ENGL 242 G: Reading Prose Fiction

Black Women Writers and the Politics of Respectability

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 11:30am - 12:20pm
Location: 
THO 235
SLN: 
13791
Instructor: 
Kirin K Wachter-Grene

Additional Details:

From the 19th century onward many black women writers have both adopted and critiqued a “politics of respectability” as a form of resistance to the negative stigmas and
stereotypes about their morality, sexuality, class, race, and gender. Claiming respectability through forms of public representation such as literature provided an opportunity
for black women to assert will and agency as they redefined themselves in response to predominant racist discourses. Although many used the politics of respectability as a
form of resistance, its ideology was ultimately in line with mainstream societal values that marginalized and excluded those who did not “fit.” The politics of respectability
continues to resonate today and is often considered a burden with critical complications.

In this course we will pay close attention to the ways in which black women writers and contemporary public figures such as Beyonce and Michelle Obama engage, problematize,
and are caught in ideological debates regarding the politics of respectability. We will read novels by black American women writers from the 19th through the late 20th
centuries, occasionally supplemented with critical and popular material to provide historical and social context for the politics of respectability explored in the primary
texts. As we will be explicitly engaging with difficult and at times problematic issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ideology, it is crucial to bring an open-minded,
curious, and respectful attitude to this class in order to foster engaging and productive discussion. Novels may include in whole or in part: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Iola Leroy, Nella Larsen Quicksand, Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God, Anne Petry The Street, Paule Marshall Brown Girl, Brownstones, Toni Morrison Sula, and
Pearl Cleage What Looks Like Crazy on An Ordinary Day. There will also be a required course packet of supplementary reading, and we will likely be watching Tyler Perry’s 2013
film Temptation.

This class counts for "W" credit, and will require students to write two 5-7 page revisable papers. Students can also expect to write several semi-formal reading responses
and to participate in a small group project in which the group will lead the day’s class discussion. Please note that students are expected to keep up with the daily reading
and are expected to come to class prepared to discuss and engage with the texts. While it is not a prerequisite for students to have already completed a "C" course, such as
131, 111, 109/110, or 121, those students who have done so, or who have the equivalent of college-level composition instruction, will probably feel more prepared to handle the
writing requirements of this course.

Required Texts:

**PLEASE NOTE: ALL REQUIRED TEXTS ARE AVAILABLE AT THE UW BOOKSTORE. PLEASE PURCHASE THE REQUIRED EDITION OF EACH TEXT. THE COURSE PACK IS AVAILABLE AT AVE COPY**

*Course Pack*

Nella Larsen Quicksand, ISBN: 978-0486451404

Zora Neale Hurston Their Eyes Were Watching God ISBN: 978-0061120060

Anne Petry The Street ISBN: 978-0395901496

Paule Marshall Brown Girl, Brownstones ISBN: 978-1558614987

Toni Morrison Sula ISBN: 978-1400033430

Pearl Cleage What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day ISBN: 978-0061710384

Catalog Description: 
Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Other Requirements Met: 
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
March 24, 2016 - 11:24am