This capstone seminar will examine motherhood as an institution and/or set of cultural practices as it draws on memoirs, novels, film, poetry, and historical and sociological literature to investigate the representations and realities of diverse mothers in the United States. We will consider historical contexts as well as contemporary policy and politics that shape the experiences of American mothers and the ways we interpret and judge their lives and needs. This course will pay attention both to common threads and to the important differences of race, ethnicity, and class. The central issues this class will address include: (1) the maternal ideal and who does (and does not) exemplify it; (2) the emotional terrain of motherhood--diverse mothers’ own feelings about pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood; (3) the ways that race, class, sexuality, citizenship, and ethnicity inform the experiences of and resources available to mothers and the construction of motherhood in the United States; (4) the ways that mothers are represented (or represent themselves) in selected films and memoirs, and how we can “read” these in different historical contexts; (5) the labor of motherhood; and (6) the politics of care. Together we will seek to understand the ways in which a complex and multifaceted cultural discourse about motherhood shapes diverse experiences of motherhood through time, and in our present moment. The class will give students the opportunity to conduct research using appropriate current literature on a relevant topic of their choice, and present upon it.