Profile of a FWIS: The Meaning of Family

FWIS 112: Modern Families

An Interview with Sophia Hsu, Instructor

How did you get interested in this particular topic?
I've always been interested in the concept of the family and its representation in literature and pop culture. As someone who studies Victorian literature, I'm constantly reading novels about the family--particularly the fantasy of the perfect nuclear family and how that fantasy has never quite come to fruition. I'm also someone who grew up watching family sitcoms: Full HouseStep by StepFamily MattersThe Brady Bunch, etc. Even now, I find myself drawn to contemporary sitcoms on TV, such as Modern Family and Black-ish, and other TV shows about family, such as Downton Abbey and Married. I'm interested in how the conservative fantasy of the family as a patriarchal unit still has a powerful hold on the popular imagination despite all the political issues (such as those concerning gender, race, class, and sexuality) that arise from that fantasy. To what extent has our understanding of the family stayed the same since, say, the British nineteenth century? To what extent has it changed?

What is one thing you hope students draw from this FWIS?
Content-wise, I hope students will be able to recognize and critique how the concept of the family has been deployed for a range of political and social issues. I hope students will be able to see how the family troubles the supposed division between the public and private spheres, as the family is both that which is intensely private as well as that which unites and organizes us as a society. Skills-wise, I hope students will learn how to become comfortable with writing and communication. While I don't think writing and communication are necessarily skills that someone "masters," I think that learning how to be okay with the difficulty of those skills is the first step to improving.

What advice do you have for first-year students (about FWIS or their first semester in general)?
My advice for first-year students is to be open and willing to learn! College is a weird and amazing experience academically and personally. Be bold and step out of your comfort zone; try something new both inside and outside of the classroom.