Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Sex, Race, and Stereotypes: Strategies of Asian American and African American Writers

ENGL 290.402
instructor(s):
TR 10:30-12

This seminar will address the complex ways in which racial and sexual oppression collide in such stereotypes as the exotic "oriental" geisha, the black male rapist, the leering Asian man, and the African American seductress. We will focus on fictional representations of sexuality in works by Asian American and African American writers. In particular, we will look at how these writers challenge and at times perpetuate racial stereotypes about black and Asian sexuality. By pairing together texts by black and Asian American writers, such as Richard Wright's Native Son and Carlos Bulosan's America is in the Heart, we will look at how writers from these two ethnic literary traditions influence and complement one another. Other primary readings will include Harriet Jacob's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Hisaye Yamamoto's Seventeen Syllables, Amiri Baraka's The Dutchman, David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, Toni Morrison's Tar Baby, and Bharati Mukherjee's Jasmine. We will conclude with two films: Mira Nair's Mississippi Masala and Spike Lee's Jungle Fever. Students will also be given the tools to develop a broader theoretical understanding of sexuality and race with secondary readings by Sigmund Freud, Julia Kristeva, James Baldwin, Judith Butler, Gayle Rubin, and Michael Omi. This course is being cross-listed by the Asian American Studies, African American Studies, and English departments.