Sydney F Lewis
Introduces American culture through a careful reading of a variety of representative texts in their historical contexts.
“Madness is rare in individuals, but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule”- Friedrich Nietzsche
In this course we will examine madness as a symbol for the American condition. We will begin with the precept that madness is often an allegory for other outcast conditions. In this, we will examine how American writers have used the allegory of madness to tease out non-normative subjects’ relations to the state. To clarify, we will examine how madness has been used to define who does and does not fit into the category “American” (based on race, gender, class, and sexuality) and how people who don’t firmly fit in as “American” have described their precarious situation as one akin to madness. In order to fully understand madness in America, our exploration must begin with 18th century documents written by the founding fathers which explicitly state who has access to America’s promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” These documents will lay the groundwork for investigating how the foundations of America require the exclusion of some for the inclusion or others. Additional texts will include short stories, novels, poetry and film from the 18th-20th century, as well as psychoanalysis, literary, and cultural theory.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
This class functions through a student-centered pedagogy. This means that active in-class participation is required and will comprise a substantial portion of your final grade. Lectures will be rare occurrences, and class time will mostly be comprised of focused discussions and classroom activities. Expect hearty, and sometimes dense, readings and weekly 2 page response papers.
Class assignments and grading
Your in-class participation, weekly responses, and a 5-7 page paper will determine your final grade.