In this class we will interrogate narratives of racial passing in a variety of forms. These narratives raise questions about the construction, reinforcement and subversion of racial categories.
There is a rich trove of literature focused on passing within African American literature alongside many examples in the 20th century of narratives focused on ethnic masquerade and cultural assimilation. In essence, if individuals can undetectably pass through social boundaries meant to keep them out, then the very act of passing calls into question the nature both of the boundaries and of the categories they delineate. This course uses the paradigm of “passing” to examine notions of race (as well as gender, sexuality and class)to illustrate how those categories are produced.
Using fiction, history and film we will endeavor to get a deeper understanding of the category we call race.
Visit the PDF version of Passing Strange: Racial Crossings and the Construction of Identity in America to access the full syllabus.