American Studies | U.S. Art & Media: Theories and Transformations of Whiteness in the US Context
A202 | 12386 | Rawlins

Theories and Transformations of Whiteness in the US Context

Second Summer Session Course Description

This course is not a validation of “white people” but rather an
investigation of what it means to be “white” and an exploration of
how such an ideology shapes the attitudes of the “majority” (those
with access to resources and power) toward those marginalized
communities who are deemed to be “different” or “nonwhite.” In
reality, nobody is actually white; whiteness nonetheless remains a
powerful structuring logic in the United States and informs, in part,
how those in the United States view themselves and “others” along the
lines of race, gender, ethnicity, class, and so on.  It plays a
critical role in our sense of identity and yet remains unacknowledged
as such; it occupies the status of the “norm” against which all
difference is judged to be “abnormal.”

Our focus will lie primarily in the areas of theory, history, and
media.  We will look at strong men, magicians, “wild” men, boxers,
gangsters, cowboys, and others at the end of the 19th century and
then again at the middle of the twentieth century to try to
understand how “whiteness” works to articulate racial, ethnic,
gender, and class norms in U.S. culture.  What these representations
suggest about normative identities, and the shifts that do and do not
occur in said identities between these two historical periods, will
be at the forefront of class discussions.  There will be weekly film
screenings during class.  Course work will include weekly readings,
two exams, and several short writing assignments.

This is an interdisciplinary class, and the critical approaches that
we will utilize are just as diverse as the voices and the texts that
we will explore. We will draw on a number of disciplinary traditions,
and contributions from students’ myriad academic backgrounds will be
critical to our analysis of this dominant yet elusive ideology. There
are no prerequisites for this course and students from any department
are encouraged to sign up.