Topics in Literature: Culture, Democracy, and the Public Sphere
Since the 1970s, the idea of American culture has faced new challenges to its underlying assumptions of unity, democracy and freedom. This course examines representations of Americaness to understand the challenges and stakes in recognizing and identifying "America."
We will examine how ideas of culture are influenced by a national history in which the idea of race and the ideals of capitalism have played a crucial roles. We will ask: How do Americans balance concepts of democracy and capitalism? What role do novels, movies and the media play in promoting national unity? In what ways do the political, social and physical landscapes of urban America reflect the principles and conflicts of contemporary life? Each section of the course is arranged to focus on the various but inter-related social forces that continue to shape not only the mission of the university and educational system, but also the American experience as a whole.