Race & Gender in Literature

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In this course we will engage different contexts in which women have been and are communicating their responses to the social, political, religious, and engendered conditions of their respective nations. Our themes include the politics of canon formation, the challenges of language, “Third World” and Western feminism. Thus, we consider the larger traditions into which women’s writings have been absorbed, or which their writings resist, or change. We will explore the following questions: Can we probe the traditional value of mothers and wives with the gender roles and behavioral expectations that go with them, without banishing them from the realm of political resistance or without reifying them? What rhetorical or narrative methods are used to express gendered realities where acts of writing do not always equate with authority, truth, or stability? How are politics inscribed on the gendered and racialized body? What narrative styles are deployed to articulate gendered participation in the national fabric? While we engage primarily in literature, we will also consider music and visual art. The works we will explore include Sojourner Truth, Jamaica Kincaid, Assia Djebar, Betool Khedairi, among others.

3 credits

Course Code: HUM 355

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.