RHET 109 | The Poetics, Philosophy, and Politics of 20th- and 21st-Century Families in America

2022 Spring | Mon, Weds, Fri 11 am–12 pm | COURSE #31234 | UNITS: 4

Ramona Naddaff

(Full title of course is “They fill you with the faults they had”*: The Poetics, Philosophy, and Politics of 20th- and 21st-Century Families in America, Spring 2022

(*From Philip Larkin, “This be the Verse”)

The “American” family comes in many shapes, forms and sizes — as do theories and fiction about it. This course explores the multiple rhetorical representations of the family in 20th- and 21st-century America.

Through readings from history, philosophy, literary criticism, gender and political theory and sociology, we examine critically how the nuclear family (in particular) shapes and misshapes, forms and deforms identities and aspirations, relationships and attachments, values and loyalties. 

Before reading contemporary “American” literature, we begin with ancient Greek tragedies, for they have guided, for better and for worse, visions of familial influences, destruction, and structures.

This seminar culminates with a long-form writing project and also experiments with other modes of writing, such as the dialogue, the epistle, the book review, the op-ed, the blog post, and the email. 

Students enrolled in this class should expect to write at least 2-4 pages per week. Writing exercises will be attentively reviewed and copy-edited by instructors. A final writing project of 8-10 pages will be due at the end of the semester. Writing, rewriting, and more rewriting of this project will begin mid-semester. 

Prerequisites: No specific courses are required to prepare for this course, but students should understand that this is intended as an advanced writing course and we will not be able to address more basic writing concerns in this class.