Reading guide: From the Front Porch to the Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth Century America by Beth Bailey general questions

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History 232 Fall 2007

Dr. Schmoll

READING GUIDE: From the Front Porch to the Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-

Century America by Beth Bailey
GENERAL QUESTIONS:

Is there any problem with using advice literature and popular magazines as her main sources? How do these sources bias the story?



How would you characterize modern dating? As you read this book, think of examples from the 2000s that reveal who we are as a courting people.
INTRODUCTION

  1. Read the Introduction fairly carefully.

  2. How does Bailey define “courtship”?

CALLING CARDS AND MONEY

  1. Describe courtship as Bailey does in the first few pages of this chapter. Did you notice the “janitress” with a “piano” story?

  2. Why does Bailey talk about money and control on the bottom of page 21 and the top of page 22? Look at the complaint of the man on page 23 regarding how much he spent on “dating.” What, exactly, are these men buying? Hmmmm.

THE ECONOMY OF DATING

  1. Look at the “campus rating complex” on 26. Is such a thing still practiced?

  2. Skim to 33, but be sure to notice the quote on page 33 from Cam, the aging charmer.

  3. Skim the rest of the chapter. Think about this as you do so; is dating a question of scare versus ample resources?

THE WORTH OF A DATE


  1. Look at page 58. Do people still value themselves “through dates…as commodities that afford public validation, of belonging, of success.”

  2. Look at the bill for the “formal” on page 64. $11 in 2007 dollars is $162.

(http://www.minneapolisfed.org/research/data/us/calc/) Does that seem like an exorbitant amount?

  1. On page 65, look at the girl’s description of what she hopes her date spent on flowers. How do you interpret that quote? Is such valuing of the commodities of a date still in practice?

SEX CONTROL

  1. Hubba hubba, now it’s getting good! Seriously, though, is sexuality a historical issue?

  2. Find the most shocking, interesting, telling, fascinating, offensive, sexist, or any other anything story that catches your eye from this chapter and mark it for discussion.

  3. Pictures are good. Which pictures are most revealing?

THE ETIQUETTE OF MASCULINITY AND FEMININITY

  1. Skim this chapter.

SCIENTIFIC TRUTH AND LOVE

  1. Skim this chapter

EPILOGUE
  1. In this final chapter Bailey attempts to describe the breakdown of meaning in the dating and courtship system in the modern era. Is her description accurate? Are there still well-defined rules of dating? If so, what are they?


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