152AC: Race and Order in the New Republic
Instructor(s) Nadesan Permaul
This course will explore the connection of of race to the cultural character and identity of all citizens in the new American republic, and how it has subsequently affected our contemporary social and political culture and discourse. We will start with the question of what is American culture, and whether there is a discernable culture in our society. If so, what was the origin that culture? We will move to the connection of trauma to culture which is a contemporary subject, and how that relates to America.
Reading will begin with James Fennimore Cooper's The Pioneers; America’s first popular and iconic fictional work. By using the structure of this romance novel as a model, the class will view the founding of the United States as a formal problem, (not unlike the underlying problem posed in novel), in which the three principal racial groups in North America (i.e., the Native Americans, the European-Americans, and the African-Americans) sought to be included into the social and political order of the new nation. All subsequent readings will be viewed in the context of addressing that formal problem, with an emphasis on what the language and symbolism of fiction reveal about the actual historical events of the period. This is a seminar focused around class discussion of the reading materials.
Reading includes original texts in American literature and letters (e.g. My Bondage, My Freedom by Frederick Douglass, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Huckleberry Finn by Samuel Clemens, and readings from D.H. Lawrence, William Carlos Willliams, the New York Review of Books, etc.), history, theory [cultural trauma], and criticism. Supplementary reading in a course reader, will analyze the eras from which the literary works emerged, the issues that shaped the course of early America and how they relate to the present. Contemporary film clips (ranging from “Frazier” and “Big Bang Theory”, to Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” and James Cameron’s “Terminator II”, to Sixty Minutes, to “The American Experience”) will supplement formal reading material in each class. There will be a take-home midterm, a paper/project making use of course materials and theme, and a take-home final exam.
Classes begin with film clips and often involve student presentation of reading materials before we break into a full discussion. We will be open to all perspectives, no matter how controversial or widely shared. But we will be respectful of one another, and speak in language not aimed at individuals or personalities, but at issues.
James Fennimore Cooper, The Pioneers
; Herman Melville, Moby Dick
; Donald Jackson, ed., Autobiography of Blackhawk
; Frederick Douglas, My Bondage, My Freedom
; Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn