How do race, ethnicity, social class and gender shape the experience of growing up in America? We will begin by examining the life of a 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 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, education, courtship, sexuality, and the importance of culture and community. In addition to historical, sociological and psychological texts, we will read works of fiction and non-fiction.
The course introduces students to liberal studies through exposure to interdisciplinary readings and methods of inquiry from history, psychology, sociology and literature. The course will 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.