ENGL327 - The Suburbs in American Literature and Film

"The Suburbs in American Literature and Film" is an interdisciplinary course that explores through written expression and through cinema the diverse and changing world of US suburbia. When most people think of the suburbs, they have in mind the middle-class, single-family homes depicted in such films as "The Graduate" or "The Truman Show." These mostly white "bedroom suburbs" are an important part of the story of American suburbia, but historians have shown that the first suburbanites were hired-out slaves and free African-Americans living on the outskirts of New York, Atlanta, and other major cities during the 19th century. ENGL327 is premised on two arguments: (1) that in the suburbs are embodied many of the contours and contradictions of American life; and (2) that the suburbs are far more racially, ethnically, culturally, sexually, economically diverse than mass media suggests. Students will investigate these arguments via prose, poetry, drama, and cinema. Their investigations will be helped by secondary sources in sociology, women's studies, ethnic studies, history, cultural studies, psychology, anthropology, and the history of science and technology. In studying suburban geography, students will leave the course with a deeper understanding of American history, literature, and film. They will also see concrete improvements in their writing skills.