Passing: Identity and Interpretation in Sexuality, Race, and Religion

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion on 2015-12-28 21:17Z by Steven

Passing: Identity and Interpretation in Sexuality, Race, and Religion

New York University Press
August 2001
283 pages
5 illustrations
Cloth ISBN: 9780814781227
Paper ISBN: 9780814781234

Edited by:

María C. Sánchez, Associate Professor of English
University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Linda Schlossberg, Lecturer on Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
Harvard University


Passing for what you are not—whether it is mulattos passing as white, Jews passing as Christian, or drag queens passing as women–can be a method of protection or self-defense. But it can also be a uniquely pleasurable experience, one that trades on the erotics of secrecy and revelation. It is precisely passing’s radical playfulness, the way it asks us to reconsider our assumptions and forces our most cherished fantasies of identity to self-destruct, that is centrally addressed in Passing: Identity and Interpretation in Sexuality, Race, and Religion.

Identity in Western culture is largely structured around visibility, whether in the service of science (Victorian physiognomy), psychoanalysis (Lacan’s mirror stage), or philosophy (the Panopticon). As such, it is charged with anxieties regarding classification and social demarcation. Passing wreaks havoc with accepted systems of social recognition and cultural intelligibility, blurring the carefully-marked lines of race, gender, and class.

Bringing together theories of passing across a host of disciplines—from critical race theory and lesbian and gay studies, to literary theory and religious studies—Passing complicates our current understanding of the visual and categories of identity.

Contributors: Michael Bronski, Karen McCarthy Brown, Bradley Epps, Judith Halberstam, Peter Hitchcock, Daniel Itzkovitz, Patrick O’Malley, Miriam Peskowitz, María C. Sánchez, Linda Schlossberg, and Sharon Ullman.

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Imitation of Life

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, Women on 2010-12-28 21:18Z by Steven

Imitation of Life

Duke University Press
2004 (Originially published in 1933)
352 pages
6 b&w photos, 1 line drawing
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-3324-1

Fannie Hurst (1889–1968)

Edited by:

Daniel Itzkovitz, Associate Professor of  American Literature and Culture
Stonehill College, North Easton, Massachusetts

A bestseller in 1933, and subsequently adapted into two beloved and controversial films, Imitation of Life has played a vital role in ongoing conversations about race, femininity, and the American Dream. Bea Pullman, a white single mother, and her African American maid, Delilah Johnston, also a single mother, rear their daughters together and become business partners. Combining Bea’s business savvy with Delilah’s irresistible southern recipes, they build an Aunt Jemima-like waffle business and an international restaurant empire. Yet their public success brings them little happiness. Bea is torn between her responsibilities as a businesswoman and those of a mother; Delilah is devastated when her light-skinned daughter, Peola, moves away to pass as white. Imitation of Life struck a chord in the 1930s, and it continues to resonate powerfully today.

The author of numerous bestselling novels, a masterful short story writer, and an outspoken social activist, Fannie Hurst was a major celebrity in the first half of the twentieth century. Daniel Itzkovitz’s introduction situates Imitation of Life in its literary, biographical, and cultural contexts, addressing such topics as the debates over the novel and films, the role of Hurst’s one-time secretary and great friend Zora Neale Hurston in the novel’s development, and the response to the novel by Hurst’s friend Langston Hughes, whose one-act satire, “Limitations of Life” (which reverses the races of Bea and Delilah), played to a raucous Harlem crowd in the late 1930s. This edition brings a classic of popular American literature back into print.

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