L399 2117 YOW
Junior Honors Seminar

4:00p-5:15p TR (15) 3 cr.

COLLEGE INTENSIVE WRITING SECTION. REQUIRES PERMISSION OF THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR OF HONORS

TOPIC: BLACKS AND JEWS IN THE NATIONAL IMAGINATION

The relationship between African Americans and American Jews has long been the focus of intense scrutiny, inspiring warm celebrations of solidarity and heated accusations of betrayal. In this course, we will examine some of these complex exchanges, conflicts and coalitions as they have been represented in 20th century fiction and non-fiction. By situating representations in their social, political and historical contexts, we will complicate a strictly binary narrative of antagonism and alliance between African American and Jewish American communities in the 20th century. How have writers and critics from both communities imagined the bases of solidarity? Can we unproblematically assume that blacks and Jews share what many have called a “common history”? How do black Jews disrupt a traditional narrative of black-Jewish relationships? In engaging such questions, we will explore social constructions of race and ethnicity, paying particular attention to, in Karen Brodkin’s words, “how Jews became white folks.” We will also interrogate the economic bases for the racist and anti-Semitic expressions of a number of black and Jewish intellectuals, as well as investigate class-based coalitions in labor unions and the Communist Party.

We will read works by James Baldwin, Harold Cruse, Chester Himes, Julius Lester, Bernard Malamud, Cynthia Ozick, Norman Podhoretz, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Adrienne Rich, and Fran Ross, among others. Films will include The Jazz Singer and Fires in the Mirror.