Abandoning the Black Hero is the first book to examine the postwar African American white-life novel—novels with white protagonists written by African Americans. These fascinating works have been understudied despite having been written by such defining figures in the tradition as Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Ann Petry, and Chester Himes, as well as lesser known but formerly best-selling authors Willard Motley and Frank Yerby.
John C. Charles argues that these fictions have been overlooked because they deviate from two critical suppositions: that black literature is always about black life and that when it represents whiteness, it must attack white supremacy. The authors are, however, quite sympathetic in the treatment of their white protagonists, which Charles contends should be read not as a failure of racial pride but instead as a strategy for claiming creative freedom, expansive moral authority, and critical agency.
In an era when “Negro writers” were expected to protest, their sympathetic treatment of white suffering grants these authors a degree of racial privacy previously unavailable to them. White writers, after all, have the privilege of racial privacy because they are never pressured to write only about white life. Charles reveals that the freedom to abandon the “Negro problem” encouraged these authors to explore a range of new genres and themes, generating a strikingly diverse body of novels that significantly revise our understanding of mid-twentieth-century black writing.
In Africa in the Indian Imagination Antoinette Burton reframes our understanding of the postcolonial Afro-Asian solidarity that emerged from the 1955 Bandung conference. Afro-Asian solidarity is best understood, Burton contends, by using friction as a lens to expose the racial, class, gender, sexuality, caste, and political tensions throughout the postcolonial global South. Focusing on India's imagined relationship with Africa, Burton historicizes Africa's role in the emergence of a coherent postcolonial Indian identity. She shows how—despite Bandung's rhetoric of equality and brotherhood—Indian identity echoed colonial racial hierarchies in its subordination of Africans and blackness. Underscoring Indian anxiety over Africa and challenging the narratives and dearly held assumptions that presume a sentimentalized, nostalgic, and fraternal history of Afro-Asian solidarity, Burton demonstrates the continued need for anti-heroic, vexed, and fractious postcolonial critique.
In Archives of Labor Lori Merish establishes working-class women as significant actors within literary culture, dramatically redrawing the map of nineteenth-century US literary and cultural history. Delving into previously unexplored archives of working-class women's literature—from autobiographies, pamphlet novels, and theatrical melodrama to seduction tales and labor periodicals—Merish recovers working-class women's vital presence as writers and readers in the antebellum era. Her reading of texts by a diverse collection of factory workers, seamstresses, domestic workers, and prostitutes boldly challenges the purportedly masculine character of class dissent during this era. Whether addressing portrayals of white New England "factory girls," fictional accounts of African American domestic workers, or the first-person narratives of Mexican women working in the missions of Mexican California, Merish unsettles the traditional association of whiteness with the working class to document forms of cross-racial class identification and solidarity. In so doing, she restores the tradition of working women's class protest and dissent, shows how race and gender are central to class identity, and traces the ways working women understood themselves and were understood as workers and class subjects.
What constitutes “blackness” in American culture? And who gets to define whether or not someone is truly African American? Is a struggling hip-hop artist more “authentic” than a conservative Supreme Court justice? In Authentic Blackness J. Martin Favor looks to the New Negro Movement—also known as the Harlem Renaissance—to explore early challenges to the idea that race is a static category. Authentic Blackness looks at the place of the “folk”—those African Americans “furthest down,” in the words of Alain Locke—and how the representation of the folk and the black middle class both spurred the New Negro Movement and became one of its most serious points of contention. Drawing on vernacular theories of African American literature from such figures as Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Houston Baker as well as theorists Judith Butler and Stuart Hall, Favor looks closely at the work of four Harlem Renaissance fiction writers: James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, George Schuyler, and Jean Toomer. Arguing that each of these writers had, at best, an ambiguous relationship to African American folk culture, Favor demonstrates how they each sought to redress the notion of a fixed black identity. Authentic Blackness illustrates how “race” has functioned as a type of performative discourse, a subjectivity that simultaneously builds and conceals its connections with such factors as class, gender, sexuality, and geography.
Like our own, early modern beliefs about race depended on metaphorical, selective, and contradictory understandings of how membership in groups is determined. Although race took distinctive forms in the past, the fallacies that underlie early modern racial experience generally are precisely-and surprisingly-the same as those in contemporary culture.
Exploring the similar underpinnings of early modern and contemporary ideas of difference, Barbarous Play examines English Renaissance understandings of race as depicted in drama. Reading plays by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Webster, and Middleton, Bovilsky offers case studies of how racial meanings are generated by narratives of boundary crossing-especially miscegenation, religious conversion, class transgression, and moral and physical degeneracy. In the process, she reveals deep parallels between the period’s conceptions of race and gender.
Barbarous Play contests the widely held view that race and racism depend on modern science for their existence and argues that understanding just what is false and figurative in past depictions of race, such as those found in Othello, The Merchant of Venice, The White Devil, and The Changeling, can clarify the illogic of present-day racism.
Lara Bovilsky is assistant professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis.
In Black Madness :: Mad Blackness Therí Alyce Pickens rethinks the relationship between Blackness and disability, unsettling the common theorization that they are mutually constitutive. Pickens shows how Black speculative and science fiction authors such as Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, and Tananarive Due craft new worlds that reimagine the intersection of Blackness and madness. These creative writer-theorists formulate new parameters for thinking through Blackness and madness. Pickens considers Butler's Fledgling as an archive of Black madness that demonstrates how race and ability shape subjectivity while constructing the building blocks for antiracist and anti-ableist futures. She examines how Hopkinson's Midnight Robber theorizes mad Blackness and how Due's African Immortals series contests dominant definitions of the human. The theorizations of race and disability that emerge from these works, Pickens demonstrates, challenge the paradigms of subjectivity that white supremacy and ableism enforce, thereby pointing to the potential for new forms of radical politics.
The Black Pacific Narrative: Geographic Imaginings of Race and Empire between the World Wars chronicles the profound shift in geographic imaginings that occurred in African American culture as the United States evolved into a bioceanic global power. The author examines the narrative of the “black Pacific”?the literary and cultural production of African American narratives in the face of America’s efforts to internationalize the Pacific and to institute a “Pacific Community,” reflecting a vision of a hemispheric regional order initiated and led by the United States. The black Pacific was imagined in counterpoint to this regional order in the making, which would ultimately be challenged by the Pacific War. The principal subjects of study include such literary and cultural figures as James Weldon Johnson, George S. Schuyler, artists of the black Federal Theatre Project, Langston Hughes, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Walter White, all of whom afford significant points of entry to a critical understanding of the stakes of the black Pacific narrative. Adopting an approach that mixes the archival and the interpretive, the author seeks to recover the black Pacific produced by African American narratives, narratives that were significant enough in their time to warrant surveillance and suspicion, and hence are significant enough in our time to warrant scholarly attention and reappraisal. A compelling study that will appeal to a broad, international audience of students and scholars of American studies, African American studies, American literature, and imperialism and colonialism.
Black, White, and in Color offers a long-awaited collection of major essays by Hortense Spillers, one of the most influential and inspiring black critics of the past twenty years. Spanning her work from the early 1980s, in which she pioneered a broadly poststructuralist approach to African American literature, and extending through her turn to cultural studies in the 1990s, these essays display her passionate commitment to reading as a fundamentally political act-one pivotal to rewriting the humanist project.
Spillers is best known for her race-centered revision of psychoanalytic theory and for her subtle account of the relationships between race and gender. She has also given literary criticism some of its most powerful readings of individual authors, represented here in seminal essays on Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks, and William Faulkner. Ultimately, the essays collected in Black, White, and in Color all share Spillers's signature style: heady, eclectic, and astonishingly productive of new ideas. Anyone interested in African American culture and literature will want to read them.
The United States has seldom known a period of greater social and cultural volatility, especially in terms of race relations, than the years from the end of Reconstruction to the First World War. In this highly original study, Susan Gillman explores the rise during this period of a remarkable genre—the race melodrama—and the way in which it converged with literary trends, popular history, fringe movements, and mainstream interest in supernatural phenomena.
Blood Talk shows how race melodrama emerged from abolitionist works such as Uncle Tom's Cabin and surprisingly manifested itself in a set of more aesthetically and politically varied works, such as historical romances, sentimental novels, the travel literature of Mark Twain, the regional fiction of Kate Chopin and George Washington Cable, and the work of W. E. B. Du Bois. Gillman then uses the race melodrama to show how racial discourses in the United States have been entangled with occultist phenomena, from the rituals of the Ku Klux Klan and the concept of messianic second-sight to the production of conspiracy theories and studies of dreams and trances.
In Bodyminds Reimagined Sami Schalk traces how black women's speculative fiction complicates the understanding of bodyminds—the intertwinement of the mental and the physical—in the context of race, gender, and (dis)ability. Bridging black feminist theory with disability studies, Schalk demonstrates that this genre's political potential lies in the authors' creation of bodyminds that transcend reality's limitations. She reads (dis)ability in neo-slave narratives by Octavia Butler (Kindred) and Phyllis Alesia Perry (Stigmata) not only as representing the literal injuries suffered under slavery, but also as a metaphor for the legacy of racial violence. The fantasy worlds in works by N. K. Jemisin, Shawntelle Madison, and Nalo Hopkinson—where werewolves have obsessive-compulsive-disorder and blind demons can see magic—destabilize social categories and definitions of the human, calling into question the very nature of identity. In these texts, as well as in Butler’s Parable series, able-mindedness and able-bodiedness are socially constructed and upheld through racial and gendered norms. Outlining (dis)ability's centrality to speculative fiction, Schalk shows how these works open new social possibilities while changing conceptualizations of identity and oppression through nonrealist contexts.
In the decades following World War II, many American Jews sought to downplay their difference, as a means of assimilating into Middle America. Yet a significant minority, including many prominent Jewish writers and intellectuals, clung to their ethnic difference, using it to register dissent with the status quo and act as spokespeople for non-white America.
In this provocative book, Jennifer Glaser examines how racial ventriloquism became a hallmark of Jewish-American fiction, as Jewish writers asserted that their own ethnicity enabled them to speak for other minorities. Rather than simply condemning this racial ventriloquism as a form of cultural appropriation or commending it as an act of empathic imagination, Borrowed Voices offers a nuanced analysis of the technique, judiciously assessing both its limitations and its potential benefits. Glaser considers how the practice of racial ventriloquism has changed over time, examining the books of many well-known writers, including Bernard Malamud, Cynthia Ozick, Philip Roth, Michael Chabon, Saul Bellow, and many others.
Bringing Jewish studies into conversation with critical race theory, Glaser also opens up a dialogue between Jewish-American literature and other forms of media, including films, magazines, and graphic novels. Moreover, she demonstrates how Jewish-American fiction can help us understand the larger anxieties about ethnic identity, authenticity, and authorial voice that emerged in the wake of the civil rights movement.
"James F. Wilson uncovers fascinating new material on the Harlem Renaissance, shedding light on the oft-forgotten gay and lesbian contributions to the era's creativity and Civil Rights. Extremely well researched, compellingly written, and highly informative."
---David Krasner, author of A Beautiful Pageant: African American Theatre, Drama, and Performance in the Harlem Renaissance, 1910-1927
Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies shines the spotlight on historically neglected plays and performances that challenged early twentieth-century notions of the stratification of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation. On Broadway stages, in Harlem nightclubs and dance halls, and within private homes sponsoring rent parties, African American performers of the 1920s and early 1930s teased the limits of white middle-class morality. Blues-singing lesbians, popularly known as "bulldaggers," performed bawdy songs; cross-dressing men vied for the top prizes in lavish drag balls; and black and white women flaunted their sexuality in scandalous melodramas and musical revues. Race leaders, preachers, and theater critics spoke out against these performances that threatened to undermine social and political progress, but to no avail: mainstream audiences could not get enough of the riotous entertainment.
Many of the plays and performances explored here, central to the cultural debates of their time, had been previously overlooked by theater historians. Among the performances discussed are David Belasco's controversial production of Edward Sheldon and Charles MacArthur's Lulu Belle (1926), with its raucous, libidinous view of Harlem. The title character, as performed by a white woman in blackface, became a symbol of defiance for the gay subculture and was simultaneously held up as a symbol of supposedly immoral black women. African Americans Florence Mills and Ethel Waters, two of the most famous performers of the 1920s, countered the Lulu Belle stereotype in written statements and through parody, thereby reflecting the powerful effect this fictional character had on the popular imagination.
Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies is based on historical archival research including readings of eyewitness accounts, newspaper reports, songs, and playscripts. Employing a cultural studies framework that incorporates queer and critical race theory, it argues against the widely held belief that the stereotypical forms of black, lesbian, and gay show business of the 1920s prohibited the emergence of distinctive new voices. Specialists in American studies, performance studies, African American studies, and gay and lesbian studies will find the book appealing, as will general readers interested in the vivid personalities and performances of the singers and actors introduced in the book.
James F. Wilson is Professor of English and Theatre at LaGuardia Community College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
Objects of fear and fascination, cannibals have long signified an elemental "otherness," an existence outside the bounds of normalcy. In the American imagination, the figure of the cannibal has evolved tellingly over time, as Jeff Berglund shows in this study encompassing a strikingly eclectic collection of cultural, literary, and cinematic texts. Cannibal Fictions brings together two discrete periods in U.S. history: the years between the Civil War and World War I, the high-water mark in America's imperial presence, and the post-Vietnam era, when the nation was beginning to seriously question its own global agenda. Berglund shows how P. T. Barnum, in a traveling exhibit featuring so-called "Fiji cannibals," served up an alien "other" for popular consumption, while Edgar Rice Burroughs in his Tarzan of the Apes series tapped into similar anxieties about the eruption of foreign elements into a homogeneous culture. Turning to the last decades of the twentieth century, Berglund considers how treatments of cannibalism variously perpetuated or subverted racist, sexist, and homophobic ideologies rooted in earlier times. Fannie Flagg's novel Fried Green Tomatoes invokes cannibalism to new effect, offering an explicit critique of racial, gender, and sexual politics (an element to a large extent suppressed in the movie adaptation). Recurring motifs in contemporary Native American writing suggest how Western expansion has, cannibalistically, laid the seeds of its own destruction. And James Dobson's recent efforts to link the pro-life agenda to allegations of cannibalism in China testify still further to the currency and pervasiveness of this powerful trope.
