English 166

Special Topics: Race and Performance in the 20th-Century U.S.

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2005 Scott, Saul
TTh 11-12:30 101 LSA

Other Readings and Media

"Johnson, J.W.: The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man; Hagedorn, J.: Dogeaters

Films: ""The Jazz Singer""; ""Little Big Man"" "


"This course takes as its point of departure an observation made by writer James Baldwin in 1953: ""The time has come to realize that the interracial drama acted out on the American continent has not only created a new black man, it has created a new white man, too.""

In this class, we will not limit ourselves to the identities of the ""black man"" and the ""white man,"" but we will think seriously about how the American experience has produced new senses of racial, ethnic, and sexual identity, and new visions of community to go along with them. While not limiting ourselves to the discussion of race in American life, we will be considering how and why many of the most compelling works of 20th-century American culture turn on questions of racial affiliation or disaffiliation, questions that tend to take the form of what critic Linda Williams has called ""melodramas of black and white.""

We will address these issues by looking at a wide variety of cultural forms: music from the blues of Bessie Smith to the rock 'n' roll of Elvis and Chuck Berry; theater from blackface minstrelsy to avant-garde performance art. "

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