Family Romances: Reading Intimate Fictions
A paradox lies at the heart of most national narratives. Nations are frequently figured through the iconography of familial and domestic space. The term nation derives from natio: to be born … In this way despite their myriad differences, nations are symbolically figured as domestic genealogies. Yet since the mid-nineteenth century in the West, at least, the family itself has been figured as the antithesis of history.
-- Anne McClintock, “No Longer in a Future Heaven”
This course will provide an introduction to narrative fiction. Our specific focus throughout will be on “family romances,” fictions that narrate social, political, and economic conflicts as family dramas. Together we will ask: why did emergence of the novel occur alongside the emergence of the nuclear family in the West? What is the “novel,” and which media are included or excluded from it at different times? What is the “family,” and which forms of intimate and domestic life are included or excluded from it at different times? To provide a broad introduction, we will read a range of writing from the late nineteenth through the late twentieth centuries. Discussions will focus on intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality in narratives of the family. This course satisfies the University of Washington "W" requirement and includes 10-15 pages of graded, out of class writing with an opportunity for revision.
Primary texts are likely to include: Charles Chesnutt, “The Wife of His Youth”; Henry James, “The Marriages”; Nella Larsen, Passing; Junot Diaz, Drown; Fae Myenne Ng, Bone; and other short fiction.