By highlighting practices that preclude the many from becoming one, these representations of cannibalism, Berglund argues, call into question the comforting national narrative of e pluribus unum.
Joyce Moore Turner's Caribbean Crusaders and the Harlem Renaissance is a study of the emergence of African American radicalism in Harlem, a crossroads of the African Diaspora in the early twentieth century. Turner reveals that the Harlem Renaissance was more than just an artistic fluorescence; it was also a political movement to counter racism and colonialism.
To explore the roots of the Caribbean emigres' radical ideology and the strategies used to extend agitation from Harlem to national and international platforms, the study draws on the papers and writings of Hermina Huiswoud, Cyril Briggs, the Reverend E. Ethelred Brown, Langston Hughes, and Richard B. Moore, as well as from interviews and biographies of related contemporary figures. It also incorporates census records, FBI files, and hundreds of documents from the recently opened Russian Archive.
Through a focus on Otto Huiswoud, the sole African American charter member of the Communist Party, and his wife, Hermina, Turner exposes the complex developments within the socialist and communist parties on the question of race. The account ranges beyond Harlem to Europe, Africa, and the Soviet Union to reveal the breadth, depth, and nearly global reach of the Afro-Caribbean activists' activities.
What unites and what divides Americans as a nation? Who are we, and can we strike a balance between an emphasis on our divergent ethnic origins and what we have in common? Opening with a survey of American literature through the vantage point of ethnicity, Werner Sollors examines our evolving understanding of ourselves as an Anglo-American nation to a multicultural one and the key role writing has played in that process.
Challenges of Diversity contains stories of American myths of arrival (pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, slave ships at Jamestown, steerage passengers at Ellis Island), the powerful rhetoric of egalitarian promise in the Declaration of Independence and the heterogeneous ends to which it has been put, and the recurring tropes of multiculturalism over time (e pluribus unum, melting pot, cultural pluralism). Sollors suggests that although the transformation of this settler country into a polyethnic and self-consciously multicultural nation may appear as a story of great progress toward the fulfillment of egalitarian ideals, deepening economic inequality actually exacerbates the divisions among Americans today.
Transracial adoption has recently become a hotly contested subject of contemporary and critical concern, with scholars across the disciplines working to unravel its complex implications. In Claiming Others, Mark C. Jerng traces the practice of adoption to the early nineteenth century, revealing its surprising centrality to American literature, law, and social thought.
Jerng considers how adoption makes us rethink the parent-child bond as central to issues of race and nationality, showing the ways adoption also speaks to broader questions about our history and identity. He analyzes adoption through a diverse set of texts, including the 1851 Massachusetts statute that established adoption as we understand it today, early adoption manuals, the New York Times blog Relative Choices, and the work of John Tanner, Lydia Maria Child, William Faulkner, Charles Chesnutt, Chang-rae Lee, and David Henry Hwang.
Imaginative and social practices of transracial adoption have shaped major controversies, Jerng argues, from Native American removal to slavery to cold war expansionism in the twentieth century and the contemporary global market in children. As Claiming Others makes clear, understanding adoption is crucial not just to understanding the history between races in the United States, but also the meaning of emancipation and the role of family in nationhood.
In Colonialism and Race in Luso-Hispanic Literature, Jerome C. Branche examines race naming and race making in the modern period (1415–1948). During this time, racism, a partner to both slavery and colonial exploitation, took myriad discursive forms, ranging from the reflections and treatises of philosophers and scientists to travel writing, novels, poetry, drama, and the grammar of everyday life. Branche’s main premise is that modern race making went hand in hand with European expansion, the colonial enterprise, and the international development of capitalism.
Branche looks at the racially partisan works of the Luso-Hispanic canon to document just how long lasting, widespread, and deep the feelings they expressed were. He also illustrates how important race as narrative has been and continues to be. Branche pays particular attention to the Portuguese travel writing of the mid-fifteenth century, Spanish drama of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Cuban and Brazilian antislavery texts of the nineteenth century, and the Afro-Antillean negrismo movement of the twentieth century.
While Colonialism and Race in Luso-Hispanic Literature complements important studies of the 1970s and 1990s that treat black identity in the Spanish literary tradition, at the same time its range is wider than many other works because of the inclusion of the Luso-Brazilian dimension, its examination of extraliterary texts, and its coverage of a broader time frame. Branche’s marriage of postcolonial and cultural theory with his own close readings of related texts leads to a provocative reconsideration of how the Negro was portrayed in Latin American cultural discourse.
In The Color of Sex Mason Stokes offers new ways of thinking about whiteness by exploring its surprisingly ambivalent partnership with heterosexuality. Stokes examines a wide range of white-supremacist American texts written and produced between 1852 and 1915—literary romances, dime novels, religious and scientific tracts, film—and exposes whiteness as a tangled network of racial and sexual desire. Stokes locates these white-supremacist texts amid the anti-racist efforts of African American writers and activists, deepening our understanding of both American and African American literary and cultural history. The Color of Sex reveals what happens when race and sexuality meet, when white desire encounters its own ambivalence. As Stokes argues, whiteness and heterosexuality exist in anxious relation to one another. Mutually invested in “the normal,” they support each other in their desperate insistence on the cultural logic of exclusion. At the same time, however, they threaten one another in their attempt to create and sustain a white future, since reproducing whiteness necessarily involves the risk of contamination Charting the curious movements of this “white heterosexuality,” The Color of Sex inaugurates a new moment in our ongoing attempt to understand the frenzied interplay of race and sexuality in America. As such, it will appeal to scholars interested in race theory, sexuality studies, and American history, culture, and literature.
Coloring Locals examines how the late nineteenth-century politics of gender, class, race, and ethnicity influenced Kate Chopin's writing for the major family periodical of her time.
Chopin's canonical status as a feminist rebel and reformer conflicts with the fact that one of her most supportive publishers throughout her life was the Youth's Companion, a juvenile periodical whose thoroughly orthodox “family values” contributed to its success as the longest-running and, at one time, most widely circulating periodical in nineteenth-century America. Not surprisingly, Chopin’s Youth’s Companion stories differ from her canonical texts in that they embrace and advance ideals of orthodox white femininity and masculinity. Rather than viewing these two representations as being at odds with each other, Bonnie Shaker asserts that Chopin's endorsement of conventional gender norms is done in the service of a second political agenda beyond her feminism, one that can help the reader appreciate nuances of identity construction previously misunderstood or overlooked in the body of her work.
Shaker articulates this second agenda as “the discursive act of coloring locals,” the narrative construction of racial difference for Louisiana peoples of African American, Native American, and French American ancestry. For Chopin, “coloring locals” meant transforming non-Louisianans’ general understanding of the Creole and Cajun as mixed-race people into “purely” white folks, this designation of whiteness being one that conferred not only social preferment but also political protections and enfranchisement in one of the most racially violent decades of U.S. history. Thus, when Chopin is concerned with coloring her beloved Louisiana Creoles and Cajuns “white,” she strategically deploys conventional femininity for the benefits it affords as a sign of middle-class respectability and belonging.
Making significant contributions both to the scholarship on Kate Chopin and on race and gender construction, this sophisticated study will be of great interest to scholars and students of nineteenth-century ethnic and cultural studies as well as Chopin scholars.
Fables of American history embodied in Gilded Age literature
In this study of Gilded Age literature and culture, Ben Railton proposes that in the years after Reconstruction, America’s identity was often contested through distinct and competing conceptions of the nation’s history. He argues that the United States moved toward unifying and univocal historical narratives in the years between the Centennial and Columbian Expositions, that ongoing social conflict provided sites for complications of those narratives, and that works of historical literature offer some of the most revealing glimpses into the nature of those competing visions.
Gilded Age scholarship often connects the period to the 20th-century American future, but Railton argues that it is just as crucial to see how the era relates to the American past. He closely analyzes the 1876 and 1893 Expositions, finding that many of the period’s central trends, from technology to imperialism, were intimately connected to particular visions of the nation’s history. Railton’s concern is with four key social questions: race, Native Americans, women, and the South. He provides close readings of a number of texts for the ways they highlight these issues. He examines established classics (The Adventures of Huck Finn and The Bostonians); newer additions to the canon (The Conjure Woman, Life Among the Piutes, The Story of Avis); largely forgotten best-sellers (Uncle Remus, The Grandissimes); unrecovered gems (Ploughed Under, Where the Battle Was Fought); and autobiographical works by Douglass and Truth, poems by Harper and Piatt, and short stories by Woolson and Cook.
These readings, while illuminating the authors themselves, contribute to ongoing conversations over historical literature’s definition and value, and a greater understanding of not only American society in the Gilded Age, but also debates on our shared but contested history that remain very much alive in the present.
As W. E. B. DuBois famously prophesied in The Souls of Black Folk, the fiction of the color line has been of urgent concern in defining a certain twentieth-century U.S. racial “order.” Yet the very arbitrariness of this line also gives rise to opportunities for racial “passing,” a practice through which subjects appropriate the terms of racial discourse. To erode race’s authority, Gayle Wald argues, we must understand how race defines and yet fails to represent identity. She thus uses cultural narratives of passing to illuminate both the contradictions of race and the deployment of such contradictions for a variety of needs, interests, and desires. Wald begins her reading of twentieth-century passing narratives by analyzing works by African American writers James Weldon Johnson, Jessie Fauset, and Nella Larsen, showing how they use the “passing plot” to explore the negotiation of identity, agency, and freedom within the context of their protagonists' restricted choices. She then examines the 1946 autobiography Really the Blues, which details the transformation of Milton Mesirow, middle-class son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, into Mezz Mezzrow, jazz musician and self-described “voluntary Negro.” Turning to the 1949 films Pinky and Lost Boundaries, which imagine African American citizenship within class-specific protocols of race and gender, she interrogates the complicated representation of racial passing in a visual medium. Her investigation of “post-passing” testimonials in postwar African American magazines, which strove to foster black consumerism while constructing “positive” images of black achievement and affluence in the postwar years, focuses on neglected texts within the archives of black popular culture. Finally, after a look at liberal contradictions of John Howard Griffin’s 1961 auto-ethnography Black Like Me, Wald concludes with an epilogue that considers the idea of passing in the context of the recent discourse of “color blindness.” Wald’s analysis of the moral, political, and theoretical dimensions of racial passing makes Crossing the Line important reading as we approach the twenty-first century. Her engaging and dynamic book will be of particular interest to scholars of American studies, African American studies, cultural studies, and literary criticism.
"For a lucid and thorough 'real-world' analysis of the movement from the ground-up--including its history, aesthetics, and culture, there is surely no better place to start than Somers-Willett's trailblazing book."
--- Jerome Sala, Pleiades
"Finally, a clear, accurate, and thoroughly researched examination of slam poetry, a movement begun in 1984 by a mixed bag of nobody poets in Chicago. At conception, slam poetry espoused universal humanistic ideals and a broad spectrum of participants, and especially welcome is the book's analysis of how commercial marketing forces succeeded in narrowing public perception of slam to the factionalized politics of race and identity. The author's knowledge of American slam at the national level is solid and more authentic than many of the slammers who claim to be."
---Marc Kelly Smith, founder/creator of the International Poetry Slam movement
The cultural phenomenon known as slam poetry was born some twenty years ago in white working-class Chicago barrooms. Since then, the raucous competitions have spread internationally, launching a number of annual tournaments, inspiring a generation of young poets, and spawning a commercial empire in which poetry and hip-hop merge.
The Cultural Politics of Slam Poetry is the first critical book to take an in-depth look at slam, shedding light on the relationships that slam poets build with their audiences through race and identity performance and revealing how poets come to celebrate (and at times exploit) the politics of difference in American culture.
With a special focus on African American poets, Susan B. A. Somers-Willett explores the pros and cons of identity representation in the commercial arena of spoken word poetry and, in doing so, situates slam within a history of verse performance, from blackface minstrelsy to Def Poetry. What's revealed is a race-based dynamic of authenticity lying at the heart of American culture. Rather than being mere reflections of culture, Somers-Willett argues, slams are culture---sites where identities and political values get publicly refigured and exchanged between poets and audiences.
Susan B. A. Somers-Willett is a decade-long veteran of slam and teaches creative writing and poetics as an Assistant Professor of English at Montclair State University. She is the author of two books of poetry, Quiver and Roam. Visit the author's website at: http://www.susansw.com/.
Although George Eliot has long been described as “the novelist of the Midlands,” she often brought the outer reaches of the empire home in her work. Dark Smiles: Race and Desire in George Eliot studies Eliot’s problematic, career-long interest in representing racial and ethnic Otherness.
Placing Eliot’s diverse and wide-ranging treatment of Otherness in its contemporary context, Alicia Carroll argues that Eliot both engages and resists traditional racial and ethnic representations of Otherness. Carroll finds that Eliot, like other women writers of her time, often appropriates narratives of Otherness to explore issues silenced in mainstream Victorian culture, particularly the problem of the desirous woman. But if Otherness in Eliot’s century was usually gendered as woman and constructed as the object of white male desire, Eliot often seeks to subvert that vision. Professor Carroll demonstrates Eliot’s tendency to “exoticize” images of girlhood, vocation, and maternity in order to critique and explore gendered subjectivities. Indeed, the disruptive presence of a racial or ethnic outsider often fractures Eliot’s narratives of community, creating a powerful critique of home culture.
The consistent reliance of Eliot’s work upon racial and ethnic Otherness as a mode of cultural critique is explored here for the first time in its entirety.
Deciphering Race engages with the complex and contested world of Victorian racial discourse. In the five central texts under consideration in this study—Harriet Martineau’s The Hour and the Man, Robert Knox’s The Races of Men, Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins’s “The Perils of Certain English Prisoners,” the transcript of the inquiry into the Governor Eyre Controversy, and James Grant’s First Love and Last Love—a white English author or character turns to the aesthetic in order to assuage a sense of anxiety produced by a confrontation with racial otherness. White characters or narrators confront the limitations of preconceived ideologies or the interlacing of oppressions, and subsequently falter.
