Courses at The Evergreen State College

Stephanie Coontz has been a member of the faculty at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington since 1975. She is currently teaching the following courses:

Historical and Sociological Perspectives on Close Relationships
Fall 2011


Syllabus (Word)


American Families: Historical and Sociological Perspectives on Close Relationships
Faculty: Stephanie Coontz, x 6703; coontzs@msn.com
Teaching Assistant: Daphne Kemp, kemjen02@evergreen.edu
Resource Librarian: Paul McMillin mcmillip@evergreen.edu;   x-6167
Moodle site: TBA

This program explores the historical evolution and current dynamics of family life, sexual mores, social networks, and marriage or marriage-like relationships. We begin by examining the variability of emotions and relationships that are sometimes viewed as natural or traditional. We then briefly move through the transition from colonial and revolutionary times to the emergence of a new middle-class model of marriage and parenting in the 19th century, which we will contrast to trends in working-class and racial-ethnic families,

In the second half of the program we discuss the origins of 20th-century family patterns and explore the dramatic shifts that have occurred in family formation and relationship norms over the past 50 years. Students will also do individual projects that will culminate in presentations at the end of the quarter. These will cover topics such as the causes and consequences of divorce, the changing dynamics of cohabitation, singlehood and marriage, the emergence of new sexual norms, legal issues connected with changing family structures and practices, the rise of biracial and multiracial families, and debates over same-sex marriage and parenting. See the end of a syllabus for a list of the topics available.

Much of this subject matter will be controversial. We seek not simple answers but intelligent questions to inform our study. Students are expected to consider several different points of view, to fairly evaluate arguments with which they disagree, and to explore the possible contradictions or exceptions to their own positions. You should expect to back up your position with concrete examples and logical argumentation, and be prepared to be challenged to defend your positions. We are not simply sharing feelings or exchanging points of view but rigorously testing different interpretations and theories against each other.

Punctual and consistent attendance at all class activities is required to earn full credit. Students are also expected to come prepared for seminars (there may be pop quizzes to encourage such preparation) and to discuss the full range of reading, having reflected on its implications beforehand. There will also be several papers, which must be turned in complete and on time. Because this is a demanding and intensive program, student should not attempt to work more than 15 hours a week. 

Meeting Times and Places:
Monday, 10-noon, 1-3: lecture, book seminar (lunch time approximate) – Library 0406
Tuesday, 10-noon, 1-3: lecture, film, workshop or seminar, text analysis (varies from week to week; and depending on that variation, so may the lunch break) – Library 0406
Wednesday, 10-1: Symposium project meetings and workshops – Library 0406
Friday 10-1: book seminar – Library 1005

Week One, September 26-30

Monday:
Introduction to class, syllabus, expectations. Lecture on the variability of family life, sexual mores, and marriage.

Tuesday:
Seminar on the concept of “social construction,” having read West and Zimmerman, pp. 47-56, and Schwartz and Rutter, “Sexual Desire and Gender,” pp. 132-40, both in Andrew Cherlin, ed, Public and Private Families: A Reader.
ASSIGN CHAPTERS  FOR STUDENTS TO READ AND PREPARE A SHORT PREPARATION ON FOR FRIDAY

Wednesday: GO OVER POSSIBILITIES FOR INDIVIDUAL PROJECTS (SEE END OF SYLLABUS). GET LIST OF STARTER BOOKS AND ARTICLES.

Friday:
Everyone reads Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender, pp. 1-96, 232-239 PLUS two people will each read one other chapter (assigned on Wed) and summarize it for class, so be sure to have met beforehand to get that ready.

Week II, October 3-7: The Social Transformation of American Families from Colonial Times to the mid-19th Century

Monday:
Lecture on traditional marriage and colonial family life; Discuss witchcraft accusations and colonial sermon (handouts)

Seminar on Intimate Matters, pp. 3-38 (on moodle); Steven Mintz and Susan Kellogg, Domestic Revolutions, pp. 1-80, Mary Ryan, Cradle of the Middle Class, pp. 18-59.

Tuesday: NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Morning free to finish reading Coontz, The Social Origins of Private Life, pp. 116-160 (on moodle) and write a brief but precise summary of that chapter’s main thesis about the impact of the American Revolution on interpersonal relationships
Noon-3 – Seminar. Turn in chapter summary.

Wednesday:
10- noon – Solarium Room at Library: workshop on finding extra sources for projects and reviews of the books you will be reading. Work on individual projects and by 4 pm Thursday, turn in your understanding of the main questions connected to your topic and the initial books, articles, and websites you have identified.

Friday:
Seminar on Coontz, Social Origins of Private Life, pp. 161-204 (moodle) and Ryan, Cradle of the Middle Class, pp. 230-42 (moodle).

Week III, October 10-14 -- An Overview of Family Change

Monday:
10- noon: Lecture on 19th centuries family life, marriage, and community relations
1-3: Seminar on chapters 5 and 6 of Barbara Risman, Families As They Really Are and John Gillis, A World of Their Own Making, pp. 81-148 (moodle).

