Fall 2017

Race and Relationality

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-439  |  English, as ENGL-455


Geoffrey D. Sanborn (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 455 and BLST 439 [US])  When we say “race relations,” we are using a phrase drawn from early twentieth-century American sociology, a phrase that conjures up a scenario in which already existing racial groups are separated by prejudice and misunderstanding.  As many sociologists and historians have argued, we need a new paradigm, one that implies neither that race is a primordial reality nor that racism is merely an informational problem.  In this class, we will begin by familiarizing ourselves with critical race theory and with theories emerging from the “relational turn” in psychoanalysis.  We will then bring both of those theoretical traditions to bear on Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition, Nella Larsen’s Passing, William Faulkner’s Light in August, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Sandra Cisneros’s Woman Hollering Creek, and Sherman Alexie’s The Toughest Indian in the World.  In our discussions of these works, we will be aiming not to become (impossibly) post-racial, but to imagine, collectively, different futures for our (inevitably) racially inflected relations.

Admission with consent of the instructor.  Open to juniors and seniors.  Limited to 15 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Sanborn.

If Overenrolled: Consent required. Priority will be given to the students who offer the most compelling written rationales for admission.


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Research, Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2019