In this manner these narratives confront the complexity, indeterminacy, and irrationality of both racial difference and the systems put in place to understand that difference. Deciphering Race unpacks this narrative turn to the aesthetic in writings by white English individuals and thus reveals the instability at the heart of cultural understanding of race and racial tropes at mid-century. This series of readings will help to see how figurative structures, while providing a bridge between different cultures and epistemologies, also reinforce a distance that keeps groups separate. Only by disentangling these structures, by addressing and unpacking our assumptions and narratives about those different from ourselves, and by understanding our deep cultural anxiety and investment in these ways of talking about one another, can we begin to create the conditions for productive, local understanding between different cultures, races, and communities.
The story of southern writing—the Dixie Limited, if you will—runs along an iron path: an official narrative of a literature about community, about place and the past, about miscegenation, white patriarchy, and the epic of race. Patricia Yaeger dynamites the rails, providing an entirely new set of categories through which to understand southern literature and culture.
For Yaeger, works by black and white southern women writers reveal a shared obsession with monstrosity and the grotesque and with the strange zones of contact between black and white, such as the daily trauma of underpaid labor and the workings of racial and gender politics in the unnoticed yet all too familiar everyday. Yaeger also excavates a southern fascination with dirt—who owns it, who cleans it, and whose bodies are buried in it.
Yaeger's brilliant, theoretically informed readings of Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, Carson McCullers, Toni Morrison, Flannery O'Connor, Alice Walker, and Eudora Welty (among many others) explode the mystifications of southern literary tradition and forge a new path for southern studies.
The book won the Barbara Perkins and George Perkins Award given by the Society for the Study of Narrative Literature.
Diversity and Detective Fiction
Kathleen Gregory Klein University of Wisconsin Press, 1999 Library of Congress PS374.D4D58 1999 | Dewey Decimal 813.087209355
The first collection to articulate the pedagogical strategies of using detective fiction to investigate the politics of difference. The volume examines the many ways in which diversity is posited by contemporary writers exploring distinctive American subcultures. The distinguishing characteristic of the book is its mix of essays focusing on teaching cultural diversity in the classroom and illustrating diversity through fiction to the general reader.
Among the issues addressed are definitions of diversity; what constitutes ethnicity or race, especially in terms of multiple subjectivities; how race, gender, and ethnicity are culturally constructed; and what part is played by identity politics.
Adapting a verse from the Epistle of James —"doers of the word"— nineteenth-century black women activists Sojourner Truth, Jarena Lee, and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, among others, travelled throughout the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwestern regions of the United States. They preached, lectured, and wrote on issues of religious evangelicism, abolition, racial uplift, moral reform, temperance, and women's rights, thereby defining themselves as public intellectuals.
In situating these women within the emerging African-American urban communities of the free North, Doers of the Word provides an important counterweight to the vast scholarship on Southern slavery and argues that black "Civil Rights movements" cannot be seen as a purely modern phenomenon. In particular, the book examines the ways in which this Northern black population, despite its heterogeneity, came together and established social organizations that would facilitate community empowerment; yet Peterson's analysis also acknowledges, and seeks to explain, the highly complex relationship of black women to these institutions, a relationship that rendered their stance as public intellectuals all the more bold and defiant.
Peterson begins her study in the 1830s, when a substantial body of oratory and writing by black women first emerged, and traces the development of this writing through the shifting political climate up to the end of Reconstruction. She builds her analyses upon Foucault's interdisciplinary model of discourse with an explicitly feminist approach, drawing upon sermons, spiritual autobiographies, travel and slave narratives, journalism, essays, poetry, speeches, and fiction. From these, Peterson is able to answer several key questions. First, what empowered these women to act, to speak out, and to write? Why, and in what ways, were they marginalized within both the African-American and larger American communities? Where did they act, speak, and write from?
A daring and innovative study that rewrites the story of American pragmatism.
Emancipating Pragmatism is a radical rereading of Emerson that posits African- American culture, literature, and jazz as the very continuation and embodiment of pragmatic thought and democratic tradition. It traces Emerson's philosophical legacy through the 19th and 20th centuries to discover how Emersonian thought continues to inform issues of race, aesthetics, and poetic discourse.
Emerson's pragmatism derives from his abolitionism, Michael Magee argues, and any pragmatic thought that aspires toward democracy cannot ignore and must reckon with its racial roots. Magee looks at the ties between pragmatism and African-American culture as they manifest themselves in key texts and movements, such as William Carlos Williams's poetry; Ralph Ellison's discourse in Invisible Man and Juneteenth and his essays on jazz; the poetic works of Robert Creeley, Amiri Baraka, and Frank O'Hara; as well as the "new jazz" being forged at clubs like The Five Spot in New York.
Ultimately, Magee calls into question traditional maps of pragmatist lineage and ties pragmatism to the avant-garde American tradition.
Michael Magee teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.
In this searching study, Nghana Lewis offers a close reading of the works and private correspondences, essays, and lectures of five southern white women writers: Julia Peterkin, Gwen Bristow, Caroline Gordon, Willa Cather, and Lillian Smith. At the core of this work is a sophisticated reexamination of the myth of southern white womanhood.
Lewis overturns the conventional argument that white women were passive and pedestal-bound. Instead, she argues that these figures were complicit in the day-to-day dynamics of power and authorship and stood to gain much from these arrangements at the expense of others.
At the same time that her examination of southern mythology explodes received wisdom, it is also a journey of self-discovery. As Lewis writes in her preface, “As a proud daughter of the South, I have always been acutely aware of the region’s rich cultural heritage, folks, and foodstuffs. How could I not be? I was born and reared in Lafayette, Louisiana, where an infant’s first words are not ‘da-da’ and ‘ma-ma’ but ‘crawfish boil’ and ‘fais-do-do.’ . . . I have also always been keenly familiar with its volatile history.” Where these conflicting images—and specifically the role of white southern women as catalysts, vindicators, abettors, and antagonists—meet forms the crux of this study. As such, this study of the South by a daughter of the South offers a distinctive perspective that illuminates the texts in novel and provocative ways.
". . . a rich and important scholarly work, clearing promising new territory for cultural historians and identity theorists."
---Theatre Research International
". . . an enticing, superbly documented, and exceptionally well-written account of the phantasmatic self-representations and impersonations of ethnicity in late-twentieth-century Germany. . . . Embedding her analysis in feminist, queer, and critical race theory, Sieg shows how the German emulation and usurpation of ethnicities is linked not only to radical reification but also to performative attempts at transformation. . . . It ought to be read by all scholars interested in German studies, whether in the humanities or social sciences."
---Uli Linke, H-Net Reviews
The Holocaust is considered a singularly atrocious event in human history, and many people have studied its causes. Yet few questions have been asked about the ways in which West Germans have "forgotten," unlearned, or reconstructed the racial beliefs at the core of the Nazi state in order to build a democratic society. This study looks at ethnic drag (Ethnomaskerade) as one particular kind of performance that reveals how postwar Germans lived, disavowed, and contested "Germanness" in its complex racial, national, and sexual dimensions.
Ethnic Drag is an accessible and sophisticated, critical and entertaining book that examines the phenomenon of cultural masquerade in order to examine racial feeling, thought, and behavior in postwar German culture. Contributing to considerations of drag in postcolonial, feminist, and queer scholarships, this book will be of interest to people in German studies, theater performance, ethnic studies, and women's/queer studies.
Katrin Sieg is Associate Professor, Department of German and Center for German and European Studies, Georgetown University.
Who in a society can speak, and under what circumstances? These questions are at the heart of both Native American literature and feminist literary and cultural theory. Despite the recent explosion of publication in each of these fields, almost nothing has been written to date that explores the links between the two. With Feminist Readings of Native American Literature, Kathleen Donovan takes an important first step in examining how studies in these two fields inform and influence one another. Focusing on the works of N. Scott Momaday, Joy Harjo, Paula Gunn Allen, and others, Donovan analyzes the texts of these well-known writers, weaving a supporting web of feminist criticism throughout. With careful and gracefully offered insights, the book explores the reciprocally illuminating nature of culture and gender issues.
The author demonstrates how Canadian women of mixed-blood ancestry achieve a voice through autobiographies and autobiographical novels. Using a framework of feminist reader response theory, she considers an underlying misogyny in the writings of N. Scott Momaday. And in examining commonalities between specific cultures, she discusses how two women of color, Paula Gunn Allen and Toni Morrison, explore representations of femaleness in their respective cultures. By synthesizing a broad spectrum of critical writing that overlaps women's voices and Native American literature, Donovan expands on the frame of dialogue within feminist literary and cultural theory. Drawing on the related fields of ethnography, ethnopoetics, ecofeminism, and post-colonialism, Feminist Readings of Native American Literature offers the first systematic study of the intersection between two dynamic arenas in literary studies today.
In this pathbreaking work of scholarship, Laura Doyle reveals the central, formative role of race in the development of a transnational, English-language literature over three centuries. Identifying a recurring freedom plot organized around an Atlantic Ocean crossing, Doyle shows how this plot structures the texts of both African-Atlantic and Anglo-Atlantic writers and how it takes shape by way of submerged intertextual exchanges between the two traditions. For Anglo-Atlantic writers, Doyle locates the origins of this narrative in the seventeenth century. She argues that members of Parliament, religious refugees, and new Atlantic merchants together generated a racial rhetoric by which the English fashioned themselves as a “native,” “freedom-loving,” “Anglo-Saxon” people struggling against a tyrannical foreign king. Stories of a near ruinous yet triumphant Atlantic passage to freedom came to provide the narrative expression of this heroic Anglo-Saxon identity—in novels, memoirs, pamphlets, and national histories. At the same time, as Doyle traces through figures such as Friday in Robinson Crusoe, and through gothic and seduction narratives of ruin and captivity, these texts covertly register, distort, or appropriate the black Atlantic experience. African-Atlantic authors seize back the freedom plot, placing their agency at the origin of both their own and whites’ survival on the Atlantic. They also shrewdly expose the ways that their narratives have been “framed” by the Anglo-Atlantic tradition, even though their labor has provided the enabling condition for that tradition.
Doyle brings together authors often separated by nation, race, and period, including Aphra Behn, Eliza Haywood, Olaudah Equiano, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Wilson, Pauline Hopkins, George Eliot, and Nella Larsen. In so doing, she reassesses the strategies of early women novelists, reinterprets the significance of rape and incest in the novel, and measures the power of race in the modern English-language imagination.
This thought-provoking cultural history explores how psychoanalytic theories shaped the works of important African American literary figures. Badia Sahar Ahad details how Nella Larsen, Richard Wright, Jean Toomer, Ralph Ellison, Adrienne Kennedy, and Danzy Senna employed psychoanalytic terms and conceptual models to challenge notions of race and racism in twentieth-century America.
Freud Upside Down explores the relationship between these authors and intellectuals and the psychoanalytic movement emerging in the United States over the course of the twentieth century. Examining how psychoanalysis has functioned as a cultural phenomenon within African American literary intellectual communities since the 1920s, Ahad lays out the historiography of the intersections between African American literature and psychoanalysis and considers the creative approaches of African American writers to psychological thought in their work and their personal lives.
In this study of literature and law before and since the Civil War, Stephen M. Best shows how American conceptions of slavery, property, and the idea of the fugitive were profoundly interconnected. The Fugitive's Properties uncovers a poetics of intangible, personified property emerging out of antebellum laws, circulating through key nineteenth-century works of literature, and informing cultural forms such as blackface minstrelsy and early race films.
Best also argues that legal principles dealing with fugitives and indebted persons provided a sophisticated precursor to intellectual property law as it dealt with rights in appearance, expression, and other abstract aspects of personhood. In this conception of property as fleeting, indeed fugitive, American law preserved for much of the rest of the century slavery's most pressing legal imperative: the production of personhood as a market commodity. By revealing the paradoxes of this relationship between fugitive slave law and intellectual property law, Best helps us to understand how race achieved much of its force in the American cultural imagination. A work of ambitious scope and compelling cross-connections, The Fugitive's Properties sets new agendas for scholars of American literature and legal culture.
In Games of Property, distinguished critic Thadious M. Davis provides a dazzling new interpretation of William Faulkner’s Go Down, Moses. Davis argues that in its unrelenting attention to issues related to the ownership of land and people, Go Down, Moses ranks among Faulkner’s finest and most accomplished works. Bringing together law, social history, game theory, and feminist critiques, she shows that the book is unified by games—fox hunting, gambling with cards and dice, racing—and, like the law, games are rule-dependent forms of social control and commentary. She illuminates the dual focus in Go Down, Moses on property and ownership on the one hand and on masculine sport and social ritual on the other. Games of Property is a masterful contribution to understandings of Faulkner’s fiction and the power and scope of property law.
In The Genuine Article Paul Gilmore examines the interdependence of literary and mass culture at a crucial moment in U. S. history. Demonstrating from a new perspective the centrality of race to the construction of white manhood across class lines, Gilmore argues that in the years before the Civil War, as literature increasingly became another commodity in the capitalist cultural marketplace, American authors appropriated middle-brow and racially loaded cultural forms to bolster their masculinity. From characters in Indian melodramas and minstrel shows to exhibits in popular museums and daguerrotype galleries, primitive racialized figures circulated as “the genuine article” of manliness in the antebellum United States. Gilmore argues that these figures were manipulated, translated, and adopted not only by canonical authors such as Hawthorne, Thoreau, Cooper, and Melville but also by African American and Native American writers like William Wells Brown and Okah Tubbee. By examining how these cultural notions of race played out in literary texts and helped to construct authorship as a masculine profession, Gilmore makes a unique contribution to theories of class formation in nineteenth-century America. The Genuine Article will enrich students and scholars of American studies, gender studies, literature, history, sociology, anthropology, popular culture, and race.
