Topics in American Studies: American Utopias (Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello)

Course Description/Overview:

While discussions of and writings about utopia have permeated every culture on earth for millennia, both the history and the culture of the United States have been full of efforts to create or imagine a better life for all (or part) of the American populace. In addition, the United States itself has been imagined as a utopia by many people around the world at many different historical moments. American cultural products—from landscape painting to new forms of architecture and literature—bear the marks of these utopian visions, as do the many experimental intentional communities that stand out among a sea of
conformity (Amana, the Shakers, The Farm…to name a few). In this course, we will explore the meaning and power of “utopia” in American culture and consider/investigate the myriad forms that utopian thinking has taken in the U.S. Film, literature, architecture, political tracts, foodways, clothing, and relations between the sexes will each attract our attention. Utopian thinking and experimentation in New England will be highlighted throughout the course.

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