The American Dream is one of the most frequently mentioned and celebrated, yet highly elusive and malleable concepts in U.S. national self-understanding (It is also a favorite exam topic). Even though the term was coined in the 1930s, the idea has found application throughout American history, from the belief in a promised land among the Puritan settlers, to the Declaration of Independence and its guarantee of the pursuit of happiness as an inalienable right, interpreted widely as the personal responsibility for using the unlimited opportunities that the land provides, be it upward social mobility or the achievement of justice and equality through hard work. In literature, the American Dream has been celebrated for its inspiring idealism and criticized for its implied competitiveness and hypocrisy. We will read texts from the colonial period to the 20th century, among them classics like The Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman in order to discuss various manifestations and reflections of the American Dream.

A course outline with a full list of texts to read will be made available on LSF throughout the semester break. This course will take place twice a week during November and December.