English 166AC

Special Topics in American Cultures: Racial Joy

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2022 Cutler, John Alba
TTh 9:30-11 Social Sciences Building 166


Is happiness possible in a world of ecological catastrophe, economic inequality, and racial oppression? This course will explore recent literature by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian American writers and poets preoccupied with the nature of joy. Against the grain of literature that represents the experience of racialization as immiseration, these texts explore the possibilities of meaning, happiness, beauty, and community both as responses to racialization and as the generative outcome of artistic creation. We will pay particular attention to the specificity of differently racialized histories as they impinge on or, alternately, create the conditions in which human flourishing (an idea whose influence runs from Aristotle through Marx to contemporary political theory) becomes possible. We will read in all genres and supplement our consideration of primary texts with theoretical texts on the political valences of happiness, bodily pleasure, ecological communion, and racial solidarity. Texts will include Luis Alberto Urrea’s The House of Broken Angels, Ross Gay’s Be Holding, Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Poem, Louise Erdrich’s LaRose, and Gish Jen’s Typical American, among others. Students will learn to identify and analyze different conceptions of joy and their relation to theories and histories of racialization. They will also develop essays that synthesize theoretical concepts and closely examine the form and function of primary texts. 

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Back to Semester List