Coming of Age in the Nineteenth-Century United States
This course will explore the historical experience of young people and the meaning of youth from the American Revolution through 1920. What did it mean to come of age? What was it like to be a young person? What distinguished youth from childhood and adulthood? What hopes and fears did older people project onto the young? Rather than treating youth as a biologically determined stage of life, we will analyze how shifting social relations and cultural understandings changed what it meant to grow up. Topics to be explored include work, sexuality, education, political involvement, and popular culture. Throughout, we will compare and contrast the experiences of young people from different regions, religious backgrounds, races, and social classes. In class discussion, we will evaluate secondary sources that employ a variety of methodologies for understanding young people and youth. Through short written assignments, you will generate original analyses of primary source material such as diaries, letters, photographs and legal cases. Your course work will culminate in a seven-page paper analyzing a primary source of your choice.