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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Fall 2006

AMS 315 • Mixed Race Identity in American Culture-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
29896 MWF
3:00 PM-4:00 PM
PAR 206

Course Description

Through most of the United States' history, laws have been in place to prevent interracial intimacy and the production of mixed-race offspring, and the Tragic Mulatto figure, victim of confusion and isolation, has remained in the popular imaginary since the nineteenth century, reappearing in novels, movies, and even social science writing that addresses the challenges of multicultural societies. At the same time, writers have equated American identity with the creation of new, hybrid men since Hector St. John de Crêvecoeur asked "What then is the American, this new man?" in 1782. While less prevalent than ideas that disparage racial mixing, fascination with it has always gone hand in hand with ideas of citizenship, American identity, and progress.

Why has there been a combination of appeal with mixed-race Americans along with an antipathy towards them as "half-breeds," intermediary, or marginal? Have stereotypes of them altered through the past two hundred years? Do they reflect how mixed-race people identify themselves? Lastly, how have these issues changed in the decades since the Supreme Court invalidated anti-miscegenation laws in 1967? This course aims to answer these questions through a variety of interdisciplinary sources. We will be reading fiction, essays, newspaper articles, and texts from the behavioral and social sciences that address a number of topics, including: the one-drop rule, abolition, assimilation, racial passing, the proposed Multiracial category for the Census, and representations in popular culture. Objectives: -To discern positive and negative stereotypes of mixed-race Americans throughout U.S. history. -To compare these with the ways people of mixed heritage identify themselves, whether publicly, privately, officially, or among their kin. -To apply this knowledge to contemporary issues, and imagine how issues of race and identity may change in the coming years.


The majority of the readings for this course will come in a course packet, but we will also read any two of the three following novels: Nella Larsen's Passing, Anatole Broyards Kafka Was the Rage, and Sigrid Nunezs Feather on the Breath of God.


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