From Elvis to Kurt Cobain, the students of First-Year Seminar 072 certainly are not falling asleep with their noses in the books. Titled “Rock Music and American Masculinities, the course, taught by Associate Dean Chip Capraro, offers an interdisciplinary look at theories of masculinity, the totality of men’s lives in Rock n’ Roll, and the study of American culture from the 1950s to the ’70s. Through their coursework, the first-years began to recognize an object that epitomized masculinity in the ’50s: the motorcycle!
“Coming out of World War II and into the ’50s, there was a change in masculinity and conformity to new gender roles, Capraro said. “In our ongoing research, we felt the need to learn more about the history of the motorcycle in the lives of these iconic men. As a result, Capraro made some phone calls and arranged for his class to meet Frank Westfall of Middle Earth Leatherworks in Syracuse.
This past Wednesday, Westfall, a highly regarded leather man and motorcycle enthusiast, spoke about “Motorcycles in American Consciousness and shared his extensive knowledge of motorcycles. Beyond the historical information that he has to offer, he discussed his life as a motorcyclist. “He is an example of the male rebellion and masculine conformity that we have studied thus far, said Molly Ozimek-Maier, a first-year William Smith student enrolled in the course. “We heard his personal tale about what shaped his manhood.
“Listening to music, studying The Wild One, attending lectures about motorcycles, said Hobart first-year Adam Vanheyst, “this First-Year Seminar is definitely fun, but I have learned a lot about gender roles and male identity.