Race and Alternative History

CWL 561, Race and Alternative History, Fall 2011
Tuesdays 1-2:50, 135 English
Professor Brett Kaplan
Office Hours: Thursdays 10-10:50, or by appointment, 3123 FLB; 333-1253; bakaplan@illinois.edu
This course engages theory, history, and contemporary art and literature throughout a wide cultural
scope to explore the always shifting borders of racism and anti-Semitism, racialized identities, and
alternative slave, personal, and Holocaust histories within the current political and social
environment as we live it now. Throughout the semester we will explore the performative nature of
racial identities, passing as a form of constructing an alternate history, and gender and art as they
imbricate with both race and the imagination of other stories.
Students are invited to bring texts related to their research projects into class, to present on one of
the texts and on their final projects; I look forward to reading a substantial, polished, research paper
at the end of the semester. Books should be at the bookstore (with the exception of Ligon (too
expensive) but we can share my copy and library copy); articles listed below and selections from
Race-ing Art History are on e-reserves.
Week 1, August 23
Week 2, August 30
Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death, parts I & III
Presentation: _________________________
Week 3, September 6
Catherine Gallagher, “When did the Confederate States of America Free the Slaves?” Representations
(Spring 2007) 98: 53-61
Arif Dirlik, “Race Talk, Race, and Contemporary Racism” PMLA 123:5 (October 2008): 1363-1379
Presentation: _________________________
Week 4, September 13
Octavia Butler, Kindred
Presentation: _________________________
Week 5, September 20
Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother
Presentation: _________________________
Week 6, September 27
María Carla Sánchez and Linda Schlossberg, Passing (choose 3 essays based on your area of interest)
Presentation: _________________________
♦ Due: one page description of final project
Week 7, October 4
Monique Truong, Book of Salt
Presentation: _________________________
Week 8, October 11
Kara Walker
Walker’s website includes an excellent annotated list; everyone will pick something to read and
present; we can also watch Walker’s film clips in class (this is also true for the sites listed for Weems,
Simpson, and Ligon): http://learn.walkerart.org/karawalker/Main/AnnotatedResourceList
Presentation: _________________________
Week 9, October 18
Carrie Mae Weems & Lorna Simpson
Presentation: _________________________
Week 10, October 25
Glenn Ligon
Glen Ligon: America (Whitney Museum, 2011)
Presentation: ________________________
Week 11, November 1
Selections from Race-ing Art History: Critical Readings in Race and Art History
Presentation: _________________________
Week 12, November 8
Michael Chabon, Yiddish Policeman’s Union
Week 13, November 15
Philip Roth, Plot Against America
Week 14, Thanksgiving Vacation
Week 15, November 29
Student Presentations
_________________________, _________________________, _________________________,
_________________________, _________________________, _________________________,
Week 16, December 6
Valerie Smith, “From ‘Race’ to Transcendence: ‘Race,’ Writing and Difference Twenty Years Later”
PMLA 123:5 (October 2008): 1528-1533
Dean Franco, “Portnoy’s Complaint: It’s about Race, Not Sex” Prooftexts (Winter 2009): 86-115
Final papers due Friday December 16 in 3123 FLB, between 10am and Noon