GST 338: American Adolescence
Course description and goals:
This interdisciplinary seminar explores the male and female experience of coming of age in America. We will study major historical, psychological, and sociological theories of adolescence and examine how the transition from childhood to adult life is represented in literature and film.
A central focus of our study will be the social construction of adolescence: we will identify the specific cultural and historical forces that "invented" adolescence. The principal question we will attempt to answer is: How and why did this developmental stage evolve? Related questions that we will address include:
In using the theories, insights, and methodologies of history, psychology, sociology, and literary study to explore these questions, we will also examine the similarities and differences between the ways these disciplines investigate and illuminate the adolescent experience.
Elkind, David. All Grown Up and No Place to Go: Teenagers in Crisis. Rev. ed. NY: Perseus,1998.
Hersch, Patricia. A Tribe Apart: A Journey into the Heart of American Adolescence. NY: Ballantine, 1998.
Hine, Thomas. The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager: A New History of the American Adolescent Experience. NY: HarperCollins, 1999.
Hogan, Linda. Power. NY: Norton, 1998.
Kaysen, Susanna. Girl, Interrupted. New York: Vintage, 1993.
Perrotta, Tom. Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies. New York: Berkley, 1995.
Wolff, Tobias. This Boy’s Life: A Memoir. NY: HarperPerennial, 1989.
Unit 1: The Invention of Adolescence and Major Theories of Adolescence
Jan. 31: Introduction; film: "Welcome to the Dollhouse" (1996; dir. Todd Solondz)
Feb. 5: Hine, 1-56; Perrotta, 1-46; mini-lecture 1: Hall & Mead
Feb. 7: Hine, 138-176; Perrotta, 47-91; quiz 1; student leaders: __________ & __________
Feb. 12: Hine, 177-224; Perrotta, 92-113; mini-lecture 2: S. & A.Freud & Chodorow
Feb. 14: Hine, 225-273; Perrotta, 114-133; quiz 2; student leaders: ________ & _______; mini-lecture 3: Erikson & Marcia
Feb. 19: Hine, 274-304; Perrotta, 134-179; student leaders: __________ & __________
Feb. 21 Perrotta, 180-228; Elkind, 3-53; quiz 3; mini-lecture 4: Gilligan & Pleck
Unit 2: Cliques, Gangs, and Outsiders: The Importance of Peer Relations in Adolescence
Feb. 26: Draft of paper 1 due (reader-response analysis of a story by Perrotta), plus 1 copy; Elkind, 55-79; mini-lecture 5: T. Berndt and H.S. Sullivan
Feb. 28: Elkind, 81-134; Kaysen, 3-47; quiz 4; student leaders: __________ & __________
March 5: Revision of paper 1 due (must be attached to draft and peer review); film: "Boyz N the Hood" (1991; dir. John Singleton)
March 7: Elkind, 135-186; Kaysen, 48-91; quiz 5; student leaders: ________ & ________; mini-lecture 6: J. Orlofsky & K.White
March 12: Kaysen, 92-169; Elkind, 189-214; student leaders: ________ & ________
Unit 3: Breaking Away: Parent-Adolescent Relations
March 14: Elkind, 215-238; Wolff, 3-56; quiz 6; mini-lecture 7: Steinberg & Baumrind
March 19-23: Spring break
March 26: Wolff, 57-144; quiz 7; student leaders: _________ & ________; mini-lecture 8: Ausubel and Blos
March 28: Wolff, 145-214; film: "Ordinary People" (1980; dir. Robert Redford)
April 2: Wolff, 215-288; quiz 8; student leaders: ________ & ________; mini-lecture 9: Mavis Hetherington and Armsden & Kobak
April 4: no class: Assessment/SURF; draft of paper 2 (oral history or research investigation) due; independent peer conference
April 9: Research presentations
April 11: Research presentations; revision of paper 2 due (must be attached to draft and peer review)
Unit 4: Identity Formation in Adolescence
April 16: Hersch, 10-80; Hogan, 1-44; quiz 9; mini-lecture 10: Harter
April 18: Hersch, 81-168; student leaders: _______ & _______; mini-lecture 11: Colley and Markus & Nurius
April 23: Hersch, 169-218; Hogan, 45-97; quiz 10
April 25: Hersch, 219-266; Hogan, 99-147; student leaders: ________ & ________
April 30: Hersch, 267-324; Hogan, 149-193; quiz 11; student leaders: ________ & _______
May 2: Hersch, 325-375; Hogan, 195-235; quiz 12; draft of paper 3 due (oral history or research investigation), plus one copy
May 7: Presentations
