Special Course Descriptions

ENG 494 11 SpTp: Culture of the Old/Cultures of the Young
Prof. De Prospo

Whereas what once seemed controversial topics--race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, borderlands --have become mainstream in college and university American Studies and English courses, one, arguably major category of cultural difference remains relatively understudied--at least in the humanities. The study of generation, like that of all of the topics listed above, is potentially subversive, and it may be neglected because of the fact that most college and university professors (admittedly with increasingly numerous exceptions) are members of the single, for some time now and for some time to come, dominant generation. The Baby Boom runs the same risks as do white people in the U.S., white Anglo-Saxon-Protestant people in the U.S., men everywhere, and heterosexuals everywhere when it acknowledges that the products of (sub)cultures other than its own are as worthy of becoming college and university curricula as its own traditional canon. The course will try to distinguish in a variety of ways the belated, frequently plaintive, cultures of the young from that of the Baby Boom. The course will define generation more culturally than demographically--as is the case in humanist area studies of race, ethnicity, etc.--, and will include, in addition to written texts, those other-than-written ones that would seem predominantly to convey the values of the offspring of Baby Boom parents and, increasingly, grandparents. Issues of race, gender, and sexual preference will be addressed in the context of their generational implications: ask, for examples, whether the relative tolerance of gender diversity and diverse sexual preferences among cultures of the young may be one way of rebelling against a more heterosexist parent culture, or whether African Americans can properly be identified culturally as members of either the Baby Boom or Generation X, due to overriding considerations of racial difference. Texts will be divided between those that have become Baby-Boom standards--Catch-22, Portnoy's Complaint, Getting Straight, The Graduate, Exile on Main Street , Hotel California, Who's Next--, and those that have become identified with Generation(s) X (Y, Z, etc.)--Generation X, Twelve, Clerks, Exile in Guyville , Veruca Salt, The Slim Shady LP , damone, and no doubt many many others much more recent and (to me) more obscure that may by now have become more representative, the knowledge of which is doubtless greater among Washington College students and seventh-graders like my son than among Washington College professors.