In our society, the concept of “family” is paradoxically omnipresent but elusive: politicians seek to define it, marketers struggle to reach it, artists attempt to represent it, and many individuals hope to transcend it. This course offers both a critical examination of family in the United States and a survey of the academic disciplines that study it. As we will see, legal, social, and personal definitions of family are fluid because historical processes such as slavery, immigration, feminism, and gay liberation re-shape popular conceptualizations of family. Similarly, disciplines such as history, sociology, biology, law, literature, and literary theory routinely offer new and sometimes contradictory ways of understanding family. This course will use these disciplines to illuminate the complicated ideas and emotions that can surround what arguably are our closest relationships. Works we may study include Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale , Octavia Butler's Kindred , Eric Klinenberg's Going Solo , Adrienne Rich's Of Woman Born , and the photography of Sally Mann.