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Riot City: Zadie Smith’s White Teeth (The One Series)

ENGL 4514.301
TR 10:15-11:44am


How do we live and write the global city in a time of racism and state violence? This course explores Zadie Smith’s provocative, irreverent novel White Teeth (2000)—hailed by the BBC as one of the best books about our contemporary world—to examine the politics of race, immigrant life, and urban experience. Composed while Smith was still in college, White Teeth narrates the intertwined lives of young immigrants and multiracial working-class people in London. Paying special attention to Smith’s satirical style, we will ask: How do the histories of colonialism, slavery, and revolution haunt our present? How do race, citizenship, and policing intersect in a global city? And how can a novel about violence and dispossession be so funny? Our understanding of the fictional styles and genres that represent the city will be supplemented by films, television productions, and diverse shorter pieces. Students will also be invited to explore Philadelphia itself through an experiential pedestrian project, and to create a short creative or critical response in the spirit of White Teeth. Assignments will include brief research exercises and short writing in various forms. For the final projects, students will have the choice of a critical essay or creative project.

English Major Requirements
  • Sector 2 Difference and Diaspora (AEDD)
  • Sector 6 20th & 21st Centuries (AE20)
English Concentration Attributes
  • 20th-21st Century Concentration (AE21)
College Attributes
Additional Attributes