Monday, 7 January 2008


I've decided to make 'whiteness' one of the themes in my Contemporary Writing course next teaching block, partly because I was just rereading Richard Dyer's White and gibbering in joy and massive heartfelt agreement, partly because I don't want my students to think they only have to engage with ideas around 'race' and ethnicity when they're reading Beloved or Tegonni.

I guess that a text by a white author which features only white characters is necessarily, at least in part, engaging in the construction of whiteness. But I wonder which of the texts on my reading list can be said to be doing so in interesting and/or self-reflective ways?

The main thing I remember about Dyer's analysis of whiteness in the Western imagination is that it's often connected with concerns over embodiment, and hence with death (all the way from 'white men can't jump'/dance to iconic images of angels, dead white children, and vampires).

I'm listing Bechdel's Fun Home, Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea as being concerned with whiteness, but not Slaughterhouse-5 or Pale Fire. I'm not sure how much sense that makes...

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