English 4640G: Construction of Racial Identity in Post Civil War America

English 4640G: Construction of Racial Identity in Post Civil War America

Huron University College at Western University
London, Ontario, Canada
Winter 2013

Neil Brooks, Associate Professor, English

Course Description: Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination argues that the canonical American literary tradition can only be understood after recognizing the presence of an often silenced, but almost ubiquitous Africanist persona. This persona served as a negative stereotype against which the dominant American identity could define itself. However, even Morrison’s groundbreaking work re-inscribes the binary between Black and White in America and fails to theorize adequately the ways in which bi-racial and multi-racial identity have complicated the ideologies she discusses. This course will begin with Morrison’s analysis and then look at several novels and stories which the explore the instability of any color line between Black and White in America.

Course Objectives: This course addresses the examination of how racial identity, particularly mixed race identity, is constructed in America through close engagement with selected literary works written by Americans since the end of the Civil War. By the end of the course students should have improved their critical reading and writing in ways which will enable their success in a wide variety of University courses. Further, students will have learned American historical background, feminist literary theory, patterns of racial construction, theories of performativity, and skills in analyzing artistic achievement within the works. Finally, the course aims to provide the framework for applying these skills and knowledge in engaging with the narratives students will encounter and create outside the classroom.

Course Material:

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