Tu/Th 8:00-9:30 225 Dwinelle Instructor: Carli Cutchin
Every family has its secrets. In this class, we’ll look at fiction, film, television, and poetry
that reveal what happens when a family’s metaphorical skeletons emerge from the closet.
Does the revelation lead to crisis? Chaos? Resolution? With some of our stories, the reader
alone learns a character’s secret, while the story’s other characters remain in the dark.
What kind of “revelation” is this? How does the possession of this secret knowledge affect
a reader’s attitude toward the character and the story’s events? How do these secrets alter
or contradict our notions of family? How do the ideas of family and kinship change over
time and across distance?
With these and other questions in mind, we will analyze a selection of texts by Doris
Lessing, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Dorothy Allison, Alison Bechdel, Paul Celan, Sylvia
Plath, and Junot Díaz. We will also look at film by Alfred Hitchcock, Wes Anderson, and the
television show Transparent. In order to explore these works in depth and from a variety
of angles, we will exercise and hone our analytical writing, critical thinking, and research
skills throughout the semester. Assignments will include: close reading exercises that
focus on analyzing textual details (language, images, voice, tone, etc.); argument-building
exercises that will encourage you to use your close reading skills to develop compelling
thesis statements; and independent research projects, where you will find secondary
sources and discuss how they inform and illuminate a work of literature or film.