After the end of the Second World War, the suburbs became both an inescapable topos in American life and an inescapable trope in American fiction. In this course, we will examine the relationship of American fiction from the second half of the twentieth century to the suburbs and the suburban experience. Did the suburbs ever really signify “the American dream”—and how, just as rapidly, did they become its nightmare? Does suburban fiction necessarily exclude non-white Americans? Why has suburban fiction been the favored playground of several generations of white male writers, from Cheever to Franzen? Where does the prose style of these works fit into the trajectory of late realism? And has the centrality of the suburbs in American fiction been, at long last, played out?
Week 1: Toward a Prehistory of the Suburban Mentality
Virginia Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway, pp. 1-78 (1925)
Georg Simmel: “The Metropolis and Mental Life” (1903)
Georges Perec: “Approaches to What?” in Ben Highmore, The Everyday Life Reader (1973)