Archived Versions

21W.742J / SP.575J / WGS.575J Writing About Race

As taught in: Spring 2007

The focus of the figure is to show that many different races come together to create the world.
The world is made up of different races. (Image courtesy of Sweet Trade [Photography].)

Level:

Undergraduate

Instructors:

Dr. Rebecca Blevins Faery

Course Features

Course Description

In The Souls of Black Folk (1903), the great cultural critic W. E. B. Du Bois wrote that "...the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line." A century after Du Bois penned those words, most Americans would agree that at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the color line remains one of our most pressing social issues. In this course, we will explore the terrain of race in America by reading the works of writers of color and others concerned with the issue of race, by viewing films that address racial issues, and by writing to explore how the fictions and facts of race condition all our lives, social and civic, private and public. We will consider the complex question of racial identity, test the givens of history by uncovering histories that have been more elusive or more thoroughly suppressed, and explore how writing and reading can both reflect and challenge racial categories, hierarchies, and perceptions. We will read the work of such writers as Suzan-Lori Parks, Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros, James Baldwin, Louise Erdrich, Amy Tan, Chang-Rae Lee, Jhumpa Lahiri, and William Faulkner, among others, as we consider the story of race in its peculiarly American dimensions. We will also view films such as Skins, The Long Walk Home, and Crash. Both the reading and the writing of members of the class will be the focus of class discussion and workshops. Students explore race and ethnicity in personal essays, pieces of cultural criticism or analysis, or (with permission of instructor) fiction.