Tuesday:
10-3 – individual conferences with Stephanie and Daphne
Rest of the day free to work on 3-5 page paper due Friday: Discuss the main changes in the dynamics of close relationships (gender roles, sexual values, courtship, marriage, and childrearing) between colonial days and the late 19th century, developing an overarching thesis about the pattern, nature, causes or implications of the changes, and paying attention to variations by class and race.

Wednesday: Bring in your thesis statement and full sentence outline for Friday’s paper. Discuss in class and in small groups for half the class time. The other half of the time, small groups on similar topics will divide up what each member of the group will be focusing on.

Friday: PAPER DUE AT 10 AM, BEFORE SEMINAR. DO NOT MISS SEMINAR TO FINISH YOUR PAPER!

10-1 – Seminar on Beth Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat, pp. 13-24 (on moodle) and Cancian article in Cherlin reader, pp. 14-28. THESE READINGS WILL BE USEFUL FOR YOUR PAPER AND SHOULD BE INTEGRATED INTO IT.           

Week IV, October 17-21: The 20th Century (Incomplete) Revolution in Sex, Gender, and Marriage

Monday:
10-noon: Trends in family and gender relations, 1900-1960s
1-3 Seminar on Gene Stratton Porter, Girl of the Limberlost        .

Tuesday:
10-noon --  film, “Grapes of Wrath”
1-3 -- Seminar on Mintz and Kellogg, pp. 107-75 and Donna Franklin article in Families As They Really Are, pp. 63-74

Wednesday:
Individual project groups. By 4 pm, turn in an essay or outline detailing the main trends, debates, and/or questions you have identified in your reading so far and will be discussing in your presentation. Include an annotated bibliography.

Friday:
 Seminar on Mintz, pp. 177-201, and Coontz, “The 1950s” (on moodle)

Start thinking about the points you want to make in the first installment of your major paper for the quarter NOW (see week five note for topic).

Choose a novel about romance or sexuality from any date from the 1950s to the present (but we want to be sure to have some from the 1950s or 1960s -- The Best of Everything springs to mind, as does Peyton Place) to read over the weekend. You will analyze it as a sociologist would, identifying what is and is not different from earlier values and from current ones in the treatment of gender, love, sex, and marriage. You should also look for contradictions or mixed messages, as we did in reading the Porter book. Write up a 2-3 page summary of your analysis of the book to turn in on Monday and be prepared to explain it to the rest of the class.

Week V, October 24-28 – Family, Sex, and Marriage in the 1950s

Monday:
10-3, with a lunch break. Student reports on their romance novels.

TOPIC FOR PAPER DUE WEEK VI: Looking at the rise in divorce, unwed childbearing, instability in interpersonal relationships and incivility in social ones, Americans often express nostalgia for the past, when marriages were more stable, children were more protected within the family circle, youths were not as vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and people felt more responsibility for kin and neighbors. Write a 3-5 page essay explaining why you do or do not believe that such nostalgia for the past is justified, drawing from as wide a range of sources and time periods as possible.

Tuesday:
1950s film and tv fest:
part 1 of Eyes on the Prize.
Father Knows Best on Amazon:  "Betty, Girl Engineer" is episode 30 of Season Two:
Donna Reed Show.  "How to Handle a Woman" is episode 16 of Season Eight:

Wednesday:
Work on individual projects and turn in an update on your progress by 4 pm.

Friday:
Bring a list of 3 assertions you want to make in your paper and 5 examples or pieces of evidence you will use to support these assertions. We will discuss these in small groups.

Week VI, October 31-November 4: End of the “Golden Age”? The 1960s and 1970s

Monday: PAPER DUE AT 10 AM. IF YOU MISS CLASS TO FINISH UP THE PAPER THAT WILL COUNT AS A PAPER THAT WAS NOT TURNED IN.
10-3 – Parts 2, 3, and 4 of Eyes on the Prize; oral history of the 1960s

Tuesday:
No class so you can pull together the expanded prospectus and annotated bibliography, due by 11 am on Thursday.

Wednesday: Project groups compare prospectuses and bibliographies (do not share your annotations however).

Thursday by 11 am (or you may turn this in earlier): Turn in a project prospectus identifying the main points you will be making in your presentation and including an expanded annotated bibliography.

Friday: Papers Returned with Comments for Revision.
Seminar on Domestic Revolutions, pp. 203-244 and  Richard Settersten and Barbara Ray, Not Quite Adults, pp. 1-101.

Week VII, November 7-11: Changing Patterns in Close Relationships

Monday:
10-noon: Lecture on late 20th century changes in family life, sexuality, and marriage patterns
1-3:  Seminar on Settersten and Ray, pp. 102-201, Furstenberg, pp. 359-71 in Cherlin Reader and Furstenberg et al, pp. 36-42 in Cherlin reader.

 

Tuesday free to finish reading and response to Stephanie’s paper comments. Daphne is available all day to consult about your revision ideas.

