Gothic Discourse Meets Hybridity in the United States [Book Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing on 2010-09-06 01:39Z by Steven

Gothic Discourse Meets Hybridity in the United States [Book Review]

H-net Reviews
July 2003

Jeanne Cortiel

Justin D. Edwards. Gothic Passages: Racial Ambiguity and the American Gothic. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2003. xxxiii + 145 pp., ISBN 978-0-87745-824-1.

In the past decade, gothic studies have produced a number of new readers, research handbooks, and student guides, and launched a new scholarly journal, Gothic Studies, developments which have, among other things, consolidated and somewhat stabilized the field (if one can speak of stability in the context of the gothic). At the same time, however, the question of what “gothic” really means routinely comes up for fundamental scrutiny and reevaluation in scholarly debates{which the above-mentioned guides also gleefully participate in. This is a good moment, therefore, to be moving in new directions with well-tried problems: the field provides solid theoretical and methodological grounding, yet the new definitional openness of the “gothic” also allows explorations of unfamiliar “gothicisms” and “gothicizations.”

Justin Edwards’s Gothic Passages makes use of precisely this possibility by intersecting two established fields, the scholarly exploration of the American Gothic and the analysis of passing and racial ambiguity in American literature and culture. Thoroughly researched and well argued, the book identities the “gothicization of race” and the “racialization of the gothic” as two interrelated phenomena throughout the nineteenth century. Edwards’s intersection of scholarly concerns suggests that recent reconsiderations of the “gothic” may require further complication, particularly in the study of the American literary and cultural gothic…

Read the entire review here.

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Gothic Passages: Racial Ambiguity and the American Gothic

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2010-09-05 20:33Z by Steven

Gothic Passages: Racial Ambiguity and the American Gothic

University of Iowa Press
186 pages
Cloth ISBN: 0-87745-824-3, 978-0-87745-824-1
eBook ISBN: 1-58729-420-6 978-1-58729-420-4

Justin Edwards, Professor of English
Bangor University, Bangor, Wales

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.

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