American Studies | Advanced Topics in S & H for AMST: History of the American Home
A399 | 29155 | Gamber
What is a “home”? This course considers the changing ways in which
various Americans have defined that term. We’ll examine colonial
households, idealized nineteenth-century middle-class homes, “modern”
homes of the early twentieth century, post-World War II suburbia, and
(briefly) ideas about “home” today. Along the way we’ll also explore
various places that cultural authorities defined as something other
than “homes.” These included slave cabins, tenements, utopian
communities, boardinghouses, apartments, institutions, internment
camps, college dormitories, and communes. We’ll conclude with a
brief history of homelessness.
We will think about homes (and their alternatives) as buildings,
workplaces, and cultural ideals. What did Americans in various
periods mean by “home”? How have ideas about “home” shaped notions of
race, class, and gender? Has “home” ever been separate from “work”?
Which sorts of places and households qualified as “homes,” which did
not, and why? Who had the authority to define “home”? How did ideas
about architectural style, interior design, and the uses of space
influence these definitions? To what extent did people who lived in
alternative places conceive of their residences as “homes”? To what
extent did they reject dominant notions of “home”? Our primary aim
will be to think both critically and historically about “home,” a
concept that many of us take for granted.
This class combines informal lectures with discussion. While we will
generally devote the greater part of Friday classes to discussion,
you should feel free to ask questions or offer comments at any time.