English 49, Spring 1997
Peter Schmidt
"Whiteness" and Racial Difference**
MWF 10:30 - 11:20am, LPAC 201

A look at the conflicted ways in which "racial" identities and differences have been constructed in past and contemporary cultures, especially in the U.S. Topics given emphasis in the syllabus include why saying "race doesn't matter" is not enough; how a new debates about the history of race have changed American Studies and feminist studies; how European immigrants to the U.S. became "white" and with what benefits and what costs; how popular culture can both resist and perpetuate racist culture; and an introduction to issues of "passing," multi-racial identity, and recovering a multiracial past. The format of the class will include both lecture and student-led discussion.

**Note for English majors: This course can be counted as a "theory" course towards meeting the English Department's distribution requirements.

English 49, "'Whiteness' and Racial Difference"
Peter Schmidt

For a list of the topics of the students' final research papers, see the end of this syllabus.

Introduction: Why Talk About 'Race' At All?
Why Not Just Be Friends and Celebrate Our Differences?

Alternatives: Facing Race in History

Race and Recent Paradigm Changes in American Studies

Always Think Historically: The Social Construction of 'Whiteness' in History

Popular Culture and Race: Theorizing Complexity

on reserve:

La Raza and the Melting Pot


on reserve:

'Passing'; Multiracial Identities; Recovering the Multiracial Past

General Reserve materials for the course will include:

Student Research Paper topics and titles, May 1997

Saudia Amiruddin, "West Indian Immigrants: Multiple Definitions of Racial Identification"

Marialuz Castro, "Latino/Hispanic: Different Identities?"

Mark Charette, "Wearing the Mask." On whites' varying use of "ebonics" on the World Wide Web in the context of the U.S. history of racial masking (minstrelsy and other forms).

Ahyana Clark, "The Projection Theory of Racial Interaction and Classification." Immigrants acculturate themselves into American society by measuring themselves against the current social hierarchy. For the Irish, the achievement of "white" status came in the nineteenth-century by mocking the African American population. In a similar manner, more recent immigrant gorups place themselves along the racial classification specturm by comparing themselves to Anglos and African Americans. Discusses works by Chang-Rae Lee and David Mura, among others.

Carlos Colon, "Eye of the Tiger." An analysis of coverage of Tiger Woods in the mass media.

Will Dulaney, "A Critique of Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve"

Sarah Elwell, "Sister Souljah's No Disrespect"

Erin Figueira, "Africanist Identity in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye and Sula." Reads these novels via concepts from Morrison's Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination.

Aarti Iyer, "Indian Americans as Asians: Testing Some of Lisa Lowe's Hypotheses in Immigrant Acts"

Raven Lipmanson, on Theresa Cha's DICTEE

Christina Lutz, "Pulp Friction: Racial Constructions in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction"

Lauren McBride, "On James McBride's The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother."

Ford O'Connell, "The Importance of Texas Border Towns: On John Sayles' Lone Star"

Jennifer Dana Weiss, "A Meditation on the Experience of the White American Reform Jew: Highlighting the Ambiguity of Racial and Cultural Categories in the U.S."