Fall 2019

Race and Relationality

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-365  |  English, as ENGL-357


Geoffrey D. Sanborn (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 357 and BLST 365 [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 information problem. In this course, we will be using histories of the race-concept and theories emerging from the “relational turn” in psychoanalysis to explore the interplay of race and relationality in American literature written between the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law (1850) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The aim of this necessarily experimental course is to see what happens if we combine a historically informed understanding of the race-concept with a psychoanalytically informed understanding of relationality and bring both of those understandings to bear on works like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, William Wells Brown’s Clotel, Herman Melville’s “Benito Cereno,” Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. All of the varieties of American racial identification will be part of our discussions but the focus will be on the literary evocations of white-black conjunctions.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

If Overenrolled: Consent required. Priority will be given to the students who are the most seriously interested and who have the greatest need for the course ( seniors, majors).


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


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