W170 | 8773 | Gordon


The myth of the American Dream is a story of success.  Whether one is
an American or a visitor here, one cannot help but note that in
America, success- -the culmination of the dream- -is not just a hope,
it’s an expectation.  Yet not everyone can succeed, and for those who
do not, the American lexicon has a particular term: loser.   In this
class, we will explore the underbelly of the American Dream,
interrogate the preconceptions and assumptions that underlie the
American idea of success, and question how or why someone
might “lose.”  Reading primary and secondary texts from the 17th
through 20th centuries, we will ground our understanding of the
economic, social, and political shifts that have molded our notions
of “the American Character” and “the American Dream.”  Concurrently,
we will look at, listen to, ponder and peruse American cultural
products that suggest representations of “the loser” or “loserhood”.
We will pay special attention to works which feature groups who have
most often been called, or called themselves, losers: gangsters,
failed businessmen, artists, and misunderstood youths.  Through
reading, writing, and discussion, we will examine what it means when
we call ourselves and others “losers” and ask a number of questions:
What have losers “lost”?  How do we look at the non-succeeders in a
decidedly success-driven culture?  What do we think success is?