This groundbreaking study analyzes the development of American gothic literature alongside nineteenth-century discourses of passing and racial ambiguity.
By bringing together these areas of analysis, Justin Edwards considers the following questions. How are the categories of “race” and the rhetoric of racial difference tied to the language of gothicism? What can these discursive ties tell us about a range of social boundaries—gender, sexuality, class, race, etc.—during the nineteenth century? What can the construction and destabilization of these social boundaries tell us about the development of the U.S. gothic?
The sources used to address these questions are diverse, often literary and historical, fluidly moving between “representation” and “reality.” Works of gothic literature by Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Frances Harper, and Charles Chesnutt, among others, are placed in the contexts of nineteenth-century racial “science” and contemporary discourses about the formation of identity. Edwards then examines how nineteenth-century writers gothicized biracial and passing figures in order to frame them within the rubric of a “demonization of difference.” By charting such depictions in literature and popular science, he focuses on an obsession in antebellum and postbellum America over the threat of collapsing racial identities—threats that resonated strongly with fears of the transgression of the boundaries of sexuality and the social anxiety concerning the instabilities of gender, class, ethnicity, and nationality.
Gothic Passages not only builds upon the work of Americanists who uncover an underlying racial element in U.S. gothic literature but also sheds new light on the pervasiveness of gothic discourse in nineteenth-century representations of passing from both sides of the color line. This fascinating book will be of interest to scholars of American literature, cultural studies, and African American studies.
In this book, one of modernism's most insightful critics, Jane Marcus, examines the writings of novelists such as Virginia Woolf, Nancy Cunard, Mulk Raj Anand, and Djuna Barnes-artists whose work coincided with the end of empire and the rise of fascism before the Second World War. All these writers delved into the "dark hearts" of imperialism and totalitarianism, thus tackling some of the most complex cultural issues of the day. Marcus investigates previously unrecognized ways in which social and political tensions are embodied by their works.
The centerpiece of the book is Marcus's dialogue with one of her best-known essays, "Britannia Rules The Waves." In that piece, she argues that The Waves makes a strong anti-imperialist statement. Although many already support that argument, she now goes further in order to question the moral value of such a buried critique on Woolf's part. In "A Very Fine Negress" she analyzes the painful subject of Virginia Woolf's racism in A Room of One's Own. Other chapters traverse the connected issues of modernism, race, and imperialism. In two of them, we follow Nancy Cunard through the making of the Negro anthology and her appearance in a popular novel of the freewheeling Jazz Age. Elsewhere, Marcus delivers a complex analysis of A Passage to India, in a reading that interrogates E. M. Forster's displacement of his fear of white Englishwomen struggling for the vote.
Marcus, as always, brings considerable gifts as both researcher and writer to this collection of new and reprinted essays, a combination resulting in a powerful interpretation of many of modernism's most cherished figures.
As Bill Clinton said in his second inaugural address, “The divide of race has been America’s constant curse.” In Honor Bound, David Leverenz explores the past to the present of that divide. He argues that in the United States, the rise and decline of white people’s racial shaming reflect the rise and decline of white honor. “White skin” and “black skin” are fictions of honor and shame. Americans have lived those fictions for over four hundred years.
To make his argument, Leverenz casts an unusually wide net, from ancient and modern cultures of honor to social, political, and military history to American literature and popular culture.
He highlights the convergence of whiteness and honor in the United States from the antebellum period to the present. The Civil War, the civil rights movement, and the election of Barack Obama represent racial progress; the Tea Party movement represents the latest recoil.
From exploring African American narratives to examining a 2009 episode of Hardball—in which two white commentators restore their honor by mocking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder after he called Americans “cowards” for not talking more about race—Leverenz illustrates how white honor has prompted racial shaming and humiliation. The United States became a nation-state in which light-skinned people declared themselves white. The fear masked by white honor surfaces in such classics of American literature as The Scarlet Letter and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and in the U.S. wars against the Barbary pirates from 1783 to 1815 and the Iraqi insurgents from 2003 to the present. John McCain’s Faith of My Fathers is used to frame the 2008 presidential campaign as white honor’s last national stand.
Honor Bound concludes by probing the endless attempts in 2009 and 2010 to preserve white honor through racial shaming, from the “birthers” and Tea Party protests to Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” in Congress and the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. at the front door of his own home. Leverenz is optimistic that, in the twenty-first century, racial shaming is itself becoming shameful.
As the eighteenth century is entirely bereft of narratives written by African women, one might assume that these women had little to no impact on British literature and the national psyche of the period. Yet these kinds of assumptions are belied by the influence of one prominent African woman featured in the period’s literary texts.
Imoinda’s Shade examines the ways in which British writers utilize the most popular African female figure in eighteenth-century fiction and drama to foreground the African woman’s concerns and interests as well as those of a British nation grappling with the problems of slavery and abolition. Imoinda, the fictional phenomenon initially conceived by Aphra Behn and subsequently popularized by Thomas Southerne, has an influence that extends well beyond the Oroonoko novella and drama that established her as a formidable presence during the late Restoration period. This influence is palpably discerned in the characterizations of African women drawn up in novels and dramas written by late-eighteenth-century British writers. Through its examinations of the textual instances from 1759–1808 when Imoinda and her involvement in the Oroonoko marriage plot are being transformed and embellished for politicized ends, Imoinda’s Shade demonstrates how this period’s fictional African women were deliberately constructed by progressive eighteenth-century writers to popularize issues of rape, gynecological rebellion, and miscegenation. Moreover, it shows how these specific African female concerns influence British antislavery, abolitionist, and post-slavery discourse in heretofore unheralded, unusual, and sometimes radical ways.
Using black feminist theory and African American studies to read Victorian culture, Impossible Purities looks at the construction of “Englishness” as white, masculine, and pure and “Americanness” as black, feminine, and impure. Brody’s readings of Victorian novels, plays, paintings, and science fiction reveal the impossibility of purity and the inevitability of hybridity in representations of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and race. She amasses a considerable amount of evidence to show that Victorian culture was bound inextricably to various forms and figures of blackness. Opening with a reading of Daniel Defoe’s “A True-Born Englishman,” which posits the mixed origins of English identity, Brody goes on to analyze mulattas typified by Rhoda Swartz in William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, whose mixed-race status reveals the “unseemly origins of English imperial power.” Examining Victorian stage productions from blackface minstrel shows to performances of The Octoroon and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she explains how such productions depended upon feminized, “black” figures in order to reproduce Englishmen as masculine white subjects. She also discusses H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau in the context of debates about the “new woman,” slavery, and fears of the monstrous degeneration of English gentleman. Impossible Purities concludes with a discussion of Bram Stoker’s novella, “The Lair of the White Worm,” which brings together the book’s concerns with changing racial representations on both sides of the Atlantic. This book will be of interest to scholars in Victorian studies, literary theory, African American studies, and cultural criticism.
What does it mean to be a “mixed-blood,” and how has our understanding of this term changed over the last two centuries? What processes have shaped American thinking on racial blending? Why has the figure of the mixed-blood, thought too offensive for polite conversation in the nineteenth century, become a major representative of twentieth-century native consciousness?
In Injun Joe’s Ghost, Harry J. Brown addresses these questions within the interrelated contexts of anthropology, U.S. Indian policy, and popular fiction by white and mixed-blood writers, mapping the evolution of “hybridity” from a biological to a cultural category. Brown traces the processes that once mandated the mixed-blood’s exile as a grotesque or criminal outcast and that have recently brought about his ascendance as a cultural hero in contemporary Native American writing.
Because the myth of the demise of the Indian and the ascendance of the Anglo-Saxon is traditionally tied to America’s national idea, nationalist literature depicts Indian-white hybrids in images of degeneracy, atavism, madness, and even criminality. A competing tradition of popular writing, however, often created by mixed-blood writers themselves, contests these images of the outcast half-breed by envisioning “hybrid vigor,” both biologically and linguistically, as a model for a culturally heterogeneous nation.
Injun Joe’s Ghost focuses on a significant figure in American history and culture that has, until now, remained on the periphery of academic discourse. Brown offers an in-depth discussion of many texts, including dime novels and Depression-era magazine fiction, that have been almost entirely neglected by scholars. This volume also covers texts such as the historical romances of the 1820s and the novels of the twentieth-century “Native American Renaissance” from a fresh perspective. Investigating a broad range of genres and subject over two hundred year of American writing, Injun Joe’s Ghost will be useful to students and professionals in the fields of American literature, popular culture, and native studies.
Kafka's Blues proves the startling thesis that many of Kafka's major works engage in a coherent, sustained meditation on racial transformation from white European into what Kafka refers to as the "Negro" (a term he used in English). Indeed, this book demonstrates that cultural assimilation and bodily transformation in Kafka's work are impossible without passage through a state of being "Negro." Kafka represents this passage in various ways—from reflections on New World slavery and black music to evolutionary theory, biblical allusion, and aesthetic primitivism—each grounded in a concept of writing that is linked to the perceived congenital musicality of the "Negro," and which is bound to his wider conception of aesthetic production. Mark Christian Thompson offers new close readings of canonical texts and undervalued letters and diary entries set in the context of the afterlife of New World slavery and in Czech and German popular culture.
"The study of transracial adoption has long been dominated by historians, legal scholars, and social scientists, but with the growth of the lively field of humanistic adoption studies comes a growing understanding of the importance of cultural representations to the social meanings and even the practices of adoption itself . . . This book makes a valuable contribution in showing how important the theme of adoption has been throughout the twentieth century in representations of race relations, and in showing that the adoption theme has served to challenge racial norms as well as uphold them."
---Margaret Homans, Yale University
The subject of transracial adoption seems to be enjoying unprecedented media attention of late, particularly as white celebrities have made headlines by adopting children of color from overseas. But interest in transracial adoption is nothing new---it has long occupied a space in the public imagination, a space disproportionate with the number of people actually adopted across racial lines.
Even before World War II, when transracial adoption was neither legally nor socially sanctioned, American authors wrote about it, often depicting it as an "accident"---the result of racial ambiguity that prevented adopters from knowing who is white or black. After World War II, as the real-world practice of transracial and international adoption increased, American literary representations of it became an index not only of the changing cultural attitudes toward adoption as a way of creating families but also of the social issues that informed it and made it, at times, controversial.
Kin of Another Kind examines the appearance of transracial adoption in American literature at certain key moments from the turn of the twentieth century to the turn of the twenty-first to help understand its literary and social significance to authors and readers alike. In juxtaposing representations of African American, American Indian, and Korean and Chinese adoptions across racial (and national) lines, Kin of Another Kind traces the metaphorical significance of adoption when it appears in fiction. At the same time, aligning these groups calls attention to their unique and divergent cultural histories with adoption, which serve as important contexts for the fiction discussed in this study.
The book explores the fiction of canonical authors such as William Faulkner and Toni Morrison and places it alongside lesser-known works by Robert E. Boles, Dallas Chief Eagle (Lakota), and Sui Sin Far that, when reconsidered, can advance our understanding both of adoption in literature and of twentieth-century American literature in general.
Kin of Another Kind will appeal to students and scholars in adoption in literature, American literature, and comparative multiethnic literatures. It adds to the growing body of work on adoption in literature, which focuses on orphancy and adoption in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Cynthia Callahan is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Ohio State University, Mansfield.
In Legal Fictions, Karla FC Holloway both argues that U.S. racial identity is the creation of U.S. law and demonstrates how black authors of literary fiction have engaged with the law's constructions of race since the era of slavery. Exploring the resonance between U.S. literature and U.S. jurisprudence, Holloway reveals Toni Morrison's Beloved and Charles Johnson's Middle Passage as stories about personhood and property, David Bradley's The Chaneysville Incident and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man as structured by evidence law, and Nella Larsen's Passing as intimately related to contract law. Holloway engages the intentional, contradictory, and capricious constructions of race embedded in the law with the same energy that she brings to her masterful interpretations of fiction by U.S. writers. Her readings shed new light on the many ways that black U.S. authors have reframed fundamental questions about racial identity, personhood, and the law from the nineteenth into the twenty-first centuries. Legal Fictions is a bold declaration that the black body is thoroughly bound by law and an unflinching look at the implications of that claim.
How does one teach Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, a book as controversial as it is central to the American literary canon? This collection of essays edited by James S. Leonard offers practical classroom methods for instructors dealing with the racism, the casual violence, and the role of women, as well as with structural and thematic discrepancies in the works of Mark Twain. The essays in Making Mark Twain Work in the Classroom reaffirm the importance of Twain in the American literature curriculum from high school through graduate study. Addressing slavery and race, gender, class, religion, language and ebonics, Americanism, and textual issues of interest to instructors and their students, the contributors offer guidance derived from their own demographically diverse classroom experiences. Although some essays focus on such works as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Innocents Abroad, most discuss the hotly debated Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, viewed alternately in this volume as a comic masterpiece or as evidence of Twain’s growing pessimism—but always as an effective teaching tool. By placing Twain’s work within the context of nineteenth-century American literature and culture, Making Mark Twain Work in the Classroom will interest all instructors of American literature. It will also provoke debate among Americanists and those concerned with issues of race, class, and gender as they are represented in literature.
Contributors. Joseph A. Alvarez, Lawrence I. Berkove, Anthony J. Berret, S.J., Wesley Britton, Louis J. Budd, James E. Caron, Everett Carter, Jocelyn Chadwick-Joshua, Pascal Covici Jr., Beverly R. David, Victor Doyno, Dennis W. Eddings, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, S. D. Kapoor, Michael J. Kiskis, James S. Leonard, Victoria Thorpe Miller, Stan Poole, Tom Reigstad, David E. E. Sloane, David Tomlinson
In Masculinist Impulses, Nathan Grant begins his analysis of African American texts by focusing on the fragmentation of values of black masculinity—free labor, self-reliance, and responsibility to family and community—as a result of slavery, postbellum disfranchisement, and the ensuing necessity to migrate from the agrarian South to the industrialized North. Through examinations of novels that deal with black male selfhood, Grant demonstrates the ways in which efforts to alleviate the most destructive aspects of racism ultimately reproduced them in the context of the industrialized city.
