Writing Whiteness, Fordham U, Spring 2016

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Writing Whiteness---ENGL 4033---Spring 2017

Glenn Hendler, Instructor

Course Description

"As long as you think you are white, there's no hope for you."
James Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket (1985)

What could Baldwin have meant by such a provocative statement? This course will address this question by tracing the process by which some Americans have come to think of themselves as "white," a category defined both against their own ethnic and national origins and against racial "others."


Keyword Archives

Over the course of the semester, you will be contributing to three keyword archives.

  • The primary source archive (Writing Whiteness 2017) will consist of interesting usage examples of the word “white” (and its variants) from the literary and cinematic texts we read in this class.
  • The secondary source archive (Writing Whiteness 2017) will consist of interesting usage examples of the word “white” (and its variants) in the critical, historical, and other secondary texts we read in this class.
  • The everyday life archive (Writing Whiteness 2017) will consist of interesting usage examples of the word “white” (and its variants) we come across in contemporary culture and politics. Be listening for mentions of it in the news, in everyday speech, on TV and YouTube, in music—anywhere. Write it down when you hear it, and add it to this archive.
    • In this third archive but only in this one, you may include examples where the word “white” could or should have been included but was not. In the other two, your usage examples must include the word “white” or one of its variants.

Most often you’ll start out by transcribing a quotation into the wiki. However, the third archive in particular might also include sound files; links to videos; an image that somehow references whiteness…or anything else you can think of, that you can find a way of adding to the wiki.

  • Each time you add an example to the archive, you should add a short paragraph explaining why you have added it to the wiki. This need not be lengthy formal writing—it canjust be a sentence or two--but it should say something about why it is interesting, and ideally something about how it connects to the concerns of the class. A reference to one of the class readings in which “whiteness” is defined and historicized would be an especially persuasive way of making the connection.
  • You must add at least five items to each archive over the course of the semester, before our final class meeting. Your first addition to each archive must happen by the end of January, but otherwise there are no deadlines for the other twelve or more contribution to the archive. That said, I strongly recommend that you not wait until the last day and then hunt for usage examples. The point is that this class should attune you to the complexity and ubiquity of the notion of whiteness in U.S. culture, and provide you with ways of analyzing it and discussing it when it comes up.

The outcome of this assignment will be three annotated archives that document and analyze the concept of whiteness. Ideally, these will be of use not only to us as a class, but also to others in the world—the Keywords Collaboratory is a publicly accessible space—who want to think critically and analytically about whiteness. As the term goes on, these archives will grow, and are likely to become unwieldy. One collaborative task, as a group, will be to keep the archivse organized in ways that will make them useful to us as a class and to anyone else who encounters them. We will take short class breaks a few times during the semester to discuss ways you might do so. These breaks will also allow us to talk in broad terms—distinct from our discussions of individual literary texts—about how our understanding of the concept of whiteness is developing over the course of the semester.

Instructions for First-Time Users

Students: Students enrolled in this class need to create an account, and then email me your user name so I can give you privileges to edit and create pages. I recommend choosing a name that I can recognize, but remember that anyone in the world can access this site, so it would be best not to use your first and last name. If I were a student, I'd be "GlennH." Please note: You can only modify pages once I have activated your account.

  1. To create an account, click on the link in the top right-hand corner of this page.
  2. Submit all the information requested on the registration page. Make sure to remember your user name and password.
  3. Email me your user name so I can activate your account. You will not be able to edit pages in this Collaboratory until you have received a reply to that e-mail.
  4. Even before I activate your account, you're welcome to experiment with editing pages in the Sandbox. Check out the Help and FAQs pages for tips on how to format pages.
  5. Once you get an email reply from me, you'll be able to edit pages.

Other Visitors to the Site: If you're not enrolled in this class, you can still read and comment on the work we're generating throughout the semester. This is a work in progress, so please check back for new additions and developments. You're also welcome to me with any questions or comments about our course.

Test area--do this after you've received an e-mail from Professor Hendler saying you're approved

As soon as you've been approved as a collaboratory participant (and to make sure you have been approved), go into the page linked below. In it you'll find a blank page (if you're the first to open it); otherwise you'll find other people's contributions. . Open the "edit" tab for the page and then add a phrase or sentence that includes your name (alphabetically in the list). For example, if your name is Jane Doe, you could write "Jane Doe was here." First click "preview" to make sure it's right, then click Save the page, and you should see a sentence that says "Jane Doe was here." If you can't do this, you aren't properly signed in or haven't been approved yet. Make sure you're signed in, and if you are, check with me to get yourself approved as a participant.

Helpful Tips and Links

  • The best browsers to use for editing are the most recent versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer because they support the MediaWiki editing toolbar. Other browsers may not support the toolbar. However, it's very easy to add and edit text without the toolbar. For very simple coding instructions, check out the Cheat Sheet of Wiki Markup Language (i.e., how to code in this environment).
  • Another editing option is the Wiki Edit app for iPads.
  • A page for new users, with basic information about how to do the things you need to do.
  • Here is a longer list of commands you can use to format text.

Note: It is possible to get an e-mail notifying you when pages are changed. In preferences, click "Email me on page changes."