Terris L S Patterson
Introduces American culture through a careful reading of a variety of representative texts in their historical contexts.
This course is intended to examine American history (cursorily) through its literature and, in doing so, (hopefully) destabilise the common perception of U.S. exceptionalism through the “great experiment” known as democratic capitalism. But what do those terms actually mean, whom do they serve, and how can political and economic systems be mutually exclusive yet so closely interrelated that their independent operation often reinforces the other? We will read and investigate the historical roots America’s founding documents, noting the similarities and important divergences from their European counterparts. What is universal equality (in reality) and what should it be? Where are the boundaries or limitations of individual liberty and America’s collective freedom (if there are any)? We will read a variety of authors across a variety of genres—including fiction, memoirs, and film—in an attempt to define what it means to be “American” and the basic tenets (and traits) of the so-called “middle class” to which almost every citizen supposedly belongs. What is the amorphous “American Dream” and is it achievable (and if so, by whom)? In other words, does the American Dream still exist for the average middle class American?
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
EWP "C" credit (i.e. English 109-110, 111, 121, 131) is recommended, but not required.
Class assignments and grading
Two or three "short(er)" papers, to be determined; either three 3-4 page papers, or two 5-7 page papers. Class participation will also be heavily weighted in final marks.