Grant’s book provides close readings of Jean Toomer (Cane and Natalie Mann) and Zora Neale Hurston (Moses, Man of the Mountain, Seraph of the Suwanee, and Their Eyes Were Watching God), for whom the American South was a crucial locus of the African American experience. Toomer and Hurston were virtually alone among the Harlem Renaissance writers of prose who returned to the South for their literary materials. That return, however, allowed their rediscovery of key black masculine values and charted the northern route of those values in the twentieth century to their compromise and destruction.
Grant then moves on to three more recent writers—John Edgar Wideman, Gloria Naylor, and Toni Morrison—who expanded upon and transformed the themes of Toomer and Hurston. Like Toomer and Hurston, these later authors recognized the need for the political union of black men and women in the effort to realize the goals of equity and justice.
Masculinist Impulses discusses nineteenth- and twentieth-century black masculinity as both a feature and a casualty of modernism. Scholars and students of African American literature will find Grant’s nuanced and creative readings of these key literary texts invaluable.
The Moment of Racial Sight overturns the most familiar form of racial analysis in contemporary culture: the idea that race is constructed, that it operates by attaching visible marks of difference to arbitrary meanings and associations. Searching for the history of the constructed racial sign, Irene Tucker argues that if people instantly perceive racial differences despite knowing better, then the underlying function of race is to produce this immediate knowledge. Racial perception, then, is not just a mark of acculturation, but a part of how people know one another.
Tucker begins her investigation in the Enlightenment, at the moment when skin first came to be used as the primary mark of racial difference. Through Kant and his writing on the relation of philosophy and medicine, she describes how racialized skin was created as a mechanism to enable us to perceive the likeness of individuals in a moment. From there, Tucker tells the story of instantaneous racial seeing across centuries—from the fictive bodies described but not seen in Wilkie Collins’s realism to the medium of common public opinion in John Stuart Mill, from the invention of the notion of a constructed racial sign in Darwin’s late work to the institutionalizing of racial sight on display in the HBO series The Wire. Rich with perceptive readings of unexpected texts, this ambitious book is an important intervention in the study of race.
Narrative, Race, and Ethnicity in the United States, edited by James J. Donahue, Jennifer Ho, and Shaun Morgan, is the first book-length volume of essays devoted to studying the intersection of race/ethnicity and narrative theories. Each chapter offers a sustained engagement with narrative theory and critical race theory as applied to ethnic American literature, exploring the interpretive possibilities of this critical intersection. Taken as a whole, these chapters demonstrate some of the many ways that the formal study of narrative can help us better understand the racial/ethnic tensions of narrative fictions. Similarly, the essays advance the tools of narrative theory by redeploying or redesigning those tools to better account for and articulate the ways that race and ethnicity are formal components of narrative as well as thematic issues.
Recognizing that racial/ethnic issues and tensions are often contextualized geographically, this volume focuses on narratives associated with various racial and ethnic communities in the United States. By engaging with new developments in narrative theory and critical race studies, this volume demonstrates the vitality of using the tools of narratology and critical race theory together to understand how race influences narrative and how narratology illuminates a reading of race in ethnic American literature.
In the United States, the notion of racial “passing” is usually associated with blacks and other minorities who seek to present themselves as part of the white majority. Yet as Baz Dreisinger demonstrates in this fascinating study, another form of this phenomenon also occurs, if less frequently, in American culture: cases in which legally white individuals are imagined, by themselves or by others, as passing for black. In Near Black, Dreisinger explores the oft-ignored history of what she calls “reverse racial passing” by looking at a broad spectrum of short stories, novels, films, autobiographies, and pop-culture discourse that depict whites passing for black. The protagonists of these narratives, she shows, span centuries and cross contexts, from slavery to civil rights, jazz to rock to hip-hop. Tracing their role from the 1830s to the present day, Dreisinger argues that central to the enterprise of reverse passing are ideas about proximity. Because “blackness,” so to speak, is imagined as transmittable, proximity to blackness is invested with the power to turn whites black: those who are literally “near black” become metaphorically “near black.” While this concept first arose during Reconstruction in the context of white anxieties about miscegenation, it was revised by later white passers for whom proximity to blackness became an authenticating badge. As Dreisinger shows, some white-to-black passers pass via self-identification. Jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow, for example, claimed that living among blacks and playing jazz had literally darkened his skin. Others are taken for black by a given community for a period of time. This was the experience of Jewish critic Waldo Frank during his travels with Jean Toomer, as well as that of disc jockey Hoss Allen, master of R&B slang at Nashville’s famed WLAC radio. For journalists John Howard Griffin and Grace Halsell, passing was a deliberate and fleeting experiment, while for Mark Twain’s fictional white slave in Pudd’nhead Wilson, it is a near-permanent and accidental occurrence. Whether understood as a function of proximity or behavior, skin color or cultural heritage, self-definition or the perception of others, what all these variants of “reverse passing” demonstrate, according to Dreisinger, is that the lines defining racial identity in American culture are not only blurred but subject to change.
Encamped within the limits of experience and "authenticity," critics today often stake out their positions according to race and ethnicity, sexuality and gender, and vigilantly guard the boundaries against any incursions into their privileged territory. In this book, Michael Awkward raids the borders of contemporary criticism to show how debilitating such "protectionist" stances can be and how much might be gained by crossing our cultural boundaries.
From Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It to Michael Jackson's physical transmutations, from Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon to August Wilson's Fences, from male scholars' investments in feminism to white scholars' in black texts—Awkward explores cultural moments that challenge the exclusive critical authority of race and gender. In each instance he confronts the question: What do artists, scholars, and others concerned with representations of Afro-American life make of the view that gender, race, and sexuality circumscribe their own and others' lives and narratives? Throughout he demonstrates the perils and merits of the sort of "boundary crossing" this book ultimately makes: a black male feminism.
In pursuing a black male feminist criticism, Awkward's study acknowledges the complexities of interpretation in an age when a variety of powerful discourses have proliferated on the subject of racial, gendered, and sexual difference; at the same time, it identifies this proliferation as an opportunity to negotiate seemingly fixed cultural and critical positions.
Neo-Passing: Performing Identity after Jim Crow
Edited by Mollie Godfrey and Vershawn Ashanti Young: Foreword by Gayle Wald Afterword by Michele Elam University of Illinois Press, 2018 Library of Congress PS169.P35N46 2018 | Dewey Decimal 810.9355
African Americans once passed as whites to escape the pains of racism. Today's neo-passing has pushed the old idea of passing in extraordinary new directions. A white author uses an Asian pen name; heterosexuals live "out" as gay; and, irony of ironies, whites try to pass as black. Mollie Godfrey and Vershawn Ashanti Young present essays that explore practices, performances, and texts of neo-passing in our supposedly postracial moment. The authors move from the postracial imagery of Angry Black White Boy and the issues of sexual orientation and race in ZZ Packer's short fiction to the politics of Dave Chappelle's skits as a black President George W. Bush. Together, the works reveal that the questions raised by neo-passing—questions about performing and contesting identity in relation to social norms—remain as relevant today as in the past. Contributors: Derek Adams, Christopher M. Brown, Martha J. Cutter, Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Michele Elam, Alisha Gaines, Jennifer Glaser, Allyson Hobbs, Brandon J. Manning, Loran Marsan, Lara Narcisi, Eden Osucha, Gayle Wald, and Deborah Elizabeth Whaley
Other Mothers, edited by Ellen Bayuk Rosenman and Claudia C. Klaver, offers a range of essays that open a conversation about Victorian motherhood as a wide-ranging, distinctive experience and idea. In spite of its importance, however, it is one of the least-studied aspects of the Victorian era, subsumed under discussions of femininity and domesticity.
This collection addresses this void, revealing the extraordinary diversity of Victorian motherhood. Exploring diaries, novels, and court cases, with contexts ranging from London to Egypt to Australia, these varied accounts take the collection “beyond the maternal ideal” to consider the multiple, unpredictable ways in which motherhood was experienced and imagined in this formative historical period.
Other Mothers joins revisionist approaches to femininity that now characterize Victorian studies. Its contents trace intersections among gender, race, and class; question the power of separate spheres ideology; and insist on the context-specific nature of social roles. The fifteen essays in this volume contribute to the fields of literary criticism, history, cultural studies, and history.
Passing and the Rise of the African American Novel restores to its rightful place a body of American literature that has long been overlooked, dismissed, or misjudged. This insightful reconsideration of nineteenth-century African American fiction uncovers the literary artistry and ideological complexity of a body of work that laid the foundation for the Harlem Renaissance and changed the course of American letters.
Focusing on the trope of passing--black characters lightskinned enough to pass for white--M. Giulia Fabi shows how early African American authors such as William Wells Brown, Frank J. Webb, Charles W. Chesnutt, Sutton E. Griggs, Frances E. W. Harper, Edward A. Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson transformed traditional representations of blackness and moved beyond the tragic mulatto motif. Challenging the myths of racial purity and the color line, these authors used passing to celebrate a distinctive, African American history, culture, and worldview.
Fabi examines how early black writers adapted existing literary forms, including the sentimental romance, the domestic novel, and the utopian novel, to express their convictions and concerns about slavery, segregation, and racism. Chesnutt used passing as both a structural and a thematic element, while James Weldon Johnson innovated by parodying the earlier novels of passing and presenting the decision to pass as the result, rather than the cause, of cultural alienation. Fabi also gives a historical overview of the canon-making enterprises of African American critics from the 1850s to the 1990s and considers how their concerns about promoting the canonization of African American literature affected their perceptions of nineteenth-century black fiction.
At a time when Asian American theater is enjoying a measure of growth and success, Josephine Lee tells us about the complex social and political issues depicted by Asian American playwrights. By looking at performances and dramatic texts, Lee argues that playwrights produce a different conception of "Asian America" in accordance with their unique set of sensibilities.
For instance, some Asian American playwrights critique the separation of issues of race and ethnicity from those of economics and class, or they see ethnic identity as a voluntary choice of lifestyle rather than an impetus for concerted political action. Others deal with the problem of cultural stereotypes and how to reappropriate their power. Lee is attuned to the complexities and contradictions of such performances, and her trenchant thinking about the criticisms lobbed at Asian American playwrights -- for their choices in form, perpetuation of stereotype, or apparent sexism or homophobia -- leads her to question how the presentation of Asian American identity in the theater parallels problems and possibilities of identity offstage as well.
Discussed are better-known plays such as Frank Chin's The Chickencoop Chinaman, David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, and Velina Hasu Houston's Tea, and new works like Jeannie Barroga's Walls and Wakako Yamauchi's 12-1-a.
Playing in the Shadows considers the literature engendered by postwar Japanese authors’ robust cultural exchanges with African Americans and African American literature. The Allied Occupation brought an influx of African American soldiers and culture to Japan, which catalyzed the writing of black characters into postwar Japanese literature. This same influx fostered the creation of organizations such as the Kokujin kenkyu no kai (The Japanese Association for Negro Studies) and literary endeavors such as the Kokujin bungaku zenshu (The Complete Anthology of Black Literature). This rich milieu sparked Japanese authors’—Nakagami Kenji and Oe Kenzaburo are two notable examples—interest in reading, interpreting, critiquing, and, ultimately, incorporating the tropes and techniques of African American literature and jazz performance into their own literary works. Such incorporation leads to literary works that are “black” not by virtue of their representations of black characters, but due to their investment in the possibility of technically and intertextually black Japanese literature. Will Bridges argues that these “fictions of race” provide visions of the way that postwar Japanese authors reimagine the ascription of race to bodies—be they bodies of literature, the body politic, or the human body itself.
Of all the images to arise from the Harlem Renaissance, the most thought-provoking were those of the mulatta. For some writers, artists, and filmmakers, these images provided an alternative to the stereotypes of black womanhood and a challenge to the color line. For others, they represented key aspects of modernity and race coding central to the New Negro Movement. Due to the mulatta’s frequent ability to pass for white, she represented a variety of contradictory meanings that often transcended racial, class, and gender boundaries.
In this engaging narrative, Cherene Sherrard-Johnson uses the writings of Nella Larsen and Jessie Fauset as well as the work of artists like Archibald Motley and William H. Johnson to illuminate the centrality of the mulatta by examining a variety of competing arguments about race in the Harlem Renaissance and beyond.
Although the body has been a vast subject for postcolonial studies, few theorists have attempted to go beyond the simple mixing of races in examining the impact of colonialism on the colonized body. However, as Deepika Bahri argues, it is essential to see the postcolonial body in a variety of forms: as capable of transformation not only in psyche and outward behavior but also in flesh and blood.
European colonizers brought new ways of seeing the body in matters as basic as how to eat, speak, sit, shit, or spit. As nations decolonized, these imperialistic ideas remained, becoming part of the global economy of the body. In Postcolonial Biology, Bahri argues that the political challenges of the twenty-first century require that we deconstruct these imperial notions of the body, as they are fundamental to power structures governing today’s globalized world.
Postcolonial Biology investigates how minds and bodies have been shaped by colonial contact, to create deeply embedded hierarchies among the colonized. Moving beyond “North/South” thinking, Bahri reframes the questions of postcolonial bodies to address all societies, whether developed or developing. Engaging in innovative, highly original readings of major thinkers such as Adorno, Horkheimer, Derrida, and Fanon, this book brings an important new focus to the field of postcolonial studies—one that is essential to understanding the ideas and conflicts that currently dominate the global order.
Private Lives, Proper Relations begins with the question of why contemporary African American literature—particularly that produced by black women—is continually concerned with issues of respectability and propriety. Candice M. Jenkins argues that this preoccupation has its origins in recurrent ideologies about African American sexuality, and that it expresses a fundamental aspect of the racial self—an often unarticulated link between the intimate and the political in black culture.
