The American Nightmare

We’ve all heard of the American Dream and the pursuit of happiness. But what happens to our conception of American society when things go terribly wrong? This seminar uses this question to guide our examination of works of literature, film, and popular culture that depict moments of crisis—real or imagined—in the United States. Turning our attention to a variety of sources, including photographs of the Great Depression, a play about the AIDS epidemic, and movies about alien invasions, we will interrogate the significance of crises to the US and its artistic representation. What do moments of turmoil reveal about the way American society functions? Why have works that portray disasters proven to be so popular? And how do these works invite us to confront or challenge some of the darkest elements of contemporary American life?