Unit 1, Home: Introduction

50s homesWelcome to Unit 1. In this unit we will focus on the following skills:

  • Developing focused topic sentences
  • Writing unified, coherent, and well-developed paragraphs
  • Creating effective introductions & conclusions
  • Reading critically: interpretation, analysis, evaluation & synthesis
  • Using comparison, contrast, and definition to develop an idea

What we will be reading and writing about

In this unit we focus our attention on the idea of home. We will consider what home means today, and what it used to mean in America fifty, even a hundred years ago. We will consider how class, culture, and fantasies of "home" shape what we do with our space. We will look at particular kinds of homes, spaces within the home reserved for specific activities, such as the "living" room, and neighborhoods (as a kind of extension of private space). And, we will look at the loss of home for the frail elderly, and the problem of institutional substitutes for home.

Why this topic is worth studying

We ask a lot of our homes and the people we share them with. From our family members, we want comfort, humor, acceptance, love, and support, and we want our environment to facilitate, and even encourage happy experiences. Through our arrangement of space, our choice of material comforts like sofas, televisions, pictures, carpets, and dishes, and the simple routines we adopt—breakfast each morning looking out the window at the garden, Jeopardy at 7:00, reading to children or listening to favorite music before bed—we give order to our lives. And homes reflect our changing identities and values, and our changing culture as well. Thus, through critical reading about private space we can learn a great deal about our culture and ourselves. Consider for example, what J.B. Jackson has to say about the significance of the simple American lawn:

In an indefinable way the lawn is the background for conventionally correct behavior. In America the lawn is more than essential, it is the heart and very soul of the front yard, that landscape element that every American values most."

—  J.B. Jackson, "Ghost at the Door," 1951

According to Jackson, the American lawn is necessary scenery for participaton in mainstream American culture. It signifies our belonging in a community and in a national culture. Think about your own home; do you have a front yard? Why or why not? A lawn takes a lot of work to maintain; and there are other ways to create an attractive front to a home, so why do the work? These simple elements we choose in creating our homes tell interesting stories.

Readings: Overview

Below is a description of the readings which make up the content of this unit. For a complete schedule of assignments for this unit, please go to the calendar link, above.

Readings for Everyone:

  1. "Definitions of Home" This link takes you to dictionary definitions of the word "Home" and provides us with a good foundation to start the unit.
  2. "A Family Tradition," Cody Assman
  3. "Food is not only culture, it's diplomacy," Leah Selim