American literature in its political and cultural context from the Civil War to the present. Emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to American literature, including history, politics, anthropology, and mass media.
For SUMMER 2007: The Family Politic. Family: perhaps no other word has as much symbolic or fund-raising power in U.S. political culture. Since the Civil War, when “brother” fought against “brother,” the family has been metaphorically applied to the nation itself; at the same time, the family is often invoked as the “basic social unit” that many consider it a national duty to protect and preserve. The idea of the family is potent across the political spectrum, but what different people mean by the family – both in terms of actual configurations of people and the political stakes associated with these configurations – is highly contextual. In this class, we will investigate different literary, sociological and political treatments of the family from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. Our focus will be on three historical moments: the early twentieth century and the challenges that immigration brought to traditional definitions of family; the 1940s and 1950s, when “invisible” families and domestic concerns shadowed the “ideal” family of American mass media; and the 1980s and 1990s, when gay and lesbian activists began to insist on the recognition and rights of alternative families. Texts will include Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers; Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye; Michael Cunningham, A Home at the End of the World. (Evening Degree students only.)
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