English 31AC

Literature of American Cultures: Passing

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2008 Giscombe, Cecil S.
Giscombe, Cecil S.
TTh 12:30-2 110 Barrows

Other Readings and Media

Students should come to class before buying books. The following list is tentative. But, that said, it will likely include most of these books: Karen Brodkin: How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America; John Howard Griffin: Black Like Me; Nella Larsen: Passing; Sinclair Lewis: Kingsblood Royal; Philip Roth: The Human Stain; James Weldon Johnson: The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man; Kenji Yoshino: Covering. Also: readings from Noel Ignatiev�s journal Race Traitor and from his book How the Irish Became White; some films (Imitation of Life, the 4th Alien film); excerpts from Michael D. Harris�s Colored Pictures (on the paintings of Archibald Motley, one of which appears on the cover of Larsen�s Passing); Cecilia Cutler�s essay on �White Teens, Hip-Hop, and African-American English,� etc.


"A passing narrative is an account�fiction or nonfiction�of a person or group claiming a racial or ethnic identity that they do not ""possess."" Such narratives speak�directly, indirectly, and very uneasily�to the authenticity, the ambiguity, and the performance of racial or ethnic identity; they also speak to issues of official and traditional categorization. The passing

narrative�the narrative that accounts for making the �different� claim�necessarily unsettles notions of belonging and underscores that race can be viewed as a construction.

This semester we�ll examine a number of such narratives and we�ll read in the material beyond the narratives themselves in order to better understand the contexts and arguments to which theses stories refer. We�ll discuss the impact of passing on American literature. "

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