THEA 241
Performing Race: From Shakespeare to Spike Lee Fall 2009
Division I Exploring Diversity Initiative
Cross-listed AFR 241 / COMP 241
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

Since theatre is both a visual and a verbal medium, the goal is to explore, through detailed close analysis, visual and verbal representations of race–with representation being understood to mean cultural construction and with race being defined to include whiteness as a racial category. The comprehensive scope is deliberately cross-historical to create a longer historical timeline that expands the range for comparative perspectives in the study of race. The Renaissance starting point calls attention to the complex operations of blackface performance in which black roles in Shakespeare and Jonson are played by white actors who are blacked up. We evaluate how this mode of white actors literally re-presenting black characters affects the range of meaning for images of blackness. Asymmetries of power, and the potential for disrupting differential power, are considered in relations between blacks and whites not only at the level of characters but also at the level of authorship. We examine what happens when a black writer gains control of the means of representation, with critical revisions of Othello as a case in point. Contemporary works include plays by Djanet Sears, Derek Walcott, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Suzan Lori-Parks, and August Wilson, as well as Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled. This is an Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI) course because, in the context of racial difference, we will confront forthrightly the negative realities and critically assess the possibilities for productive change and hope in cross-racial interactions.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 15
Expected: 12
Class#: 1479
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: evaluation based on active participation in class discussion, short papers, final exam
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Theatre majors
Distributions: Division I Exploring Diversity Initiative
Notes: meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under THEA or COMP; meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under AFR
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
THEA 241 Division I AFR 241 Division II COMP 241 Division I
Attributes: AFR Interdepartmental Electives
AMST Arts in Context Electives
AMST Comp Studies in Race, Ethnicity, Diaspora

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