HIST | Family Plots: Writing About Kinship in U.S. History, Fall 2018
David Henkin & J.T. Jamieson, Department of History
Kinship claims, ties, structures, and taboos rank among the most fundamental social and cultural forces, and family units have provided powerful templates for the stories people have told, throughout history, about what it means to be human. But of course the meaning and nature of kinship has varied and evolved, much to the fascination of scholars and critics, and so have the stories people tell about family life. This seminar looks specifically at how families and family life have been represented, celebrated, debated, and criticized in the United States over the past two centuries, especially in literature, popular entertainment, politics, and historical writing.
Most of our work will consist of intensive discussion of texts, images, and films produced in the United States over the past 240 years, though we will also have the opportunity to do some analytical and interpretive writing on the subject and to develop plans for potential creative projects. Requirements include timely completion of weekly reading assignments; active, consistent, and thoughtful participation in seminar discussion; biweekly individual meetings with the G.S.I.; short weekly writing exercises; two longer essays; and one mini-prospectus or proposal.