Fall 2012

Growing Up in America

Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-103


Elizabeth J. Aries (Section 01)


How do race, social class and gender shape the experience of growing up in America? We will begin by examining the life of a contemporary African-American male on his journey from the inner city to an Ivy League university. We then look back historically at some nineteenth-century lives--male and female, real and fictional--to understand how the transition from an agricultural to an urban industrial society has influenced the experience of coming of age.  The remainder of the course will center on coming of age in the twentieth century. Our focus will be on the formation of identity, relationship with parents, courtship, sexuality and the importance of place. In addition to historical, sociological and psychological texts, the class will include fiction by Horatio Alger, Ella Deloria, and James Baldwin.

The course introduces students to liberal studies through exposure to interdisciplinary readings and methods of inquiry from history, psychology, sociology and literature. We hope to advance students’ skills at reading critically, analyzing arguments, and articulating ideas orally and in their writing, skills that will be crucial for future coursework at the college. Preparation for each class involves students formulating questions on the reading assignment, and students are expected to be active participants in this entirely discussion-based course. We find that students readily connect to the material and learn from one another as they respond to the material in diverse ways. The writing assignments range in length from 1-6 pages. Shorter assignments focus on understanding an individual author’s approach, argument, and evidence, while the longer assignments ask students to develop connections between the readings from each unit of the course. Students will have the opportunity to rewrite one paper to further develop and refine their thinking, argumentation and prose.

Fall semester. Professor Aries.

FYSE 103 - L/D

Section 01
Tu 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM MERR 314
Th 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM MERR 314

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
A Hope in the unseen Broadway, 1998 Suskind, R. Amherst Books TBD
Ragged Dick and Mark Touchstone, 1867 Alger, H. Amherst Books TBD
Waterlily Bison, 1988 Deloria, E. Amherst Books TBD
Ain't no makin' it Westview Press, 1995 MacLeod, J Amherst Books TBD
Go tell it on the mountain Dial Press, 1981 Baldwin, J. Amherst Books TBD
Friday night lights DaCapo, 1990 Bissinger, H. Amherst Books TBD
Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012