Fall 2023

Mothers and Fathers

Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-118


Jonas Rosenbrueck (Section 01)


We all have them, in one way or another: mothers and fathers. Be it so-called tiger moms, helicopter dads, grandparents who raised us or a neighbor with maternal instincts, our lives are deeply shaped by the presence or absence of mother and father figures. In this class, we will thus pose the question of family values: why do we value the family and how does this value structure affect not only our personal life but also society at large? We will depart from the assumption that the family is an object worthy of serious study and then pose a variety of questions: How do race, class, gender identity, and sexual orientation shape what counts as family? Why do resentment, anger, and indifference seem to be as present in family life as love and care? And how do the politics of sexual reproduction, the possibilities of various reproductive technologies such as IVF, and the economic system of capitalism shape what the family means today?

In pursuing these questions, students will be introduced to a wide range of fields that are crucial to a liberal arts education. Literature (including authors such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Christian Kracht), philosophy (G.W.F. Hegel), and political economy (Friedrich Engels, Silvia Federici) as well as work from queer theory (Lauren Berlant, Jack Halberstam) and Black Feminist Thought (Saidiya Hartman, Sara Ahmed) will help us think through family values. Lastly, we will occasionally turn to pop culture—e. g. TV shows such as The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, and Arrested Development—for insight into how the family is represented (and, in its oddity, makes us laugh) in daily life.

Fall semester: Professor Rosenbrück.

How to handle overenrollment: Dean handles this.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on written work, analytic reading, class discussion.

FYSE 118 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM FROS 211
Th 11:30 AM - 12:50 PM FROS 211

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
Still Born Fitzcarraldo or Bloomsbury Guadalupe Nettel Amherst Books TBD
Letter to the Father/Brief an den Vater: Bilingual Edition Schocken 2015 Franz Kafka Amherst Books TBD
Beloved Vintage Toni Morrison Amherst Books TBD
The Argonauts Graywolf Press Maggie Nelson Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


Other years: Offered in Fall 2023