Do you feel that?
Thats the powerful hand of culture, poking you with a pointed finger, reminding you that its time to leave your youth behind and become--gasp--an adult.
But even as it prods you into adulthood, culture may not have all that clear an answer to what it means to be an "adult" in the first place. Is it a simple matter of age, or is it more a matter of experience? Is it all about independence and responsibility? Or does adulthood, like youth, have its own special kinds of dependencies and irresponsibilities that define it? What desires, interests, and points of view are adults supposed to cultivate, and which are they supposed to squelch? And how do you really know whether you've arrived at adulthood anyway, assuming that you ever get there?
These broad questions, along with American culture's equally broad range of answers, are precisely what this seminar will examine. By exploring a variety of discourses in culture, and especially literature, film, and music, students will consider how cultural expectations--with all their structures, overlaps, and potential contradictions--engage them as they attempt to shape and define their own adulthood.
While the texts the class will read and discuss are varied (and will include such genres as the novel, graphic novel, poetry, short story, and song), participants will examine all of them toward responding to the following four basic questions:
- What institutions (such as parenting, education, law, and religion) are most engaged in shaping the expectations that define "adulthood" within a culture?
- What cultural topics (freedom, responsibility, vocation, sexuality, and so on) do literary texts most frequently and strongly link to ideas of adulthood? What cultural sites (ranging from the, warm, well-lit homes of the nuclear family to darkened car backseats) do literary texts most often depict in the representations of adulthood they create?
- Does the process of "becoming" an adult have a clear beginning point? End point? What is this process expected to change about one who is not-yet adult? What, if anything, is it expected or allowed to leave the same?
- To what extent does culture see "adulthood" as the product of specific kinds of defining cultural "moments"--experiences or accomplishments so common as to be seen as "rites of passage"? To what extent is adulthood something more than such singular experiences? What does literature say?
Through attention to the texts and these questions, hopefully students will all become that much more attentive to the ways in which they find and define their own kind of adulthood in contemporary culture. If you have questions about the class, please feel free to email Dana. See you this summer!
Catalog Information: COLL-S 103 FRESHMAN SEMINAR IN A & H