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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

American Dreams

Instructor(s): Barbara Black, English

America is a country long mythified as a place where dreams come true, a land that boasts a signature fantasy called the American Dream. What, however, are the dreams of 21st-century America? What do these fantasies reveal about our values, and what role do these dreams play in the construction of our personal and collective identities? This seminar will begin with mythic America to reconstruct the historic promise of social mobility in America. But we will move swiftly to our current cultural moment to investigate the nature of happiness and desire today. Why is the allure of cool so hot? Why are we susceptible to nostalgia? Given our culture’s obsession with dream houses and dream bodies, is the “makeover” story America’s favorite fairy tale? Other topics up for discussion might include consumption, American-style—from food to dollars to coal and energy; the Google guys and the Silicon Valley version of the American dream that they embody; community-building on; and the promise of speed and convenience in a digitized culture. This course will draw from art, film, music, advertising, the web, fiction, and particularly the very best and provocative of contemporary American journalism.

Course Offered