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First-Year Research Seminar: Suburban Nation

Semester and Year SP 2016
Course Number FIRST-UG765
Section 001
Instructor David Parsons
Days MW
Time 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


The suburbs are ripe spaces in the American cultural imagination, conjuring images of sprawling housing tracts with endless rows of seemingly identical single-family units, "big box" retail stores, giant sport-utility vehicles and, perhaps above all, a stifling cultural homogeneity. In the 21st century, however, the American suburbs emerge as much more complex and diverse spaces than these stereotypical images suggest. In this course, we will consider suburban living in all its dimensions, exploring the ways that race, gender, sexuality, class politics, labor issues, political expression, and ideas of public space take on particular resonance in suburban contexts. In exercises and assignments that model the writing process from start to finish, we will develop our abilities to respond critically to pieces by authors and filmmakers who focus on suburban life. Our work will be guided by some of the central questions raised by suburbs: How are suburbs related to other types of social spaces? How do suburbs function in relation to national mythology? What is the future of suburban life? Students will complete a final research project that focuses on a particular American suburb, producing a journalistic, research-based piece that may consider questions of political economy, environmental sustainability, and civil rights, among other critical elements of contemporary suburban studies. Texts may include works by Betty Friedan, Mike Davis, Rebecca Solnit, Eric Schlosser, Lisa McGirr, Gustavo Arellano, Eric Avila, Todd Haynes, Ang Lee, and David Lynch.


All Syllabi

Course Type

First-Year Program: Research Seminars (FIRST-UG)