assigned academic reading/s.  By academic reading I mean one chapter from one of the sociology studies, e.g., Collins (2003), Young (2004), Hochschild (1997)  You will present the material, analyze the reading, and facilitate class discussion.  You will hand in an outline of your oral presentation.


Form 2.            In-class writing assignments: We will have a series of in-class writings, which require that you apply the course readings to a question, a news event, a social-historical event, and so on.  These will be "pop" writing assignments so come prepared. 


Form 3.            Thought questions: You are required to write a thought question on selected readings.  The questions must demonstrate your knowledge of the material—they must be thoughtful.  You are required to bring a typed question to class on the day that we discuss the reading (you cannot write your question while you are in class).  Questions will be graded for how well they reflect your understanding of the material.  Dues dates for thought questions are listed on the syllabus.




Total points for the course = 275


Grading (To Calculate Your Grade Divide Your Total Points by the Total Possible at any Given Time.)


98-100 = A+               88-89            = B+                78-79             = C+                68-69            = D+                Below 60 = F

94-97   = A                  84-87             = B                  74-77             = C                  64-67            = D

90-93   = A-                 80-83            = B-                 70-73            = C-                 60-63            = D-




Attendance is extremely important. You are expected to attend each class.  You cannot make-up in-class participation points.  I will keep track of your attendance.  If you are ill or having other difficulties that affect your attendance please contact me and working together we can resolve the problem.


Disability Services


Please let me know if you are working with Disability Services and you have needs that I should know about.  




You must read the assigned work in accordance with the calendar of readings (see below). You will be expected to read the assignments before you come to class.  You may find that some of the reading is a little dense, so be sure to give yourself enough time to read the material twice.  If you are having difficulty understanding the material please see me during my office hours and I will do my best to help you.   Also, I encourage you to form study groups.  Discussion is part of the learning process; discussing the readings with other students can help you to develop a deeper understanding of the material.




Plagiarism occurs when you use material (e.g., exact written or spoken words, a summary of written or spoken words/sentences, and/or ideas) that someone else has produced without giving credit to the original author.  When you use someone’s words or thoughts you must be sure that you indicate (cite) where the material came from in your paper.  Also, buying a paper, book report, or essay or having someone else write your paper, book report, or essay counts as plagiarism.  I will follow the guidelines for plagiarism in the CSUB Catalog which includes assigning a failing grade for the course and placing a note in your academic file.  Here are some examples of the proper citation style:


Direct Quote:     Memory has a social basis.  As Albert Memmi (1957: 103) states, “Just as the memory of an individual is the fruit of his history and physiology, that of a people rests upon its institutions.”


Paraphrase:    Memory has a social basis.  The memory of a people is rooted in their social institutions (Memmi, 1957: 102).


Classroom Conduct


Some of the material that we cover in this course is sensitive in nature and can spark debate.  I encourage discussion and debate and I want all students to feel comfortable expressing their opinion about the materials/themes covered in the course.  However, discussion and debate should always focus on the content of the points made in the readings, in my lectures, or during class discussions.  Personal verbal attacks are not acceptable forms of discussion and debate.  Here is an example:


Inappropriate response: That's a really stupid thing to say.  What a dumb idea.  You are wrong.


Appropriate response: I understand your point but I see it a little differently.  I think...(your point). 


Please arrive on time and do not leave early.  If you must arrive late or leave early you must notify me in advance, and then do so quietly so that others are not disturbed.  Also, turn off your cell phones.


Required Reading:


Collins, Patricia Hill.  2004. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism.  New York: Routledge.


Cooper, James Fenimore.  2003.  The Last of the Mohicans.  New York: Dover Publications.


Hochschild, Arlie Russell.  1997.  The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work.  New York: Henry Holt.


Hurston, Zora Neale.  1937.  Their Eyes Were Watching God.  New York: Harper-Collins.


Lemert, Charles.  2002.  Social Things: An Introduction to the Sociological Life.  Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield.


Young, Alford A, Jr.  2004.  The Minds of Marginalized Black Men: Making Sense of Mobility, Opportunity, and Future Life Chances.  Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.


Calendar of Readings and Assignments


S          15 Introductions, Orientation, Etc.

17                Lemert – Ch. 1, 2, 3


18                Lemert – Ch. 4, 5, 6

22                Lemert – Ch. 7, 8, 9

23            Lemert – Ch. 10, 11, 12


             27   Collins – Introduction, Ch. 1.  Though Question Due

             29 Collins – Ch. 2, 3

O            1 Collins – Ch. 4, 5


       4 Collins – Ch. 6.  First Reaction Paper Due

       6 Collins – Ch. 7, 8

       8 Hurston – Forward, pp. 1-50


     11 Hurston – pp. 51-99.  Thought Questions Due

     13 Hurston – pp. 100-153

     15 Hurston – pp. 154-193


     18 Young – Preface, Introduction, Appendix, Ch. 1

     20 Young – Ch. 2, 3

     22 Young – Ch. 4, 5.  Second Reaction Paper Due


     25 Young – Ch. 6, 7.  Thought Question Due

     27 Young – Ch. 8

     29 Cooper – Note, Ch. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5


N            1 Cooper – Ch. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.  Thought Question Due

       3 Cooper – Ch. 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

       5 Cooper – Ch. 20, 21, 22, 23, 24,


       8 Cooper – Ch. 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33

     10 Hochschild – Introduction, Ch. 1, 2, 3, 4

     12 Hochschild – Ch. 5, 6, 7.  Third Reaction Paper Due


     15 Hochschild – Ch. 8, 9, 10.  Thought Question Due

             17 Hochschild – Ch. 11, 12, 13

19 Hochschild – Ch. 14, 15, 16, Appendix


     22 So, What Have We Learned?

     24 Study/Reading Day


     29 Final Examination Day (11:00 AM to 1:30 PM).  Fourth Reaction Paper Due