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Myths of the American Family Conference Schedule

March 30 and 31, 2006

Joseph W. Jones Room, Level 3

Robert W. Woodruff Library

Emory University

Sponsored by The Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life (MARIAL), A Sloan Center for Working Families

Historian John Gillis tells us that we live in two very different families at the same time. The family we live with is our immediate family. The family we live by is not a group of people but a set of ideals and images that shape our expectations of how our families should be. This second family is the mythic family, whose myths are so basic to our experiences that we are often unaware of just how important they are.

For that reason, the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life (MARIAL) has invited some of the nation’s most distinguished family scholars to come together and explore the most important aspects of American family myths. They will discuss the origins of these myths in popular media and culture, schools, religious institutions, history books, advertising and even politics.

Invited speakers will take part in five themed panels, and moderators will lead a subsequent discussion. We have designed the conference to allow for maximum audience participation. In many ways we hope this to be less a series of lectures and more of a conversation.This should be a unique and stimulating look at Myths of the American Family that shape much of our experience, but often go unnoticed.

Bradd Shore

Director, MARIAL Center

Myths of the American Family



Thursday, March 30, 2006

Joseph W. Jones Room

Robert W. Woodruff Library

8:00 a.m. – 8:45 a.m.: Coffee Available

8:45 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.: Welcome by Bradd Shore, MARIAL Center Director

9:15 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. Keynote speech

My Family, My Firm

Mary Ann Glynn (Emory University)

10:15 a.m. – 10:30 Break

10:30 a.m. – noon: Media Representation

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Scholars across various disciplines have argued that the mass media both reflects and shapes our individual identities, social interactions, and understanding of the surrounding social world. This panel will address its dialectical role in transforming human understanding, family relationships and social life. The mass media is a prominent means by which family truths and myths are presented, confounded, intertwined, and disseminated.

Moderator: Kathryn Yount (Emory University; MARIAL Center core faculty member)

Lynn Schofield Clark (University of Colorado)

William Douglas ( University of Houston)

Mary Ann Watson ( Eastern Michigan University)

Noon – 1:30 p.m.: Lunch

1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.: Cultural and Historical Origins of the American Family Myth

This panel will examine some of the cultural and historical roots of our family myths. American cultural values and symbols have a powerful influence not only on our present experiences of family but also on our historical sense of how our family life has unfolded.

Moderator: Bradd Shore, (Emory University; Director, MARIAL Center)

Stephanie Coontz (Evergreen State College )

Steven Mintz ( University of Houston)

Ralph LaRossa ( Georgia State University)

3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.: Keynote speech

Part 1
Part 2

Beyond the Home: Family Time at the Zoo

Marjorie L. DeVault (Syracuse University)


Friday, March 31, 2006

Joseph W. Jones Room

Robert W. Woodruff Library

8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.: Coffee Available

9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.: Religion and Myths

This panel will examine the role of religion in shaping the ideals of the American family. In particular it will look at the changing and intensifying relationships between American families and religious life, and how these have affected both the concept and the image of the family.

Moderator: Nancy Eiesland (Emory University; MARIAL Center core faculty member)

Pamela Couture ( St. Paul School of Theology)

Penny Edgell (University of Minnesota)

Sharon Houseknecht ( Ohio State University)

10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.: Break

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Family Practice: Narrative, Communication and Ritual

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This session will explore how ideal notions of the family affect the ways family members interact with one another. With a strong focus on family narratives, presenters will examine where such idealized notions come from. They will also discuss how people reconcile the difference between their actual experiences and their notions of the ideal family.

Moderators: Robyn Fivush and Marshall Duke (Emory University; MARIAL Center core faculty member)

Barbara H. Fiese ( Syracuse University)

Elinor Ochs (UCLA)

Michael Pratt ( Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, Canada)

12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.: Lunch

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.: The Paradoxical Hegemonic American Family at Home and Abroad

This session will address the global circulation of modern family myths and the mediums by which people understand, interpret and react to changing family ideals in their communities. Panelists will discuss the extent to which families incorporate notions and practices of a modern or ideal family life. They will also explore the relationship between preserving traditional culturally specific family forms (e.g. arranged marriages, extended families, matrifocal families, etc.) and reconfiguring them in light of contemporary globalization and its associated enactments of modern love, marriage and family.

Moderator: Carla Freeman (Emory University; core faculty member, MARIAL Center)

Jennifer Hirsch (Columbia University)

Bart Landry (University of Maryland)

Ann Marie Leshkowich (College of the Holy Cross)






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