Thursday, March 27, 2014

Daydream Syllabus #1: "American Fiction and the American Suburbs"



English 94z: American Fiction and the American Suburbs
Spring 2014

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)

Weeks 2 and 3: Postwar
John Updike: Rabbit, Run (1960)
Interview with John Updike (Paris Review 45, Winter 1968)
James Wood: “John Updike’s Complacent God,” in The Broken Estate (2010)
Sloan Wilson: The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, chs. 1-3 (1955)

Week 4: How the Neighbors Think
Evan Connell: Mrs. Bridge (1959)
John Cheever: “The Enormous Radio” (1947)
Lionel Trilling: introduction to The Liberal Imagination (1950)
Robert Warshow: “E.B. White and the New Yorker” in The Immediate Experience [PDF on website]

Weeks 5 and 6: Culture and Anarchy
Richard Yates: Revolutionary Road (1962)
Dwight Macdonald: “Masscult and Midcult” (Partisan Review, Spring 1960)
William Whyte, Jr.: The Organization Man, introduction and ch. 1 (1956)

Week 7: White Flight, White Heat
Lorraine Hansberry: A Raisin in the Sun (1959)
David Kirp et al.: Our Town: Race, Housing, and the Soul of Suburbia, introduction and chs. 1-2 (1995)

Weeks 8 and 9: Mother’s Little Helper
Gail Godwin: The Odd Woman (1974)
Interview with Mary McCarthy (Paris Review 27, Winter-Spring1962)
Betty Friedan: The Feminine Mystique, ch. 1 (1963)
Dorothy E. Smith: The Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology (1987), in Highmore, ELR
Gail Collins: When Everything Changed, pp. 1-156 (2010)

Week 10: Rabbit Reincarnated; or, Two Kinds of Post-Updike Prose
Richard Ford: The Sportswriter (1986)
Don DeLillo: White Noise, pp. 3-76 (1985) [PDF on course website]

Week 11: Recent Developments
Sam Mendes, dir.: “American Beauty” (1999)
Jonathan Franzen: Freedom (2010)

Week 12: Revaluation
Matthew Weiner, prod.: Mad Men, season 1 (2007)
Daniel Mendelsohn: “The Mad Men Account” (NYRB, 24 February 2011)


No comments:

Post a Comment