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American Suburbia from 1950s to 1980s: The Development of the Image of Suburbia in the Short Stories of John Cheever, John Updike, and Raymond Carver
Název práce v češtině: Americké předměstí od 50. do 80.let 20.století: Vývoj obrazu předměstí v povídkách Johna Cheevera, Johna Updika a Raymonda Carvera
Název v anglickém jazyce: American Suburbia from 1950s to 1980s: The Development of the Image of Suburbia in the Short Stories of John Cheever, John Updike, and Raymond Carver
Klíčová slova: předměstí americké povídky utopie raymond carver john updike john cheever
Klíčová slova anglicky: suburbia american utopia short story raymond carver john updike john cheever
Akademický rok vypsání: 2012/2013
Typ práce: diplomová práce
Jazyk práce: angličtina
Ústav: Ústav anglofonních literatur a kultur (21-UALK)
Vedoucí / školitel: doc. Erik Sherman Roraback, D.Phil.
Řešitel: skrytý - zadáno a potvrzeno stud. odd.
Datum přihlášení: 04.09.2013
Datum zadání: 04.09.2013
Datum potvrzení stud. oddělením: 11.08.2014
Datum a čas obhajoby: 10.09.2014 08:30
Datum odevzdání elektronické podoby:11.08.2014
Datum odevzdání tištěné podoby:11.08.2014
Datum proběhlé obhajoby: 10.09.2014
Odevzdaná/finalizovaná: odevzdaná studentem a finalizovaná
Oponenti: David Lee Robbins, Ph.D.
Zásady pro vypracování
The thesis, which I intend to write as the MA thesis for my MA programme in English-American studies at Charles University in Prague, will examine the image of American suburbia as it developed from the 1950s to 1980s. In the 1950s, the suburban concept entered American culture as a somewhat utopian ideal whose promises, such as physical separation from the evil of urban areas or communal utopianism of voluntary associations, resemble the visions of the American dream that goes back to early Puritans. The following decades, 1960s through 80s (and the experience with suburbia within this time period) then witnessed a growing disillusionment with such suburban ideal, connected (among other things) with rapidly changing demographics of suburbia. As the number of suburban residents triples between 1950 and 1980 (in 1990 already half of Americans lived in suburban areas), the burgeois exclusivity of the 1950s, with a rich stay-at-home housewife as a typical image, gradually gives way to general availability represented by middle-class families living in the world of shopping malls and cinema complexes. Social problems emerge, such as social stratification, crime, and poverty, and the suburbia of 1980s turns into a fallen American dream.
First, the development of the suburban concept will be examined from sociological point of view. In this part of the thesis, various cultural, sociological and historical works dealing with American suburbia will serve as the main sources. The projection of the suburban ideal in American culture will be examined together with sociological aspects. I will also explain in historical terms why the 1950s version of suburbia may be seen as a utopian vision typical for American culture, going back to Puritan philosophy, John Winthrop, or the idea of the Frontier.
The main part of the thesis will trace the abovementioned shift in the cultural impact of the suburban concept in literary works of selected American authors. These would include mainly John Cheever, John Updike, Raymond Carver; i.e. authors whose primary concerns lie within the suburban setting. The selected works of these authors form a chronological sequence and represent the individual decades of the temporal scope the thesis is limited to: Cheever and his The Housebreaker of Shady Hill and other stories (1958), John Updike´s collections Pigeon Feathers (1962) and Olinger Stories (1964), and Raymond Carver´s collection Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? (1976). I will attempt to examine the ways in which the perception of the suburban myth in literature tranforms in time, with special focus to several aspects.
First, it will be the ways in which the suburban ideal is created and perceived by the members of suburban communities. The most important topic in this sense is the discrepancy between the ideal and reality, between the image of utopia as a calm, virgin land where one´s individuality may thrive and the fact that modern suburbia suffocates the individual spirit with uniformity. In his essay „Burgeois Utopia: Visions of Suburbia“, Robert Fishman says that „suburbia is more than a collection of residential buildings; it expresses values so deeply embedded in burgeois culture that it might also be called the burgeois utopia“. As the suburban ideals, in a way, form a microcosm of the utopian vision of the American WASP society, the analysis of the disillusionment with the reality of suburbia has therefore larger meaning in terms of cultural studies.
Second aspect analyzed in the literary works of the selected authors will be the lost exclusivity of the suburbs. The originally utopian nature of suburbs, based on physical distance from the urban areas and on the separation of familial life and work, was in its essence strongly connected to the exclusivity of the suburban type of dwelling (that is moving away from the majority and creating an elite community). This exclusivity slowly diminishes during 1960s to 1980s as more and more people move to the suburbs. Suburbia, as depicted in the works of the authors mentioned above, will therefore be analyzed in terms of its lost (yet always alleged) glamor and elitism.
Another aspect will be connected to the fact that the texts are obviously very critical to suburban culture for its superficiality. Originally based on the communal spirit, the suburbs become highly consumerist societies with superficial WASP morale. The thesis will attempt to uncover the relationship between the individual conscience and the public image of an individual, between a man and a suburban community. It is especially John Cheever (and his studies of individuals torn between their individual and communal selves) who will be helpful in these terms, but similar dichotomy is to be found in works of all of the authors the thesis focuses on.
The thesis will also attempt to cover some of the crucial problems of the suburban culture that the authors deal with – issues with self-identification, the inability to effectively communicate, the artificiality of suburban pseudo-culture, the failed attempts of individuals to define themselves through materialistic means.
As for the sources, the abovementioned collections of Cheever, Updike, and Carver will serve as primary sources. Sociological and historical works, as well as critical works concerning the authors examined and works focused on cultural studies, will serve as secondary sources. These include continental cultural theorists, such as Jean Baudrillard or Guy Debord, as well as representatives of American cultural criticism, such as Henry Giroux. Occasionally, other works of Cheever, Updike, and Carver, or also of different authors altogether, may be used if they help to clarify points raised in the argument of the thesis.
Seznam odborné literatury
Primary Sources:

Carver, Raymond. Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? London: Harvill Press, 1999.
Carver, Raymond. The Cathedral. London: Harvill Press, 1999.
Cheever, John. The Stories of John Cheever. London: Vintage, 1990.
Updike, John. Pigeon Feathers. Harmondsworth : Penguin Books, 1978.
Updike, John. Olinger Stories. London: Vintage. 1964.

Secondary Sources:

Baldassare, Mark. "Suburban Communities." Annual Review of Sociology Vol.18 1992.
Baudrillard, Jean: Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. Trans. Chris Turner. London: Sage Publications, 1998.
Benjamin, Walter: The Arcades Project. Trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Cambridge, USA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999.
Bloom, Harold. John Cheever. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 2002.
Debord, Guy: The Society of the Spectacle. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York: Zone Books. 1991.
Douglas, William. Television Families: Is Something Wrong in Suburbia. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2008.
Fishman, Robert. Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise And Fall Of Suburbia. New York: Basic Book, 1989.
Giroux, Henry A.: The Giroux Reader. Ed. and intro. Christopher G. Robbins. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2006.
Greer, Scott. "The Social Structure and Political Process of Suburbia." American Sociological Review Vol.25 No.4 Aug. 1960: 514-526.
Miller, Laura J. "Family Togetherness and the Suburban Ideal." Sociological Forum Vol.10 No.3 1995: 393-418.
Winthrop, John. A Model of Christian Charity.
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