English R1B

Reading and Composition: Literature of the Suburbs

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
15 Spring 2005 Nicholas Nace
TTh 12:30-2:00 204 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

"Albanese, L. Blue Suburbia

Amis, K. The King's English

Antrim, D. Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World

Eugenides, J. The Virgin Suicides

Pynchon, T. The Crying of Lot 49

Silverstone, J., ed. Visions of Suburbia

Updike, J. A Month of Sundays

Also, a course reader containing a few short stories by Ann Beattie, T. C. Boyle, John Cheever, Robert Coover, William Maxwell, and Joyce Carol Oates; some poems by Mona Van Duyn, Mary Jo Salter, and Anne Sexton; and a small selection of model essays by Joseph Epstein, Adam Gopnik, Rose Macaulay and Cynthia Ozick. "


White picket fences, well-groomed lawns, 2.5 well-groomed kids, a station wagon in the font, an elm tree in the back: Middle America is a seemingly benign place, but it is also where extremes collide. It's not quite rural, and it's not completely urban. It's a little bit country, a little bit rock n' roll, and it's everywhere in our culture's artistic output. With its cul-de-sacs and workaday routines, 1950s-style suburban bliss is an invention that has in its very nature the elements of its own undoing: cookie-cutter impersonality and obsessions with constantly keeping up appearances soon return the dangerous twin byproducts monotony and covetousness. So, our side project in this class, apart from our central focus on relentlessly improving our writing, research and revising skills, will be to 'read' suburbs through their more self-conscious artistic products, a process that will present us the opportunity to write incisively about a variety of literary forms. We'll also learn to draw upon insights developed during our library research into the surprisingly old history of suburbia as well as into non-literary forms such as films (Faces, The Ice Storm, Happiness, American Beauty), visual art, and even suburban kitsch such as lawn ornaments and Tupperware ads. If there is time, we will also devote some energy to thinking about the composed realities of utopian suburban social experiments such as Levittown and Disney's Celebration. Along the way you will produce thirty-two pages of your own polished and immaculate writing, much of which will be required reading for your classmates.

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