Caricatures at Work

As promised, I am posting the clip from Marlon Riggs’s Emmy-winning documentary, Ethnic Notions (1987), that we didn’t have time to watch in class. Please watch the clip before reading Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon (1859). Remember that The Octoroon is participating in not only the discourses of melodrama and abolition but also that of caricature. In addition to thinking about how the play uses the stock characters of melodrama, think about how the play uses the caricatures discussed in this clip. Please be prepared to share your ideas in class next Monday.

If you’d like to watch the documentary in its entirety, you may do so in the A/V Room in the Kolligian Library, where I’ve placed a copy of the DVD on reserve. The A/V Room can accommodate up to fifteen students, so you can even arrange a viewing party if you’d like. For more information on reserving the room, follow this link. If you watch the entire documentary, you have the option of turning in a short response paper for extra credit towards your participation grade.

EXTRA CREDIT OPPORTUNITY: Watch Ethnic Notions actively and take notes. After viewing the documentary, write a 1-1.5 page double-spaced response, which is due in class on Monday, February 6. Don’t attempt to summarize the documentary in your response. Instead, consider what you learned from watching it. Discuss the ways in which the documentary illuminated Boucicault’s play for you.

CONTENT WARNING: Ethnic Notions and The Octoroon contain racist language. While we will use the euphemism “the N-word” during class discussions, we will not ignore its use in these texts. We will discuss the word’s use in these contexts, its function as a tool of oppression, and its roles in contemporary American culture.


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