In a counterpoint to her paradigmatic reading of Nella Larsen’s Passing, Jenkins’s analysis of black women’s narratives—including Ann Petry’s The Street, Toni Morrison’s Sula and Paradise, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, and Gayl Jones’s Eva’s Man—offers a theory of black subjectivity. Here Jenkins describes middle-class attempts to rescue the black community from accusations of sexual and domestic deviance by embracing bourgeois respectability, and asserts that behind those efforts there is the “doubled vulnerability” of the black intimate subject. Rather than reflecting a DuBoisian tension between race and nation, to Jenkins this vulnerability signifies for the African American an opposition between two poles of potential exposure: racial scrutiny and the proximity of human intimacy.
Scholars of African American culture acknowledge that intimacy and sexuality are taboo subjects among African Americans precisely because black intimate character has been pathologized. Private Lives, Proper Relations is a powerful contribution to the crucial effort to end the distortion still surrounding black intimacy in the United States.
Candice M. Jenkins is associate professor of English at Hunter College, City University o
In Producing American Races Patricia McKee examines three authors who have powerfully influenced the formation of racial identities in the United States: Henry James, William Faulkner, and Toni Morrison. Using their work to argue that race becomes visible only through image production and exchange, McKee illuminates the significance that representational practice has had in the process of racial construction. McKee provides close readings of six novels—James’s The Wings of the Dove and The Golden Bowl, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and Light in August, and Morrison’s Sula and Jazz—interspersed with excursions into Lacanian and Freudian theory, critical race theory, epistemology, and theories of visuality. In James and Faulkner, she finds, race is represented visually through media that highlight ways of seeing and being seen. Written in the early twentieth century, the novels of James and Faulkner reveal how whiteness depended on visual culture even before film and television became its predominant media. In Morrison, the culture is aural and oral—and often about the absence of the visual. Because Morrison’s African American communities produce identity in nonvisual, even anti-visual terms, McKee argues, they refute not just white representations of black persons as objects but also visual orders of representation that have constructed whites as subjects and blacks as objects. With a theoretical approach that both complements and transcends current scholarship about race—and especially whiteness—Producing American Races will engage scholars in American literature, critical race theory, African American studies, and cultural studies. It will also be of value to those interested in the novel as a political and aesthetic form.
Race and Time urges our attention to women’s poetry in considering the cultural history of race. Building on close readings of well known and less familiar poets—including Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, Sarah Louisa Forten, Hannah Flagg Gould, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Sarah Piatt, Mary Eliza Tucker Lambert, Sarah Josepha Hale, Eliza Follen, and Mary Mapes Dodge—Gray traces tensions in women’s literary culture from the era of abolitionism to the rise of the Plantation tradition. She devotes a chapter to children’s verse, arguing that racial stereotypes work as “nonsense” that masks conflicts in the construction of white childhood. A compilation of the poems cited, most of which are difficult to find elsewhere, is included as an appendix.
Gray clarifies the cultural roles women’s poetry played in the nineteenth-century United States and also reveals that these poems offer a fascinating, dynamic, and diverse field for students of social and cultural history. Gray’s readings provide a rich sense of the contexts in which this poetry is embedded and examine its aesthetic and political vitality in meticulous detail, linking careful explication of the texts with analysis of the history of poetry, canons, literacy, and literary authority.
Race and Time distinguishes itself from other critical studies not only through its searching, in-depth readings but also through its sustained attention to less known poets and its departure from a Dickinson-centered model. Most significantly, it offers a focus on race, demonstrating how changes in both the U.S. racial structure and women’s place in public culture set the terms for change in how women poets envisioned the relationship between poetry and social power.
Gray’s work makes contributions to several fields of study: poetry, U.S. literary history and American studies, women’s studies, African American studies and whiteness studies, children’s literature, and cultural studies. While placing the works of figures who have been treated elsewhere (e.g., Dickinson and Harper) into revealing new relationships, Race and Time does much to open interdisciplinary discussion of unfamiliar works.
Race, Manhood, and Modernism in America offers the first extended comparison between American writers Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) and Jean Toomer (1894-1967), examining their engagement with the ideas of “Young American” writers and critics such as Van Wyck Brooks, Paul Rosenfeld, and Waldo Frank. This distinctively modernist school was developing unique visions of how race, gender, and region would be transformed as America entered an age of mass consumerism.
Focusing on Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919), and Toomer’s Cane (1923), Race, Manhood, and Modernism in America brings Anderson and Toomer together in a way that allows for a thorough historical and social contextualization that is often missing from assessments of these two literary talents and of modernism as a whole. The book suggests how the gay subcultures of Chicago and the traumatic events of the Great War provoked Anderson’s anxieties over the future of male gender identity, anxieties that are reflected in Winesburg, Ohio. Mark Whalan discusses Anderson’s primitivistic attraction to African American communities and his ambivalent attitudes toward race, attitudes that were embedded in the changing cultural and gendered landscape of mass mechanical production.
The book next examines how Toomer aimed to broaden the racial basis of American cultural nationalism, often inspired by the same cultural critics who had influenced Anderson. He rejected the ethnographically based model of tapping the “buried cultures” of ethnic minorities developed by his mentor, Waldo Frank, and also parted with the “folk” aesthetic endorsed by intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance. Instead, Toomer'’ monumental Cane turned to discourses of physical culture, machine technology, and illegitimacy as ways of conceiving of a new type of manhood that refashioned commonplace notions of racial identity.
Taken together, these discussions provide a fresh, interdisciplinary appraisal of the importance of race to “Young America,” suggest provocative new directions for scholarship, and give new insight into some of the most crucial texts of U.S. interracial modernism.
Mark Whalan is a senior lecturer in American literature and culture at the University of Exeter. He is the editor of The Letters of Jean Toomer, 1919-1924, and his articles have appeared in the Journal of American Studies, Modernism/Modernity, Studies in American Fiction, and Modern Fiction Studies.
In Racial Things, Racial Forms, Joseph Jonghyun Jeon focuses on a coterie of underexamined contemporary Asian American poets—Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Myung Mi Kim, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, and John Yau—who reject many of the characteristics of traditional minority writing, in particular the language of identity politics, which tends to challenge political marginalization without contesting more fundamental assumptions about the construction of racial form. In the poets’ various treatments of things (that is, objects of art), one witnesses a confluence of heretofore discrete factors: the avant-garde interest in objecthood and the racial question of objectification.
By refashioning avant-garde investigations of things into questions about how American discourse visualizes race in and on the body, these poets implicitly critique dominant modes of racial visibility, seeking alternatives to the unreflective stances that identity politics often unwittingly reproduces. At the heart of Jeon’s project is the assumption thatracial form is continually recalibrated to elide ideological ambiguities and ambivalences in contemporary culture. Thus, rather than focusing exclusively on the subject—on interiority and individual experience—Racial Things, Racial Forms also uses the calculated strangeness of the avant-garde art object as an occasion to emphasize the physical and visual oddness of racial constructs, as a series of everchanging, contemporary phenomena that are in conversation with, but not entirely determined by, their historical legacy.
In this critical study, Jeon argues that by invoking the foreignness of an avant-garde art object as a way to understand racial otherness, these writers model the possibility of a post-identity, racial politics that challenges how race is fundamentally visualized. In addition to appealing to those interested in Asian American studies and race in American literature, Racial Things, Racial Forms addresses readers interested in contemporary poetry, art, and visual culture, paying particular attention to the intersections between literary and visual art.
In Relative Races, Brigitte Fielder presents an alternative theory of how race is ascribed. Contrary to notions of genealogies by which race is transmitted from parents to children, the examples Fielder discusses from nineteenth-century literature, history, and popular culture show how race can follow other directions: Desdemona becomes less than fully white when she is smudged with Othello's blackface, a white woman becomes Native American when she is adopted by a Seneca family, and a mixed-race baby casts doubt on the whiteness of his mother. Fielder shows that the genealogies of race are especially visible in the racialization of white women, whose whiteness often depends on their ability to reproduce white family and white supremacy. Using black feminist and queer theories, Fielder presents readings of personal narratives, novels, plays, stories, poems, and images to illustrate how interracial kinship follows non-heteronormative, non-biological, and non-patrilineal models of inheritance in nineteenth-century literary culture.
Re-Viewing James Baldwin
Quentin Miller Temple University Press, 2000 Library of Congress PS3552.A45Z865 2000 | Dewey Decimal 818.5409
This new collection of essays presents a critical reappraisal of James Baldwin's work, looking beyond the commercial success of some of Baldwin's early writings such as Go Tell It on the Mountain and Notes of a Native Son. Focusing on Baldwin's critically undervalued early works and the virtually neglected later ones the contributors illuminate little-known aspects of this daring author's work and highlight his accomplishments as an experimental writer. Attentive to his innovations in style and form, Re-Viewing James Baldwin reveals an author who continually challenged the notion of unity as he tackled matters of social justice, sexuality, and racial identity. As volume editor D. Quentin Miller notes, "what has been lost is a complete portrait of [Baldwin's] tremendously rich intellectual journey that illustrates the direction of African American thought and culture in the late twentieth century."
This is an important book for anyone interested in Baldwin's work. It will engage readers interested in literature and African American Studies.
Revisiting Racialized Voice:African American Ethos in Language and Literature argues that past misconceptions about black identity and voice, codified from the 1870s through the 1920s, inform contemporary assumptions about African American authorship and ethos. Tracing elements of racial consciousness in the works of Frederick Douglass, Charles Chesnutt, W. E. B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, and others, David G. Holmes urges a revisiting of narratives from this period to strengthen and advance notions about racialized writing and to shape contemporary composition pedagogies.
Pointing to the intersection of African American identity, literature, and rhetoric, Revisiting Racialized Voice begins to construct rhetorically workable yet ideologically flexible definitions of black voice. Holmes maintains that political pressure to embrace“color blindness” endangers scholars’ ability to uncover links between racialized discourses of the past and those of the present, and he calls instead for a reassessment of the material realities and theoretical assumptions race represents and with which it has been associated.
What did it mean for people of color in nineteenth-century America to speak or write "white"? More specifically, how many and what kinds of meaning could such "white" writing carry? In ReWriting White, Todd Vogel looks at how America has racialized language and aesthetic achievement. To make his point, he showcases the surprisingly complex interactions between four nineteenth-century writers of color and the "standard white English" they adapted for their own moral, political, and social ends. The African American, Native American, and Chinese American writers Vogel discusses delivered their messages in a manner that simultaneously demonstrated their command of the dominant discourse of their times-using styles and addressing forums considered above their station-and fashioned a subversive meaning in the very act of that demonstration.
The close readings and meticulous archival research in ReWriting White upend our conventional expectations, enrich our understanding of the dynamics of hegemony and cultural struggle, and contribute to the efforts of other cutting-edge contemporary scholars to chip away at the walls of racial segregation that have for too long defined and defaced the landscape of American literary and cultural studies.
In this book, Robin Hackett examines portrayals of race, class, and sexuality in modernist texts by white women to argue for the existence of a literary device that she calls “Sapphic primitivism.” The works vary widely in their form and content and include Olive Schreiner’s proto-modernist exploration of New Womanhood, The Story of an African Farm; Virginia Woolf’s high modernist “play-poem,” The Waves; Sylvia Townsend Warner’s historical novel, Summer Will Show; and Willa Cather’s Southern pastoral, Sapphira and the Slave Girl. In each, blackness and working-class culture are figured to represent sexual autonomy, including lesbianism, for white women. Sapphic primitivism exposes the ways several classes of identification were intertwined with the development of homosexual identities at the turn of the century. Sapphic primitivism is not, however, a means of disguising lesbian content. Rather, it is an aesthetic displacement device that simultaneously exposes lesbianism and exploits modern, primitivist modes of self-representation. Hackett’s revelations of the mutual interests of those who study early twentieth-century constructions of race and sexuality and twenty-first-century feminists doing anti-racist and queer work are a major contribution to literary studies and identity theory.
Scarring and the act of scarring are recurrent images in African American literature. In Scarring the Black Body, Carol E. Henderson analyzes the cultural and historical implications of scarring in a number of African American texts that feature the trope of the scar, including works by Sherley Anne Williams, Toni Morrison, Ann Petry, Ralph Ellison, and Richard Wright.
The first part of Scarring the Black Body, “The Call,” traces the process by which African bodies were Americanized through the practice of branding. Henderson incorporates various materials—from advertisements for the return of runaways to slave narratives—to examine the cultural practice of “writing” the body. She also considers ways in which writers and social activists, including Frederick Douglass, Olaudah Equiano, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth, developed a “call” centered on the body’s scars to demand that people of African descent be given equal rights and protection under the law.
In the second part of the book, “The Response,” Henderson goes on to show that more recent representations of the conditions of slavery by authors such as Williams and Morrison extend the efforts of their predecessors by developing creative responses to those calls centered around the African American body and its scars. Henderson explores Williams’s reinvention of the whip-scarred body in her novel Dessa Rose and provides a close analysis of Morrison’s use of scar imagery in Beloved. She also devotes a chapter to Petry’s The Street and concludes with an investigation of the wounded black male psyche in the works of Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright.
Scarring the Black Body demonstrates that the creative acts of these authors bind together that which has been wounded both literally and figuratively. Those who hear the voices of the ancestors are urged to connect to that part of themselves wherein wounds of the past carry a self-knowledge that can alter the experiences of the present. In this way, the disfigured body as a cultural metaphor and social invention can come to terms with its own humanity and embodiment.
Sightlines: Race, Gender, and Nation in Contemporary Australian Theatre asserts the centrality of theater to the ongoing negotiations of the Australian context. By exploring ways in which ideas about race, gender, and nation are expressed in concrete theatrical contexts, the performative qualities of theatrical representation are revealed as compelling, important sites of critique.
Helen Gilbert discusses an exciting variety of plays, drawing examples from marginalized groups as well as from the theatrical mainstream. While fully engaged with the discourses of contemporary critical thought, Sightlines remains focused on the material stuff of the theater, grounding its discussion in the visual elements of costume, movement, and scenography. And although focused specifically on performance, the author's insistent interest in historical and political contexts also speaks to the broader concerns of cultural studies.
