Rags to Riches: Social Mobility in America
This capstone seminar focuses on the key question of stratification in American society: can one truly go from "rags to riches"? The fact and fiction of this American myth is systematically explored in historical context, using a range of texts - historical, sociological and literary. Where did this idea arise? How is this evident in popular culture? How true was it in the 19th century during the period of industrialization, immigration, and urbanization? How true has it been in the 20th century? For whom was it most likely and why? How have factors like ethnicity, race, class, or gender structured the nature of social opportunity in different eras? What is the structure of opportunity likely to be in the 21st century? Is the idea of rags to riches myth or reality? Fact or fiction? An intriguing course for all students, challenging fundamental assumptions about the nature of social mobility in America, past and present.