English 233 - Spring, 2022

Problems in American Literature

Topic: Structures of Racial Feeling

Class Information

Instructor: Gray, Erin
CRN: 42299
Time: T 12:10-3:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Later American
Focus: Interdiscipline, Method, Theory


This class explores the entanglements of conscious, unconscious, and nonconscious racial feeling within the ideological infrastructures that facilitate capitalist accumulation. Guided by Raymond Williams? concept of a ?structure of feeling? as an emergent cultural formation, this class interrogates the complexity of racism as a material force we may track at all levels of intimate and institutional life. To facilitate such a course of study, the class proposes an alternative genealogy for affect studies that emerges not in opposition to the so-called linguistic turns of structuralist and post-structuralist critique, but before and alongside these ?turns? ? in the criticism, theory, and artistic praxis of subjects relegated to the sensible margins of political life. We read works by Frantz Fanon, George Jackson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Audre Lorde, Hortense Spillers, and Gloria Anzaldua which explore the affective, sensory, and unconscious dimensions of racializing forms, signifiers, systems, and schemas. We read them alongside more recent theorists of affect and biopolitics (Gilles Deleuze, Lauren Berlant, Saidiya Hartman, Jose Estaban Munoz) whose work examines the violence of sentimentality, the sensory politics of the British empire, the afterlife of American slavery, queer utopias, chronic illness, indigenous pessimism, and black aspiration.


seminar facilitation; seminar recap; final paper.


Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in 19th-Century America, Saidiya Hartman
Slavery and the Culture of Taste, Simon Gikandi
The Biopolitics of Feeling: Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century, Kyla Schuller
Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affects, Mel Chen
Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times, Jasbir Puar
NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes from the Field, Billy-Ray Belcourt
BlackPentacostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility, Ashon T. Crawley