Communication and Culture | Communication, Culture, and Social Formations (Topic: American Captivity Narratives)
C314 | 25094 | Lepselter, S.
MW, 11:15 AM-12:30 PM, Location: TBA
Meets with AMST-A 350
Fulfills College S&H Requirement
Carries College Intensive Writing Credit
Instructor: Susan Lepselter
Office: 800 E. 3rd St. – room 285
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? And how
specifically does writing express and shape experiences of captivity?
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, mental hospitals, kidnappings during the Iraqi war, and
stories of children secluded from society.
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 in America. 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.
Four 1250-word papers (10%, 20%, 20% 25 %). One of these papers
shall be redrafted based upon the professor’s criticism.
Final Exam (based on the assigned readings and films; multiple
choice and short answer -- 20%)
Brief written reading responses and discussion questions, verbal
participation, effort and demonstrated improvement (5%)
Books will include:
Rymer, Russ. Genie: A Scientific Tragedy.
Gates, Henry Louis. Slave Narratives.
Unsworth, Barry. Sacred Hunger
Kesey, Ken. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.