2012-13 On the Move: Women’s Social and Spatial Mobility in American Culture

Immigrant Women in Line for Inspection at Ellis Island  J 383 .756
Pilot Project Seminar
Programs for Teachers
Chicago Teachers as Scholars
Thursday, October 25, 2012 to Friday, October 26, 2012

9 am - 3 pm

Room B92

Led by Ann Brigham, Roosevelt University

In many ways, the American experience has been defined by the promise of mobility, that is, the freedom to go anywhere and become anyone. In fact, the two have often been linked: spatial mobility—the movement between places or across space—has often been understood as a way to achieve a range of other mobilities, from the social and economic to the psychological and sexual. But how does this promise hold up when women are the ones on the move? Their movement reveals a conflict between an understanding of mobility as individual liberation and one in which mobility is understood as a subversion of established norms. In this two-day seminar, we will examine issues involving women’s spatial and social mobility and immobility in an American context. Through novels such as Willa Cather’s My Antonia (1918), set among immigrants on the sparse Western frontier, and Ann Petry’s 1946 novel The Street, situated in the crowded spaces of Harlem, we will explore the different meanings, experiences, and tensions of mobility for a range of female figures. These two novels, along with other readings and archival materials, will give us the chance to discuss the role of mobility in the creation of an American identity, the various spaces where mobility occurs (e.g., the frontier, the city, the street, the home, and the body), and the importance of gender and race in stories of spatial and social border crossings.

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For registration information please contact Rachel Rooney at rooneyr@newberry.org

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