SoSe 15: The Brilliant, the Wealthy, the Few: Elite Education in Twentieth-Century American Culture
Elite education has been a part of the socio-political reality and the cultural imagination of the United States ever since Harvard was founded in 1636. The pronounced stratification of the ... read more
Elite education has been a part of the socio-political reality and the cultural imagination of the United States ever since Harvard was founded in 1636. The pronounced stratification of the educational system and the selectivity of its most prestigious institutions persist well into the twenty-first century, even though the criteria for admission and exclusion seem to have changed drastically.
In this seminar, we will use a number of literary, sociological, journalistic, and institutional texts as points of departure to explore the meanings attached to and negotiated via the elite educational space-meanings that go above and beyond academic education proper: class, merit, notions of Americanness, among others. In reading and discussing the texts and their historical contexts, we will address the changing roles of elite institutions throughout the twentieth century, interrogating the elite campus as a space that fosters both subversion and affirmation of the status quo. Our particular focus will be on
- the visual and narrative construction of elite distinction
- the notion of 'merit' and the ideal of a meritocracy
- the negotiation of class and capital in the elite educational space
- the nexus between the cultural meanings of elite education and the persistence of inequality
For details on the texts we will discuss, please consult the syllabus (available on Blackboard by April 1). Registration for this class will take place in its first session.