History | History of the American Home
S104 | 0123 | Gamber

S104:  Open to freshmen only

This course examines the changing ways in which Americans have
conceived of the “home” from the colonial period to the present.
(Key focal points will be the colonial household, the idealized
nineteenth-century middle-class home, post-World War II suburbia, and
the rise of gated communities, telecommuting, and Martha Stewart in
the late twentieth century.)  We will also explore various
alternatives to the home, including Utopian communities, tenements,
boarding and lodging houses, hotels, apartments, dormitories,
orphanages, communes, and homelessness.  We will think about the home
(and its alternatives) as both physical places and cultural ideals.
What did Americans in various periods mean by “home”? Has “home” ever
been separate from “work”? Which places and households qualified
as “homes,” which did not, and why?  How did ideas about
architectural style and the uses of space figure into these
definitions?  What were the larger social, economic, and cultural
implications of these beliefs?  To what extent did people who
designed and lives in alternative places conceive of their residences
as “homes”?  To what extent did they reject the “home”?  What has it
meant to be “homeless” in American society? How has the law worked to
define “homes”--and by extension, families?  In other words, how has
ideology informed policy?

Most student assignments will be based on various sorts of primary
texts, including designs and blueprints, songs, films and television
shows, illustrations, photographs, household manuals, cookbooks,
maps, excerpts from diaries and letters, fiction, and buildings
themselves.  The reading load will be moderate (about 50 pages a
week).  There will be frequent short writing assignments.  We will
also take at least two “field trips” to examine homes in the
Bloomington community.   Our primary aim will be to think critically
about “home,” a concept that most of us take for granted.