AFR 205
She Speaks in Color: Examining the 'Color Complex' in Toni Morrison's Writings Fall 2016 Division II; Writing-Intensive; Cross-listed as WGSS207 / COMP236 / AFR205
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The practice of colorism, or skin color discrimination, is very familiar to people of color globally. Often described as intra-racial racism, colorism within the Black American context is part of the colonial legacy of institutionalized slavery where the vestiges of white supremacy have created color castes among Blacks that still, to this day, have serious consequences for those on the darkest end of the color spectrum. The impact of this practice is far-reaching, influencing everything from romantic partnering, economic and educational attainment, and perceptions of beauty, attractiveness, and criminality. Although the vast majority of colorism scholarship is empirically based, there is much that we can glean from a literary investigation of this practice by analyzing the works of renowned writer, theorist, and folklorist Toni Morrison. Her work is particularly useful in examining issues of skin color, as this topic has been persistent yet underexplored in Morrison’s writings. Employing the methods of literary and rhetorical criticism, this tutorial will investigate five Morrison novels, The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), Love (2003) and God Help the Child (2015). In our discussions of each text, we will examine the problem of the “color complex” at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class and sexual violence, and how the characters manage these overlapping issues. We will bring the novels into conversation with social science articles on the practices of colorism in daily life. Because the tutorial blends different kinds of investigations into colorism, it will equip first year students with tools to critically engage and interrogate fictional literature; help them identify the real and nuanced ways that color discrimination affects Black communities; and consider how Morrison, one of our foremost writers, bridges literary creativity with ethnographic observation.
The Class: Type: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1003
Requirements/Evaluation: six 2-page papers, two 5- to 7-page papers, 10 minute vlog, annotated bibliography
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preference: this course is specifically for first-year students and they will receive preference in this class
Distributions: Division II; Writing-Intensive;
Distribution Notes: meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under AFR or WGSS; meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under COMP
Attributes: AFR Core Electives; AMST Arts in Context Electives;

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