The book's recurrent concern with representations of Aboriginality, particularly in the works of nonindigenous playwrights, draws attention to racial politics as a perennial motif in postcolonial nations. Its illumination of the relationships between patriarchy and imperialism is supported by an extensive discussion of plays by and about women. This nomadic approach marks Sightlines as a groundbreaking study of recent Australian theater, a provocative application of postcolonial theory to the embodied qualities of theatrical representation.
"An impressive and ground-breaking study that provides a coherent postcolonial approach to Australian drama." --Bill Ashcroft, University of New South Wales
"Elegantly written, and always beautifully lucid in its argument. . . . this is a very original work, particularly in its marriage of performance theory and postcolonial analysis." --Deidre Coleman, University of Sydney
Helen Gilbert is Lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies, University of Queensland, and co-author, with Joanne Tompkins, of Post-Colonial Drama: Theory, Practice, Politics.
On the campaign trail, Barack Obama faced a difficult task—rallying African American voters while resisting his opponents’ attempts to frame him as “too black” to govern the nation as a whole. Obama’s solution was to employ what Toni Morrison calls “race-specific, race-free language,” avoiding open discussions of racial issues while using terms and references that carried a specific cultural resonance for African American voters.
Stephanie Li argues that American politicians and writers are using a new kind of language to speak about race. Challenging the notion that we have moved into a “post-racial” era, she suggests that we are in an uneasy moment where American public discourse demands that race be seen, but not heard. Analyzing contemporary political speech with nuanced readings of works by such authors as Toni Morrison, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Colson Whitehead, Li investigates how Americans of color have negotiated these tensions, inventing new ways to signal racial affiliations without violating taboos against open discussions of race.
England and the Netherlands, Spain's imperial rivals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, imagined Spain as cruel and degenerate barbarians of la leyenda negra (the Black Legend), in league with the powers of "blackest darkness" and driven by "dark motives." In Spain's Long Shadow, Maria DeGuzman explores how this convenient demonization made its way into American culture - and proved essential to the construction of whiteness. DeGuzman's work reaches from the late eighteenth century - in the wake of the American Revolution - to the present. Surveying a broad range of texts and images from Poe's "William Wilson" and John Singer Sargent's "El Jaleo" to Richard Wright's "Pagan Spain" and Kathy Acker's Don Quixote, Spain's Long Shadow shows how the creation of Anglo-American ethnicity as specifically American has depended on the casting of Spain as a colonial alter ego. The symbolic power of Spain in the American imagination, DeGuzman argues, is not just a legacy of that nation's colonial presence in the Americas; it lives on as well in the "blackness" of Spain and Spainards - in the assigning of people of Spanish origin to an "off-white" racial category that reserves the designation of white for Anglo-Americans.By demonstrating how the Anglo-American imagination needs Spain and Spainards as figures of attraction and repulsion, DeGuzman makes a compelling and illuminating case for treating Spain as the imperial alter ego of the United States. Cross-cultural and interdisciplinary, ambitious in its chronological sweep, and elegant in its interpretation of literary and visual works, DeGuzman's book leads us to a powerful new understanding of the nature - and history - American ethnicity.
In Speculative Blackness, André M. Carrington analyzes the highly racialized genre of speculative fiction—including science fiction, fantasy, and utopian works, along with their fan cultures—to illustrate the relationship between genre conventions in media and the meanings ascribed to blackness in the popular imagination.
Carrington’s argument about authorship, fandom, and race in a genre that has been both marginalized and celebrated offers a black perspective on iconic works of science fiction. He examines the career of actor Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed the character Uhura in the original Star Trek television series and later became a recruiter for NASA, and the spin-off series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, set on a space station commanded by a black captain. He recovers a pivotal but overlooked moment in 1950s science fiction fandom in which readers and writers of fanzines confronted issues of race by dealing with a fictitious black fan writer and questioning the relevance of race to his ostensible contributions to the 'zines. Carrington mines the productions of Marvel comics and the black-owned comics publisher Milestone Media, particularly the representations of black sexuality in its flagship title, Icon. He also interrogates online fan fiction about black British women in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Harry Potter series.
Throughout this nuanced analysis, Carrington theorizes the relationship between race and genre in cultural production, revealing new understandings of the significance of blackness in twentieth-century American literature and culture.
A deft study of the evolving literary aesthetic of one of the first avant-garde black writers in America.
In Split-Gut Song, Karen Jackson Ford looks at what it means to be African American, free, and creative by analyzing Jean Toomer's main body of work, specifically, his groundbreaking creation Cane. When first published in 1923, this pivotal work of modernism was widely hailed as inaugurating a truly artistic African American literary tradition. Yet Toomer's experiments in literary form are consistently read in terms of political radicalism—protest and uplift—rather than literary radicalism.
Ford contextualizes Toomer's poetry, letters, and essays in the literary culture of his period and, through close readings of the poems, shows how they negotiate formal experimentation (imagism, fragmentation, dialect) and traditional African American forms (slave songs, field hollers, call-and-response sermons, lyric poetry). At the heart of Toomer's work is the paradox that poetry is both the saving grace of African American culture and that poetry cannot survive modernity. This contradiction, Ford argues, structures Cane, wherein traditional lyric poetry first flourishes, then falters, then falls silent.
The Toomer that Ford discovers in Split-Gut Song is a complicated, contradictory poet who brings his vexed experience and ideas of racial identity to both conventional lyric and experimental forms. Although Toomer has been labelled a political radical, Ford argues that politics is peripheral in his experimental, stream-of-consciousness work. Rather Toomer exhibits a literary radicalism as he struggles to articulate his perplexed understanding of race and art in 20th-century America.
In Standards of Value, Michael Germana reveals how tectonic shifts in U.S. monetary policy—from the Coinage Act of 1834 to the abolition of the domestic gold standard in 1933–34—correspond to strategic changes by American writers who renegotiated the value of racial difference. Populating the pages of this bold and innovative study are authors as varied as Harriet Beecher Stowe, George Washington Cable, Charles Chesnutt, James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, Jessie Redmon Fauset, and Ralph Ellison—all of whom drew analogies between the form Americans thought the nation's money should take and the form they thought race relations and the nation should take.
A cultural history of race organized around and enmeshed within the theories of literary and monetary value, Standards of Value also recovers a rhetorical tradition in American culture whose echoes can be found in the visual and lyrical grammars of hip hop, the paintings of John W. Jones and Michael Ray Charles, the cinematography of Spike Lee, and many other contemporary forms and texts.
This reconsideration of American literature and cultural history has implications for how we value literary texts and how we read shifting standards of value. In vivid prose, Germana explains why dollars and cents appear where black and white bodies meet in American novels, how U.S. monetary policy gave these symbols their cultural currency, and why it matters for scholars of literary and cultural studies.
The uncontested center of the black pulp fiction universe for more than four decades was the Los Angeles publisher Holloway House. From the late 1960s until it closed in 2008, Holloway House specialized in cheap paperbacks with page-turning narratives featuring black protagonists in crime stories, conspiracy thrillers, prison novels, and Westerns. From Iceberg Slim’s Pimp to Donald Goines’s Never Die Alone, the thread that tied all of these books together—and made them distinct from the majority of American pulp—was an unfailing veneration of black masculinity. Zeroing in on Holloway House, Street Players explores how this world of black pulp fiction was produced, received, and recreated over time and across different communities of readers.
Kinohi Nishikawa contends that black pulp fiction was built on white readers’ fears of the feminization of society—and the appeal of black masculinity as a way to counter it. In essence, it was the original form of blaxploitation: a strategy of mass-marketing race to suit the reactionary fantasies of a white audience. But while chauvinism and misogyny remained troubling yet constitutive aspects of this literature, from 1973 onward, Holloway House moved away from publishing sleaze for a white audience to publishing solely for black readers. The standard account of this literary phenomenon is based almost entirely on where this literature ended up: in the hands of black, male, working-class readers. When it closed, Holloway House was synonymous with genre fiction written by black authors for black readers—a field of cultural production that Nishikawa terms the black literary underground. But as Street Players demonstrates, this cultural authenticity had to be created, promoted, and in some cases made up, and there is a story of exploitation at the heart of black pulp fiction’s origins that cannot be ignored.
In American literature, a traumatic scene of racial and sexual awakening - frequently involving photographs, mirrors, or acts of witnessing - often precipitates a character's "discovery" of racial identity. Similarly, in the annals of psychoanalysis, notions of self and sexual identity often arise from visual trauma such as the mirror stage and primal scene. Noting this parallel between specular births of racial and sexual subjectivity, Gwen Bergner uses a comparative analysis of psychoanalytic theory and American literature to develop a theory of racialization - the process through which individuals assume an identity as black or white. Examining the primal scenes of double consciousness in works by Frederick Douglass, William Faulkner, and Toni Morrison, among others, alongside the formative visual traumas of psychoanalytic theory of Lacan and Freud, Taboo Subjects reveals how literature disrupts psychoanalysis's conventional models of race and gender identification, forcing a reconfiguration of many foundational psychoanalytic texts. And from psychoanalysis Bergner derives a critical vocabulary for theorizing racialization as it intersects with sex and gender, for both black and white Americans.
Between the 1910s and 1940s, American women fought for and won the right to legal birth control. This battle was fought in the courts, in the media, and in the pages of American literature. Textual Contraception: Birth Control and Modern American Fiction examines the relationship between aesthetic production and political activism in the birth control movement. It concludes that, by dramatically bringing to life the rhetorical issues, fiction played a significant role in shaping public consciousness. Concurrently, the potential for female control inherent in contraception influenced literary technique and reception, supporting new narrative possibilities for female characters beyond marriage and motherhood.
Merging cultural analysis and literary scholarship, this compelling work moves from a consideration of how cultural forces shaped literary production and political activism to a close examination of how fictional representations of contraception influenced the terms of public discourse on marriage, motherhood, economics, and eugenics.
By analyzing popular fiction such as Mother by Kathleen Norris, radical periodicals such as The Masses and Birth Control Review, and literature by authors from Theodore Dreiser to William Faulkner, and Nella Larsen to Mary McCarthy, Beth Widmaier Capo reveals the rich cross-influence of contraceptive and literary history
In the first book-length study of Vietnamese American literature, Isabelle Thuy Pelaud probes the complexities of Vietnamese American identity and politics. She provides an analytical introduction to the literature, showing how generational differences play out in genre and text. In addition, she asks, can the term Vietnamese American be disassociated from representations of the war without erasing its legacy?
Pelaud delineates the historical, social, and cultural terrains of the writing as well as the critical receptions and responses to them. She moves beyond the common focus on the Vietnam war to develop an interpretive framework that integrates post-colonialism with the multi-generational refugee, immigrant, and transnational experiences at the center of Vietnamese American narratives.
Her readings of key works, such as Andrew Pham's Catfish and Mandala and Lan Cao's Monkey Bridge show how trauma, racism, class and gender play a role in shaping the identities of Vietnamese American characters and narrators.
". . . a refreshing example of what literary discourse can teach us about national identity, even historical events and trends---those aspects of a nation's evolving heritage and tradition usually reserved for other disciplines."
"Kontje has pulled off the amazing feat of a grand narrative: from the epic literature of the Middle Ages to very recent texts on the emerging multicultural Germany. Kontje's grand narrative, it should be noted, is not at all simplistic or reductionistic. He gets at the individual texts in complex ways . . . he displays an enviable erudition and scholarship, tracing lines through centuries when most scholars today limit themselves to narrow specialties."
---Russell Berman, Stanford University
Exactly how Thomas Mann's significance registers with the scholarly and general public has been subject to change. For many, Mann retains the aura of the "good German," the Nobel Laureate who was the most vocal leader of the exile community against Hitler and the Third Reich. His diaries, however, contain some rather nasty comments about Mann's many Jewish friends and acquaintances, inspiring a renewed look at the negative Jewish stereotypes in his fiction. The man once venerated as a voice of reason and cosmopolitan tolerance against racist bigotry has been eviscerated as a clandestine anti-Semite.
Thomas Mann's World is a comprehensive reevaluation of Mann as the representative German author of the Age of Empire, placing Mann's comments about Jews and the Jewish characters in his fiction in the larger context of his attentiveness to racial difference, both in the world at large and in himself. Kontje argues that Mann is a worldly author---not in the benign sense that he was an eloquent spokesman for a pan-European cosmopolitanism who had witnessed the evils of nationalism gone mad, although he was that, too---but in the sense of a writer whose personal prejudices reflected those of the world around him, a writer whose deeply autobiographical fiction expressed not only the concerns of the German nation, as he liked to claim, but also of the world in an era of imperial conquest and global conflict.
Todd Kontje is Professor of German and Comparative Literature and Chair of the German Department at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of German Orientalisms (University of Michigan Press, 2004).
Jacket photographs: Thomas Mann, approximately 1900 and 1955, reproduced with the generous permission of the Buddenbrookhaus, Kulturstiftung Hansestadt Lübeck.
To Be Suddenly White explores the troubled relationship between literary passing and literary realism, the dominant aesthetic motivation behind the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century ethnic texts considered in this study. Steven J. Belluscio uses the passing narrative to provide insight into how the representation of ethnic and racial subjectivity served, in part, to counter dominant narratives of difference.
To Be Suddenly White offers new readings of traditional passing narratives from the African American literary tradition, such as James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and George Schuyler’s Black No More. It is also the first full-length work to consider a number of Jewish American and Italian American prose texts, such as Mary Antin’s The Promised Land, Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers, and Guido d’Agostino’s Olives on the Apple Tree, as racial passing narratives in their own right. Belluscio also demonstrates the contradictions that result from the passing narrative’s exploration of racial subjectivity, racial difference, and race itself.
When they are seen in comparison, ideological differences begin to emerge between African American passing narratives and “white ethnic” (Jewish American and Italian American) passing narratives. According to Belluscio, the former are more likely to engage in a direct critique of ideas of race, while the latter have a tendency to become more simplistic acculturation narratives in which a character moves from a position of ethnic difference to one of full American identity.
