How does literature produce and contest social difference, inequality, and hierarchy? This course investigates this question through the study of American literature concerning gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality. We consider how these modes of understanding human difference are socially produced, and we analyze how literature challenges and reproduces social inequality. Along the way, we think about the difference between identity, labels, and stereotypes, and we learn about the history of gender, race, and sexuality, especially in their relation to one another in the United States.
The course focuses on three literary texts in particular: Zora Neal Hurston’s 1937 Their Eyes Were Watching God; Maxine Hong Kingston’s 1975 The Woman Warrior; and Mohsin Hamid’s 2017 Exist West. We will also read a series of essays to help us to make sense of these novels, and watch a series of documentaries.