Wednesday by 5 pm: TURN IN A DETAILED LETTER (2-3 pages double-spaced) EXPLAINING PRECISELY WHAT YOU INTEND TO DO TO ADDRESS STEPHANIE’S COMMENTS ON YOUR PAPER WHEN YOU DEVELOP AN EXPANDED VERSION THAT INCORPORATES THE FOLLOWING EXTENSION OF THE ASSIGNMENT:
Americans often express nostalgia for the past, when marriages were more stable, children were more protected within the family circle, youths were not as vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and people felt more responsibility for kin and neighbors. Write a 5-7 page essay explaining why you do or do not believe that such nostalgia for the past is justified in light of the family trends of the past 40 years. NOTE THAT YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO INTEGRATE READINGS FROM WEEKS VII AND VIII INTO THIS PAPER.

Friday: Seminar on selected chapters from Cherlin and Risman readers, TBA

Week VIII, November 14-18: Changing Patterns, continued

Monday: Lecture TBA
Seminar on Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, Promises I Can Keep, pp. 1-49, 104-223.

Tuesday:
Seminar on selected chapters from Cherlin and Risman readers, TBA

Wednesday: Down Day to Work on Paper Revision and get ahead on Friday reading

Friday:
Seminar on selected chapters from Cherlin and Risman readers, TBA

Pick up practice questions for final exam

Revised and expanded paper due by 5 pm in Stephanie’s mail box.
BE SURE TO TAKE TWENGE AND CAMBELL, THE NARCISSISM EPIDEMIC HOME WITH YOU OVER THANKSGIVING. IT’S 300 PAGES LONG SO YOU WILL NEED TO DEVOTE A COUPLE OF DAYS TO IT. (IT SHOULD MAKE FOR AN ANIMATED DINNER DISCUSSION WITH YOUR RELATIVES OR FRIENDS!)

November 21-27: Thanksgiving Vacation

Week IX, November 28-December 2 – Review

Monday:
10-noon: Seminar on Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell, The Narcissism Epidemic

1-3: Practice sessions for final exams

Tuesday:
Speaking workshop and presentation previews

Wednesday: Study groups for final exam

Friday:
10-1: FINAL EXAM!

Week X, December 5-9: Student Symposium

Monday free to complete presentations

All students are required to turn in their final reports and annotated bibliographies on Tuesday, regardless of when their presentation is scheduled.

Presentations Tues, Wed, and Friday, 9-4:30. BE SURE TO BUILD THIS EXPANDED CLASS TIME INTO YOUR SCHEDULE
9, 9:30, 10 – Presentations
10:30-45 – Break
10:45, 11:15, 11:45 – presentations
12:15-1 – lunch
1, 1:30, 2 – presentations
2:30 – break
2:45, 3:15, 3:45 – presentations

Friday: We will probably end early, but we will then have an end of quarter potluck at which rough drafts of your self-evaluations will be due.

Week XI, December 12-16: Evaluation Week

Topics for individual research and reports (3 people in each group; subdivide so each person takes on a different aspect). These individual projects are not traditional research papers. The aim is to have students teach each other the basics of more topics than we would otherwise have time to integrate into the quarter. I will give you the key authors on each topic. Everyone working on the topic will read the main books, and then each of you will agree to explicate a different aspect of the topic to the class, doing extra research as needed to supplement the main books

Cross-cultural and evolutionary perspectives on love, sex and marriage
Kim Hill and Sarah Hrdy on evolution; Judith Stacey, Unhitched, and Suzanne Frasier, Varieties of Sexual Experience, on cross cultural variations

Same-Sex Relationships
Same-sex marriage debates (Graff, Wolfson, Blankenhorn; Polikoff); Impact of same-sex- marriage on heterosexual marriages (Badgett); Same-sex relationship dynamics (R-J Green, Mignon Moore, Gottman; Canadian studies); Impact on children of same-sex marriages, assisted reproduction (Marquadt, Patterson, Stacey-Bibliarz, etc.) FATRA, 20, 21; Holning Lau and Charles Strohm, "the effects of legally recognizing same-sex unions on health and well-being in Law and Inequality 2011 pubichsed by U of Minnesota. See also ww.law.umn.edu/lawineq/agenda2010.html

Masculinity
FATRA 30, 35; Dude, You’re a Fag; Kimmel; Coltrane

Sexuality Among 20 Somethings
Hooking up debates and studies (Bogle, Stepp, Armstrong, England); Trends in sexual behavior and misbehavior

Cohabitation and Marriage
Banks on A-A trends; Pamela Smock et al on cohabitation; class divergence in marriage patterns; debates over impact of cohabitation on marital quality and marital stability; changing marriage dynamics among educated couples (Stevenson and Wolfers). FATRA 13, 15, 28, 19, 21, 33, 34

Divorce, Unwed Childbearing; Relationship Dissolution
Trends, causes, consequences. Amato, Ahrons, Li, Grubb, etc. FATRA 16, 18, 23

Complexity of Defining Modern Families and Making Legal Decisions
STruening, Polikoff, Martha Fineman, Michael Austin. FATRA 8

The Impact of New Technology on Social and Interpersonal Relations
Nicholas Carr, The Shallows; Aboujaoude, Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality; McGonigel, Reality is Broken: Why Games will Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. Nancy Baym, Personal Connections in the Digital Age; Evgeny Morozov, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom; Eli Parser, The Filter Bubble

 

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