Sydney F Lewis
Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.
English 242b - Reading Literature: Sex, Race, and Gender in Literature
In his seminal text The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault writes “What is peculiar to modern societies, in fact, is not that they consigned sex to a shadow existence, but that they dedicated themselves to speaking of it ad infinitum, while exploiting it as the secret.” This course will examine how literature has spoken about sex ad infinitum, particularly how sex and sexual practices have been tied to notions about race (which has similarly been spoken about ad infinitum). Through critical engagement with a variety of texts we will examine literary explorations of various sexual pleasures and perversions while acknowledging that these practices do not occur in a cultural vacuum, but must be considered within the socio-cultural conditions which fostered their articulation. While all of texts may not be explicitly erotic, they all substantially engage with how sexuality is connected to other identity categories. Some key questions guiding this course will be: How has race been sexualized and sexuality racialized? How have sexual practices been articulated in concert with and counter to narratives of normative heterosexuality? How and why have sexual practices been regulated and reproduced? What role does race play in perversion? We will begin with a brief look at the scientific sexology texts which form the basis for many of our presumptions about sex and race in the West. Our exploration of more modern texts will be supplemented by psychoanalytic and cultural theory, particularly Freud and Foucault.
Texts: Corrigedora by Gayle Jones, Sula by Toni Morrisson. A course reader will contain short stories by authors as varied as James Baldwin, Nella Larsen, William Faulkner, Kate Chopin, and R Linmark Zamora.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
This class functions through a student-centered pedagogy. This means that active in-class participation is required and will comprise a substantial portion of your final grade. Lectures will be rare occurrences, and class time will mostly be comprised of focused discussions and classroom activities. Expect hearty, and sometimes dense, readings and weekly 2 page response papers. Since this is a W-credit course, you will also be required to write a short seminar paper. Your in-class participation, weekly responses, and short paper will comprise your final grade.
This class may be of particular interest to those with an interest in American ethnic studies and Literature, Women Studies, and/or Queer theory. However, none of these are a prerequisite for the course.
Class assignments and grading