AMS 370 • Domestic Economies: Prostitutes, Maids, and Nannies in Literature and Culture-W
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
Who cleans houses? Raises children? Provides intimacy and sex? What are these services worth within United States families and in larger society? We often place the responsibility for and site of these tasks within the ideal nuclear family and suggest that the ideal house, home and family are reality for the American story. But what if we tried to tell the story of home and family from the perspective of the people we are not supposed to see? From the first best-selling novel in the country in which a girl almost becomes a prostitute, to the blockbuster film Pretty Woman, prostitutes are both glamorized and stigmatized. From slavery's Mammies to the undocumented worker scandals that have derailed presidential appointments, nannies are cast as the invisible glue that helps households run, even as they are often treated as disposable and unmanageable. From early home economics classes to Martha Stewart and companies such as Merry Maids, maids are constructed as both happy professionals and desperate women in fall-back careers. This course will explore all of these underground economies in diverse American narratives as a way of understanding the movement of people and money through nations, states, and neighborhoods. By successfully completing this course, students will be able to: discuss historical and contemporary connections between prostitutes, maids, and nannies in American life and culture; analyze how racial, class, gender, and ethnic differences affect experiences of work and family in this context; research in depth the individual, societal, and material details of a nineteenth century issue of domesticity and connect it to twentieth or twenty-first century contexts; and develop creative and academically rigorous methods to analyze representations of prostitutes, maids, and nannies in multiple media sources.
Tentative books: Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, ed. Ehrenreich and Hochschild (New York: Henry Holt, 2002) Our Nig; Or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, Harriet Wilson, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (New York: Vintage,  2002) Work: A Story of Experience, Louisa May Alcott (New York: Penguin,  1994) Disposable Domestics: Immigrant Women Workers in the Global Economy, Grace King (Boston: South End Press, 2000).