Throughout this class, we have analyzed many different aspects of identity with an eye toward how and when they become “political.” Some key concepts we have engaged include: stereotypes, visibility of identity categories, “marked” and “unmarked” identities, oppression and power relationships between identity groups, self-identification and culture of identity, and problems of definition in recognizing identities. In an essay of 5-6 pages (1250-1500 words), respond to ONE of the following three questions, integrating no fewer than three (3) sources we have read or discussed in class. You may include outside examples from the media or popular culture in addition; if you do, please cite these using MLA citation format.
Be sure that you have a clearly stated thesis statement at the end of the introduction to your essay. One good way to do this is to underline that statement – if you have trouble finding it, you probably need to revise!
1. In Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy tells a coming of age story from the perspective of a child battling a rare cancer and subsequent facial disfigurement. Consider this narrative in light of one or more theories of disability that we have read, and explain how Grealy’s pursuit of surgical repair to her face would be understood by theorists such as Garland Thomson, Wendell, Davis, and/or Brueggeman. How does her sense of self-identity evolve over time, and at what points in the text does she resist or attempt to conform to idealized notions of beauty and/or normalcy? How is sexuality related to her sense of self as a disabled or disfigured person?
2. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes very provocatively about the precarity of the racialized body in his book Between the World and Me. For Coates, the question of “how one should live within a black body, within a country lost in the Dream” is central to his pursuit as a writer and historian. Choose an example or set of examples from his book, Atlantic article on reparations, or recent events (#BlackLivesMatter movement, the recent protests at Yale, Mizzou, etc.), and explain how racial identity is politicized in this context. Why does Coates emphasize the body in his writing about racial identity, and how do we understand the “Dream” and whom it includes or excludes? How can an understanding of history help us answer his question? (here you can integrate other articles we have read by critical race theorists such as Davis, Smedley, etc)
3. Redefining Realness is a memoir telling the story of Janet Mock’s transition from male to female as an intersectional coming-of-age story, bringing together identities of class, race, gender, and sexuality. Locate one or more passages in this text that you think illustrate this intersectionality, and explain how these factors work together to contribute to Mock’s identity. What does she mean by “realness”? You might also consider how Mock’s narrative responds to some of the challenges to trans women brought by TERFs in Goldman’s article, and how it relates to Serano’s analysis of cissexual privilege. What strategies does she use to survive and become herself? Think about the many relationships she has in this book – with parents, siblings, friends, clients, lovers – how do they help or hinder her in the realization of her identity as a woman?
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