Monday, October 29, 2007

Ways of Writing History

So far, we've talked about American History through marriage. This week, we read about the rise of Modern America, through the lens of Modern Marriage. Do changes to marriage always parallel the mainstream narrative of history?

As a thought experiment, think about how you would construct a narrative of the United States without marriage, and then how that story is altered when you interject marriage into it. Does what we are doing illuminate the past, give new insights, or is it separable from real "History?" Just curious to hear your thoughts . . .

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Adam's Rib"

The movie showed us two different marriages under stress:

1) a working-class couple dealing with infidelity and a reversal of the typical "jealous husband murders wife's lover" story discussed in Hartog's eighth chapter.

2) a upper-class couple facing the challenges of the 1930s "new woman" (following suffrage in 1920) and sexual equality in the workplace as well as the home.

What scenes from the movie developed the personalities and conflicts of these two married couples?

How is the film addressing and working out larger social problems of this period of transition?

Also, related to a gendered analysis, if not to marriage: the Bonner's neighbor, Kip, is a classic example of how gay men were common to romantic comedies of the era, even though their sexuality is obviously hidden. Yet Kip (with his avant-garde and primitive art collections and work as a show business pianist/composer) clearly signals to the audience that he is not a real threat to the marriage of Adam and Amanda. Such "codes" also allowed gay and lesbian audience members to recognize these characters as gay, even if straight viewers did not always see them as such.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Paper #1 Redux

A place to discuss paper topics, ideas, troubles.
Also, I strongly encourage you to meet with a classmate and have her read through your rough draft before you turn in your paper.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Something interesting

This was something that my english professor sent out to the class as something to think about in regards to the development of women's rights, and it reminded me of our discussion yesterday about what society expected of a woman and what society expected of a man. It's an article from a woman's magazine from the 1950's, and it seems to be almost exactly the same as what we discussed. You can see it here:

I was surprised that the social expectations of gender roles didn't seem to change much at all over a period of 100 years. I thought that since so much happened between 1850 and 1950 (two world wars, the Great Depression, the Spanish-American war), that perhaps some of these big events would have influenced some other aspects of society. What do you think?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Normative Marriage

In the reading this week we look at the controversy surrounding polygamy in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Gordon spends an entire book outlining the struggle for power between the Mormon settlers in Utah and antipolygamists in the East, particularly in Congress. One of the arguments that she spends a considerable amount of time developing was the potential for state sanctioned polygamy to undermine the structure of the national government. The basis, in antipolygamists terms, was that women could not consent to being in a marriage with other wives, therefore polygamy underminded the marriage contract. Polygamists argued that consent of each additional wife was necessary, and that polygamy should be protected from persecution under the First Amendment. However, through various acts of Congress (notably the series of Edmunds Acts) and legal proceedings, the national government declared that they would not protect polygamy as a religious act.
Cott takes a similar approach, but a broader look at nonnormative marriage, including polygamy. She writes about the arguments that nonnormative marriages (that is monogamous marriages) underminded the moral content of the nation. Aside from polygamy, Cott includes a section on legislation against the publication of "obscene" material like birth control.
Together, Cott and Gordon paint a picture of the process of taking the public government into the private domestic realm of marriage. How does this reflect the changing atmosphere of the post Civil War period? Specifically, what do the arguments made by pro-womens' rights and antipolygamists advocates contain similar ideas and is this surprising. Would you expect that both sides are arguing that women cannot consent to polygamous marriages?
Furthermore, Mormons are framed as being "licentitious," does this make sense in terms of what we discussed last week? Antipolygamists viewed polygamy as an example of prostitution, but would this be true since Mormon tenets make polygamy a sacred union?