Spring 2024

Race, Difference, and the American Imagination

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-117  |  Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, as SWAG-117


Khary O. Polk (Section 01)


(Offered as BLST 117 [US] and SWAG 117) What role has “race” played in shaping the American imagination? How has its use as a metaphor in U.S. national life influenced our understandings of power, privilege, and justice? In what ways has popular culture influenced our understanding of race, and how do “creatives” today resist, reject, and reimagine racial and ethnic difference on social media? How do gender, sexuality, and other categories of difference intersect with race and ethnicity, and can these intersections give us a better understanding of American culture? In this course, we will examine contemporary racial discourse in the United States, surveying its use as a contested fact of social life by authors, artists, theorists, and activists in the twentieth and twenty-first century. By studying a range of creative and critical texts, including literature, poetry, music, art, film, comedy, cultural criticism, and social media, the course will prepare students to read racial discourse critically across genres and disciplines while also introducing them to the rigors of academic reading and writing.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Polk.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference to SWAGS and BLST majors, first years and sophomores

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: emphasis on written work, readings, group work, artistic work, visual analysis, and aural analysis.

BLST 117 - LEC

Section 01
M 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM FROS 211
W 12:30 PM - 1:50 PM FROS 211

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
Memorial: A Novel Penguin Random House (2021) Bryan Washington Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.