CC 300 AX: US History and Culture of Suburbia

CC 300 AX: US History and Culture of Suburbia

3 Credits – Cross-listed with ART 390 X and HIST 492 AX
MWF 11:30-12:20 pm – Professor Buggeln

In the second half of the 19th century, Americans increasingly moved to the space between city and country—close to urban employment and other advantages, but in quieter, greener places especially geared to family life. After WWII, the suburbs absolutely boomed, and they continue to be a central feature of America’s landscape and culture. Pointed criticisms of suburban life abound: it is boring, homogenous, racist, materialistic, sheltered, and soulless. Yet many Americans have chosen to live in these places, and still do.

This course takes a historical look at the American suburb, mid 19th century to the present, from the perspective of the built environment. How have designers and residents literally made these places? What ideas have shaped the design of houses, green spaces, schools, churches—even doctors “parks”? What infrastructure has made suburban life possible? What barriers have kept some people out? We’ll look closely at regional examples such as Greendale, Wisconsin; Riverside and Park Forest, Illinois; as well as more recent suburban developments in Valparaiso.

As we study the historical and material development of American suburbs, we will be attentive to ways both champions and critics have represented the suburbs in popular culture. Using literature, art, photography, music, film and television, we will consider how representations of suburbia have shaped its appeal, celebrated its accomplishments, and drawn attention to its faults.

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