Communication and Culture | Communication, Culture, and Social Formations (Topic: American Captivity Narratives)
C314 | 27989 | Lepselter, S.
MW, 11:15 AM-12:30 PM, Location: TBA
Meets with AMST-A 350
Fulfills COLL S&H Requirement
Instructor: Susan Lepselter
For centuries, Americans have been telling stories about their
experiences in captivity. In these narratives, forced contact with
an other becomes the basis for defining and questioning the self.
The first best-seller in America told the adventurous ordeal of a
Colonial woman captured by Native Americans; 300 years later,
fabulous stories of UFO abduction arose in popular culture. What can
we learn about America by looking at the evolution of captivity
narratives over time? How has American identity been shaped and
challenged through imagining the capturing other? This class
explores a wide range of captivity narratives, from the historical
to the fantastic. Along with Indian captivity and UFO abduction,
our study will include fiction and non-fiction accounts of
containment and redemption, including texts about slavery, prison,
Satanic possession, mental hospitals, kidnappings during the Iraqi
war, stories of children secluded from society, and the desires for
containment and release in the making of nuclear weapons.
This class is interdisciplinary in scope. We will use literature,
film, anthropology and psychology to study both scholarly and
popular understandings of captivity and freedom. Our focus will
include the following themes: colonization and the land, the body
and technological development, religious questing, and discourses of
gender, race and class. Through lecture, students will be
introduced to some social theories of containment in culture and
language. In addition, we will substantively explore the boundaries
between memory and fantasy. Therefore, this class will also
introduce students to current theories of traumatized memory and the
debates over false and repressed memories in America.
In their papers, students will sometimes analyze the assigned texts,
and sometimes apply concepts from class to their own society.
1. Four 1250-word papers (15%, 20%, 20% 20 %)
2. Final Exam (based on the assigned readings and films; multiple
choice and short answer -- 20%)
3. Class participation (5%)
Texts include selections from the following (and others):
Derounian-Stodola, Kathryn Zabelle, ed. Women’s Indian Captivity
Castiglia, Christopher. Bound and Determined: Captivity, Culture-
Crossing, and White Womanhood from Mary Rowlandson to Patty Hearst.
Freud, Sigmund. The Uncanny.
Gates, Jr., Henry Louis. Classic Slave Narratives.
Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Hufford, David J. The Terror that Comes in the Night: An Experience-
Centered Study of Supernatural Assault Traditions.
Rhodes, Lorna A. Total Confinement: Madness and Reason in the
Maximum Security Prison.
Rymer, Russ. Genie: A Scientific Tragedy.
Films will include the following:
The Searchers; The Missing; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Marjoe;
The House in the Middle (1950s government propaganda film)