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The University of Southampton

HUMA3018 Representing Race: Politics and Identity in American Culture

Module Overview

In 1900 the African-American write W.E.B Du Bois suggested that ‘the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.’ Although much has changed in the last century race is still a ‘problem’ in America. The module explores this complex history through a wide range of forms, including literature, film, art, music videos, television, and celebrity culture. It foregrounds the ways in which cultural texts have mediated, and remediated, race by focusing closely on the critical conversations that occur between texts as artists, writers and film makers have adapted and reimagined this political and cultural history. The module will also take us to the contemporary moment, exploring the cultural representations of race that have been associated with the White House itself, especially as it transitioned from the Obama to the Trump administrations. The module draws on an intellectual tradition that includes W.E.B Du Bois, Henry Louis Gates Jr, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Stefano Harney and Fred Moten. It explores how everyday practices - looking, working, desiring, playing, writing, voting, speaking, inheriting, educating, singing, dancing, shopping – are given meaning by race in America.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Understanding of the specific theoretical, cultural and contextual issues involved in analysing the history of the representation of race in America
  • Historical understanding of the continuities, and changes, that have occurred in these representations, from the early twentieth century to the contemporary
  • Understanding of the variety of cultural forms that American artists have used to represent race and how to read them both comparatively and individually
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Awareness of the different, and shared, methodological approaches that analysis of film, literature and popular culture require
  • Awareness of the intertextual and comparative approaches required to read across film, literature and popular culture
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Carry out your own research on a topic
  • Write a research essay on a relevant topic


This module explores the ways in which race has been represented in American literary, cinematic and popular culture across the course of the twentieth century. It draws on the critical thinking of African American theorists regarding the politics of representation, race, gender, sexuality and class. Indicative areas and texts to be studied may include Isaac Julien’s reworking of the fantasies of the Harlem Renaissance in Looking for Langston, Claudia Rankine’s lyrical translation of Serena Williams’ anger in Citizen, Beyonce’s reworking of Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust in Lemonade.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • Seminars • Individual guidance sessions in advance of the final assessment • Office hours for individual feedback on the assessment Learning activities include • Preparatory reading and research prior to contact hours • Individual study and research This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions. It will also be used for film screenings.

Guided independent study120
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Callaloo: A Journal of African American Arts and Letters.

Race and Cultural Practice in Popular Culture. 

Henry Louis Gates (1988). Gates, Henry Louis. 1988. The Signifying Monkey: a Tradition of African-American Literary Criticism . 

African American Literature. 

Bogle, Donald (2016). Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films ). 



MethodPercentage contribution
Analytical essay  (2000 words) 60%
Analytical essay  (1500 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Analytical essay 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Analytical essay  (3000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

The total cost of this module will not typically exceed £50

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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