May 11: Presentations (3:00-6:00); revision of paper 3 due (must be attached to draft and peer review)
Since the format of this class is almost exclusively guided discussion, attendance is important. More than three (3) absences in the term for any reason will result in a lowering of your grade (by one half-grade for each absence over three). Although you will be especially responsible for initiating and sustaining discussion on the days when you're a discussion leader, mini-lecturer, and research presenter (see below), you should contribute to every class session. Contributing regularly and substantially is especially important in this interdisciplinary seminar because I am not an authority on all the disciplines (psychology, sociology, history) that we'll be drawing from to investigate the adolescent experience in America. The class will succeed only if you're willing to share your own knowledge, expertise, and experiences.
You must: do the assigned reading on time; bring insights, questions, and concerns to class; offer your own ideas and interpretations; challenge statements made by others (teacher and assigned authors included) that seem off-base and provide support for those that seem on-target; make your classmates comfortable and draw ideas from them. Above all, you must listen to classmates. You can't contribute to a discussion unless you're following it carefully.
The thesis of this paper will be an original and insightful answer to the investigative question that you pose. Support your thesis with clear and convincing evidence from primary and secondary sources. You may write this paper collaboratively if there’s someone in the class you’d like to work with and if you select a topic with sufficient depth and complexity to legitimize a partnership. This paper (and a presentation focused on the highlights of your research) will be due in early April for half the class and in early May for the rest. (Requests for deadlines should be submitted via email and will be honored on a first-come, first-served basis.)
2) Discussion leading: To keep me from setting the agenda for all seminar discussions, the first half of one class session each week will be student-led. Meet with your partner before your scheduled session and brainstorm for ideas that will focus discussion on particularly interesting, important, and puzzling aspects of that day's readings. A short (2-page) paper will be due on the day that you lead discussion. In this paper, you should: a) clearly pose those questions raised by the text that we should consider as a group; b) provide rationales for these questions¾ that is, explain why they're important. Make a special effort to ask interdisciplinary questions: invite us to apply theories of adolescence to interpreting texts. Don't answer the questions that you raise and explain: we'll do that in class. You and your discussion partner should collaboratively write this paper.
3) Oral history: Following the model provided by Studs Terkel (whose oral history collections¾ Hard Times, Working, Race, and Coming of Age¾ define this nonfiction genre) write a brief oral history (4-5 pages) that captures an adolescent experience that differs (in gender, sexual orientation, historical context, race, ethnicity, class, religion, nationality, etc.) from your own.
4) Reader-response criticism: An autobiographical response to Bad Haircut, this essay (about 5 pages) will explain how your experience of adolescence affects the way you read and interpret one of Perrotta’s stories.
5) Quizzes: Brief 5-point quizzes will be given on the days specified on the class schedule. These quizzes serve two purposes. First, they are intended to encourage you to attend to significant details of the assigned texts. (These details usually provide keys to a work's meaning and an author's purpose.) Secondly, the quizzes should motivate you to keep up on the reading so that you're prepared for discussion. Missed quizzes cannot be made up, since that would defeat this second purpose. I will, however, drop your lowest quiz score before calculating your final quiz grade.
Daily participation: 10%
Discussion leading: 5%
Research investigation: 30% (25% for paper, 5% for presentation)
Oral history: 10%
Reader-response criticism: 15%