Negotiating Alterity and Identity in Franco-American Encounters
In his travel essay “Equal in Paris,” James Baldwin writes of the French, “I did not know what they saw when they looked at me. I knew very well what Americans saw when they looked at me.”
In this course, we will explore the politics of identity and representation in the long history of contact between the French in North America and Americans in France. In our close readings of a wide range of literary and cultural texts—including novels, poetry, and short stories—produced in the context of Franco-American encounters, we will trace the formation of “race.” Our analyses will attend to variant ways of constructing otherness in Franco-American and Anglo-American approaches to racialization.
In addition to literary texts written by French writers in America and American expatriates in France, we will consider travel narratives and missionary accounts describing interactions between European and Native American populations; theoretical texts on “race”; historical, ethnographic, and political writings; research on language and identity; and popular cultural forms such as music, comic strips, films, news articles, and television programs.
Satisfies American Cultures requirement.
Course taught in English. Knowledge of French not required.
Students are encouraged to procure the Course Reader in advance of the first class meeting in order to complete introductory readings.