Sample exam…

Sample exam question:

2) Talk about the dynamics of "passing" in any way you wish, making specific reference to both critical ideas and particular literary texts.
Now, that's one that could be an oral exam question. The texts that jump immediately to mind are Nella Larsen's Passing (of course), but also Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. There must be lots of others on my list.

I'd be interested in talking first about the function of passing in those texts (and that time period), but then what passing might mean today, especially for minorities that perhaps can't physically 'pass' for white, but which are often (mostly) treated as white. I'd talk about what happens when you forget that your skin is brown, what effect it has on an ethnic consciousness when you have to periodically remind yourself that no, you're not actually white. And the positive and negative effects of such reminding...

Hmm...there's a reasonable transition there to national identity formation too, actually. To what extent is it functionally useful to assert a separate national identity? How does that serve to unify a colonized people? How does that later break down, given that it often isn't based on much of anything at all? Which leads us right back to where we started -- when one is passing for white, what, if anything, is one leaving behind?

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