The desire “to be suddenly white” serves as a continual point of reference for Belluscio, enabling him to analyze how writers, even when overtly aware of the problematic nature of race (especially African American writers), are also aware of the conditions it creates, the transformations it provokes, and the consequences of both. Byexamining the content and context of these works, Belluscio elucidates their engagement with discourses of racial and ethnic differences, assimilation, passing, and identity, an approach that has profound implications for the understanding of American literary history.
Detective fiction featuring white women and people of colorsuch as Barbara Neelys Blanche White and Walter Mosleys Easy Rawlinshas become tremendously popular. Although they are considered "light reading," mysteries also hold important cultural and social "clues." Much recent scholarly work has demonstrated that race is both a cultural fictionnot a biological realityand a central organizing principle of experience. Popular writers are likely to reflect the conventions of their own historical situations.
In Traces, Codes, and Clues: Reading Race in Crime Fiction, Maureen T. Reddy explores the ways in which crime fiction manipulates cultural constructions such as race and gender to inscribe dominant cultural discourses. She notes that even those writers who appear to set out to revise outdated conventions repeatedly reproduce the genres most conservative elements. The greatest obstacle to transforming crime fiction, Reddy states, is the fact that the genre itself is deeply embedded in the discourse of white (and male) superiority. There is, therefore, an absolute necessity to break away from that discoursethrough reversal or other strategiesin order to produce work that defies, and thus helps readers to defy, the dominant ideology of race.
Since its inception, the United States has been intensely preoccupied with interracialism. The concept is embedded everywhere in our social and political fabric, including our sense of national identity. And yet, in both its quantitative and symbolic forms, interracialism remains an extremely elusive phenomenon, causing policy makers and census boards to wrangle over how to delineate it and, on an emblematic level, stirring intense emotions from fear to fascination.
In The “Tragic Mulatta” Revisited, Eve Allegra Raimon focuses on the mixed-race female slave in literature, arguing that this figure became a symbolic vehicle for explorations of race and nation—both of which were in crisis in the mid-nineteenth century. At this time, judicial, statutory, social, and scientific debates about the meaning of racial difference (and intermixture) coincided with disputes over frontier expansion, which were never merely about land acquisition but also literally about the “complexion” of that frontier. Embodying both northern and southern ideologies, the “amalgamated” mulatta, the author argues, can be viewed as quintessentially American, a precursor to contemporary motifs of “hybrid” and “mestizo” identities.
Where others have focused on the gendered and racially abject position of the “tragic mulatta,” Raimonreconsiders texts by such central antislavery writers as Lydia Maria Child, William Wells Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Harriet Wilson to suggest that the figure is more usefully examined as a way of understanding the volatile and shifting interface of race and national identity in the antebellum period.
This book examines popular representations of biracial women of black and white descent in the United States, focusing on novels, television, music, and film. Although the emphasis is on the 1990s, the historical arc of the study begins in the 1930s. Caroline A. Streeter explores the encounter between what she sees as two dominant narratives that frame the perception of mixed race in America. The first is based on the long-standing historical experience of white supremacy and black subjugation. The second is more recent and involves the post–Civil Rights expansion of interracial marriage and mixed-race identities. Streeter analyzes the collision of these two narratives, the cultural anxieties they have triggered, and the role of black/white women in the simultaneous creation and undoing of racial categories—a charged, ambiguous cycle in American culture. Streeter’s subjects include concert pianist Philippa Schuyler, Dorothy West’s novel The Wedding (in print and on screen), Danzy Senna’s novels Caucasia and Symptomatic, and celebrity performing artists Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, and Halle Berry. She opens with a chapter that examines the layered media response to Essie Mae Washington-Williams, Senator Strom Thurmond’s biracial daughter. Throughout the book, Streeter engages the work of feminist critics and others who have written on interracial sexuality and marriage, biracial identity, the multiracial movement, and mixed race in cultural studies.
The tragic mulatta was a stock figure in nineteenth-century American literature, an attractive mixed-race woman who became a casualty of the color line. The tragic muse was an equally familiar figure in Victorian British culture, an exotic and alluring Jewish actress whose profession placed her alongside the “fallen woman.”
In Transatlantic Spectacles of Race, Kimberly Manganelli argues that the tragic mulatta and tragic muse, who have heretofore been read separately, must be understood as two sides of the same phenomenon. In both cases, the eroticized and racialized female body is put on public display, as a highly enticing commodity in the nineteenth-century marketplace. Tracing these figures through American, British, and French literature and culture, Manganelli constructs a host of surprising literary genealogies, from Zelica to Daniel Deronda, from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Lady Audley’s Secret. Bringing together an impressive array of cultural texts that includes novels, melodramas, travel narratives, diaries, and illustrations, Transatlantic Spectacles of Race reveals the value of transcending literary, national, and racial boundaries.
Sianne NGAI Harvard University Press, 2004 Library of Congress PS169.E48N45 2004 | Dewey Decimal 810.9353
Ngai mobilizes the aesthetics of unprestigious negative affects such as irritation, envy, and disgust to investigate not only ideological and representational dilemmas in literature--with a particular focus on those inflected by gender and race--but also blind spots in contemporary literary and cultural criticism. Her work maps a major intersection of literary studies, media and cultural studies, feminist studies, and aesthetic theory.
During the Cold War, Ellis Island no longer served as the largest port of entry for immigrants, but as a prison for holding aliens the state wished to deport. The government criminalized those it considered un-assimilable (from left-wing intellectuals and black radicals to racialized migrant laborers) through the denial, annulment, and curtailment of citizenship and its rights. The island, ceasing to represent the iconic ideal of immigrant America, came to symbolize its very limits.
Unbecoming Americans sets out to recover the shadow narratives of un-American writers forged out of the racial and political limits of citizenship. In this collection of Afro-Caribbean, Filipino, and African American writers—C.L.R. James, Carlos Bulosan, Claudia Jones, and Richard Wright—Joseph Keith examines how they used their exclusion from the nation, a condition he terms “alienage,” as a standpoint from which to imagine alternative global solidarities and to interrogate the contradictions of the United States as a country, a republic, and an empire at the dawn of the "American Century.”
Building on scholarship linking the forms of the novel to those of the nation, the book explores how these writers employed alternative aesthetic forms, including memoir, cultural criticism, and travel narrative, to contest prevailing notions of race, nation, and citizenship. Ultimately they produced a vital counter-discourse of freedom in opposition to the new formations of empire emerging in the years after World War II, forms that continue to shape our world today.
As Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin traveled around the world, it was molded by the imaginations and needs of international audiences. For over 150 years it has been coopted for a dazzling array of causes far from what its author envisioned. This book tells thirteen variants of Uncle Tom’s journey, explicating the novel’s significance for Canadian abolitionists and the Liberian political elite that constituted the runaway characters’ landing points; nineteenth-century French theatergoers; liberal Cuban, Romanian, and Spanish intellectuals and social reformers; Dutch colonizers and Filipino nationalists in Southeast Asia; Eastern European Cold War communists; Muslim readers and spectators in the Middle East; Brazilian television audiences; and twentieth-century German holidaymakers.
Throughout these encounters, Stowe’s story of American slavery serves as a paradigm for understanding oppression, selectively and strategically refracting the African American slave onto other iconic victims and freedom fighters. The book brings together performance historians, literary critics, and media theorists to demonstrate how the myriad cultural and political effects of Stowe’s enduring story has transformed it into a global metanarrative with national, regional, and local specificity.
"A product of literary recovery at its very best. These carefully
researched essays help us to see how gender marginalized black intellectuals
who happened to be women." -- Claudia Tate, George Washington University The Unruly Voice explores the literary and journalistic career
of Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, a turn-of-the-century African American writer
who was editor in chief of the Colored American Magazine, though
it was not acknowledged on the masthead. Hopkins wrote short fiction,
novels, nonfiction articles, and a play believed to be the first by an
African American woman. Versatile and politically committed, she was fired
when the magazine was bought by an ally of Booker T. Washington's who
disliked her editorial stands and unconciliatory politics.
Even though more than a thousand pages of Hopkins's works have been brought
back into print, The Unruly Voice is the first book devoted exclusively
to her writings and the significance she holds for readers today. Contributors
explore the social, political, and historical conditions that informed
her literary works.
Unsettled Solidarities examines contemporary Asian and Indigenous cross-representations within different settler states in the Américas. Quynh Nhu Le looks at literary works by both groups alongside public apologies, interviews, and hemispheric race theories to trace cross-community tensions and possibilities for solidarities amidst the uneven imposition of racialization and settler colonization.
Contrasting texts such as Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men with Gerald Vizenor’s Hiroshima Bugi, and Karen Tei Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rain Forest with Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead, among others, Le reveals how settler colonialism persists through the liberal ideological structuring or incorporation of critical and political resistance. She illuminates the tense collisions of Asian and Indigenous movements from the heroic/warrior traditions, reparations and redress, and transnational/cross-racial mobilization against global capital to mixed-race narratives.
Reading these tensions as formed through the unstable grammatical and emotional economies of liberalism, Le frames settler colonialism as a process that is invoked and yet ruptured by Asian and Indigenous peoples. In analyzing Asian/Indigenous crossings in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, Unsettled Solidarities conveys the logics and instabilities that connect these settler empires.
U.S. Orientalisms is the first extensive and politicized study of nineteenth century American discourses that helped build an idea of nationhood with control over three "Orients": the "Barbary" Orient; the Orient of Egypt; and the Orient of India. Malini Johar Schueller persuasively argues that current notions about the East can be better understood as latter-day manifestations of the earlier U.S. visions of the Orient refracted variously through millennial fervor, racial-cultural difference, and ideas of Westerly empire.
This book begins with an examination of the literature of the "Barbary" Orient generated by the U.S. Algerian conflict in the late eighteenth century in the works of such writers as Royall Tyler, Susanna Rowson, and Washington Irving. It then moves on to the Near East Orientalist literature of the nineteenth century in light of Egyptology, theories of race, and the growth of missionary fervor in writers such as John DeForest, Maria Susanna Cummins, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, and Harriet Prescott Spofford. Finally, Schueller considers the Indic Orientalism of the period in the context of Indology, British colonialism, and the push for Asian trade in the United States, focusing particularly on Emerson and Whitman. U.S. Orientalisms demonstrates how these writers strove to create an Orientalism premised on the idea of civilization and empire moving West, from Asia, through Europe, and culminating in the New World.
Schueller draws on the work of Michel Foucault, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, Rey Chow, and Judith Butler and compellingly demonstrates how a raced, compensatory "Orientalist" discourse of empire was both contested and evoked in the literary works of a wide variety of writers. The book will be of interest to readers in American history, postcolonial studies, gender studies, and literary theory.
Malini Johar Schueller is Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Florida. She is the author of The Politics of Voice: Liberalism and Social Criticism from Franklin to Kingston.
How did slavery and race impact American literature in the nineteenth century? In this ambitious book, Michael T. Gilmore argues that they were the carriers of linguistic restriction, and writers from Frederick Douglass to Stephen Crane wrestled with the demands for silence and circumspection that accompanied the antebellum fear of disunion and the postwar reconciliation between the North and South.
Proposing a radical new interpretation of nineteenth-century American literature, The War on Words examines struggles over permissible and impermissible utterance in works ranging from Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” to Henry James’s The Bostonians. Combining historical knowledge with groundbreaking readings of some of the classic texts of the American past, The War on Words places Lincoln’s Cooper Union address in the same constellation as Margaret Fuller’s feminism and Thomas Dixon’s defense of lynching. Arguing that slavery and race exerted coercive pressure on freedom of expression, Gilmore offers here a transformative study that alters our understanding of nineteenth-century literary culture and its fraught engagement with the right to speak.
Caribbean literature and culture have all too often been viewed in fragmented terms, without attention to the broader commonalities of the region. In this collection of essays written over many years, Roberto Márquez offers a more encompassing vision, one that respects the individual traditions of particular locales, languages, and cultures but also sees the larger themes that bind the area's literary heritage and history. Márquez begins by making the case for a genuinely Caribbean literary criticism, one that moves beyond the colonial history of fragmentation and isolation and the critical insularity of more conventional approaches. His pan-Caribbean perspective provides a point of departure for the scrutiny of the evolving dramas of race, nationality, nation-building, and cultural articulation in the region. Márquez then focuses specifically on Puerto Rico—its literary and socio—historical experience, the particularities of its "New Creole" incarnations, and the effects of waves of migration to the United States. In the final section of the book, he discusses writers and cultural figures from the other Spanish, Anglophone, and Francophone territories and the ways in which they engage or reflect the defining themes of literature, race, and national identity in Antillean America.
The vast majority of academic books are written from the scholar’s position, even those that primarily concern teaching. Writing/Teaching, on the other hand, is a book about teaching written from the position of the teacher. As the title suggests, Kameen’s book is split into two halves—yet both, in different ways and through different discourses, are derived from his work in the classroom, and his own struggle with issues and problems all teachers of writing must face.
The first half is a series of essays originating from a graduate seminar Kameen team-taught with professor and poet Toi Derricotte in 1994. Included are essays Kameen wrote, a selection of pieces written by other members of the group, and a reflective “postscript.” These essays combine personal narrative, reflective meditation, and critical inquiry—all used as discourse to depict and examine the process of teaching.
The second half of the book contains essays on Plato’s dialogues—primarily Phaedrus and Protagoras—as a means to interrogate the position of teacher through the lens of the most famous of Western pedagogues—Socrates. Here, Socrates is used as a tool to examine and critique both Kameen’s own teacherly identity and, in a wider sense, the set of cultural forces that pre-figure the available positions for both “teacher” and “student” in contemporary education.
What unites both halves is the way Kameen approaches each—the “personal” and the “scholarly”—from his position as teacher. The texts presented provide the occasion for a complex and nuanced meditation on the classroom as a legitimate arena for the production of knowledge and research. Sure to be timely and controversial, Writing/Teaching will enter into the debate on whether to reconfigure the relationship between research and teaching currently taking place among teachers of composition, cultural studies, and rhetoric. Compelling reading for teachers or those contemplating a career in the profession.