This article offers an innovative pedagogical technique for teaching students to think critically and analytically about race, especially for student populations most accurately characterized as white and middle class. I illustrate this technique by relating my experiences designing and teaching a first-year writing course called the Monstrous and the Human at the University of Delaware. The concept of monstrousness and the problem of race may at first appear unrelated, yet this is precisely the strength of the course, which relies on a method of defamiliarization. Course readings begin by exploring monstrousness in Victorian science fiction novels, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and then shift to a study of how conventions of these novels recur in novels that examine race in American society, such as Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. In combination with class discussion and course writing assignments, this reading progression invites students to see race from a new perspective. In this article I share my reasons for creating this course, detail its assignments, and show how the course can help students expand their understanding of race in American society. I argue that by teaching race through defamiliarization, we encourage students to arrive at their own understanding of race and racism without inculcating our own beliefs.
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Clayton Zuba; Monstrosity and the Majority: Defamiliarizing Race in the University Classroom. Pedagogy 1 April 2016; 16 (2): 356–367. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15314200-3436012
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