Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

African-American Literature: Interracial Intimacies

ENGL 081.601
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

*In his epic Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois states, “the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.”  This so-called “color line” has long held the imagination of America, attempting to stabilize community identities, legal rights, and personal freedoms that race-based slavery undermined and obscured for much of this country’s history. This class will explore how African-American authors have understood the literary and political attractions and dangers of “boundary crossing,” as well as the signifying potential of the mulatto figure in their texts. These sexual and personal encounters across the color line have both produced and commented on the complicated, violent, yet intimate relations between whites and blacks, even informing our current racial vocabulary and politics.  This class will engage the legacy of interracial desire, ranging from issues of aberrant and dangerous sexuality, paternal denial and the destruction of the modern family, eugenics, the phenomena of ‘passing’, as well as the current inheritance of anti-miscegenation statutes and sanctions.  Possible authors/artists to be considered: William Wells Brown, Frances Harper, Nella Larsen, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, James Baldwin, Spike Lee, Toni Morrison, Danzy Senna.