In the third unit of our class, “The Bildungsroman: On Growing Up” we are reading and analyzing the novel Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead, which discusses themes including the impact of race, class, and commercial culture on growing up. Please choose one of the questions and construct a six-to-seven-page research paper that answers the question and analyzes the text, as well as at least 2 outside sources, effectively.
Question Option 1: (Topic subject areas: sociology/history/cultural studies/African American studies, literary setting)
In a publicity video for the novel, Whitehead stated that he was interested in exploring the history of the Black middle class vacation community in Sag Harbor on Long Island. What is that history, and how did Whitehead use that history in his novel to speak to larger ideas about leisure/vacation and the Black middle class in America?
Question Option 2: (Topic subject areas: music history/cultural criticism/popular culture/literary characterization)
In Whitehead’s novel, music plays a large role in the protagonist’s, Benji’s life, from the songs he hears his father play on the radio, to the music playing in the background when he first holds a girl’s hand, to the arguments he has with his friends over whether it’s acceptable for rappers to sample other musicians’ work. What does the music in Benji’s life reveal about him as a character, and what does the music in the novel reveal about the culture of the 19080s, the period in which this book was set?
Question Option 3: (Topic subject areas: Media studies/film criticism/literary criticism)
Sag Harbor is often classified as a bildungsroman novel. What is the history of the bildungsroman tradition in American media (including literature, movies, and television), and how does Whitehead’s novel fit into that tradition? Additionally, in analyzing the similarities and differences between Whitehead’s novel and other works in the bildungsroman tradition, how does Whitehead comment on the genre as a whole?
Question Option 4
Develop your own research question based on Colson Whitehead’s novel Sag Harbor. If you wish to take this option you must either meet with me or email me your proposed question by Monday, 4/18. I must approve your question/topic before you can proceed. Some potential topic areas you might wish to explore:
Important dates: ***NOTE CHANGES FROM SYLLABUS***