Shades of Passing (AAS 340 / ENG 391 / AMS 340)

Shades of Passing (AAS 340 / ENG 391 / AMS 340)

Princeton University
Fall 2012-2013

Anne A. Cheng, Professor of English and African American Studies

This course studies the trope of passing in 20th century American literary and cinematic narratives in an effort to re-examine the crisis of identity that both produces and confounds acts of passing. We will examine how American novelists and filmmakers have portrayed and responded to this social phenomenon, not as merely a social performance but as a profound intersubjective process embedded within history, law, and culture. We will focus on narratives of passing across axes of difference, invoking questions such as: To what extent does the act of passing reinforce or unhinge seemingly natural categories of race, gender, and sexuality?

Sample reading list:
William Faulkner, Light in August
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
Nella Larsen, Passing
Chang-rae Lee, A Gesture Life
Douglas Sirk (director), Imitation of Life (film, 1959)
Woody Allen (director), Zelig (film, 1983)

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