The reading list for English 112 is familiar: Hawthorne, Melville, James Fenimore Cooper, Twain.

But for many students and faculty members at Georgetown University, the appearance of a course titled "White Male Writers" this semester is as surprising as it is revealing."This is just one small group within a large body of literature, so let's title it that," said Valerie Babb, the assistant professor of English who originated the course. "Just as we say native American writers, just as we say black women writers, these are white male writers."

As a group, white male authors are often treated as if their sex or race had no influence on their works, one of Babb's colleagues said, but added that in reality "white men are as defined by their race and gender as black women are."

Babb, who concentrated on American 19th-century literature in graduate school, said she did not think it was unusual that she, a black woman, would teach a class on white male writers.

"Who would know white men better than a black woman?" she asked. "I've got a legacy of great-grandmothers and grandmothers who cleaned house, washed clothes, diapered babies for white males; I've got a rich store of information. My entire education has come from what might be called a white male culture."