Coloring Locals: Racial Formation in Kate Chopin’s “Youth’s Companion” Stories

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Monographs, United States on 2019-06-03 17:58Z by Steven

Coloring Locals: Racial Formation in Kate Chopin’s “Youth’s Companion” Stories

University of Iowa Press
2003
168 pages
7 drawings, references, index
Cloth ISBN: 9780877458289
eBook ISBN: 9781587294280

Bonnie James Shaker, Assistant Professor of English
Kent State University Geauga, Burton, Ohio

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.

Tags: , , , , ,

The Femme Fatale in American Literature

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States, Women on 2015-09-14 02:02Z by Steven

The Femme Fatale in American Literature

Cambria Press
2008-09-28
192 pages
5.5 x 8.5 in or 216 x 140 mm
ISBN: 9781604975352

Ghada Suleiman Sasa, Assistant Professor of English Literature
Hashemite University, Zarqa, Jordan

Characters in the literary tradition of American naturalism are usually perceived as passive, lacking in will, weak, and predetermined. They are constantly seen as the victims of heredity and environment, and their lives are shaped according to these strong forces that operate upon them.

This interesting book examines the representation of female characters in American naturalism and argues that women in American naturalism are often represented as femmes fatales. Since heredity and environment are the determining factors in their lives, they are victims who have no control. However, with characters such as Trina Sieppe in Frank Norris’s McTeague, Caroline Meeber in Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, Edna Pontellier in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and Helga Crane in Nella Larsen’s Quicksand, these women victims gradually turn themselves into victimizers in order to conquer both heredity and environment. They consciously and deliberately use the only power they have that can help them overcome the naturalistic world in which they are entrapped––the power of the feminine.

The book explains who exactly the femme fatale that has been born out of American naturalism is, and explores images of women in American realism who precede the femme fatale of American naturalism. This study examines characters like Trina Sieppe, Caroline Meeber, Edna Pontellier, and Helga Crane. It analyzes these women’s backgrounds, their demeanors, their temperaments, their experiences, and their settings, and explains how and when each woman decides to use her sexuality. There is also a brief discussion of other femmes fatales in American naturalism, such as Stephen Crane’s Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.

Although the perception of women in nineteenth-century American literature has always had its place in discussions of literary texts, this book is unique in its argument that women in American naturalism are neither weak nor passive, but rather are strong and daring women who try diligently to find a means of fighting back.

This book is an important addition to collections in literature and Women’s studies.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgements
  • Chapter One: The Femme Fatale in American Naturalism: An Introduction
    • Background and Definitions of the Femme Fatale
    • Background and Definitions of American Naturalism
    • The Femme Fatale and American Naturalism
  • Chapter Two: Trina “took her place in the operating chair”: Trina Sieppe as Femme Fatale in Frank Norris’s McTeague
    • The Emergence of the Femme Fatale
    • Trina Wins the Lottery
  • Chapter Three: “I am yours truly”: Caroline Meeber as Femme Fatale in Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie
    • The Formulation of the Femme Fatale
    • The Femme Fatale in Full Action
    • The Fall of the Femme Fatale
    • Trina and Carrie
  • Chapter Four: “A language which nobody understood”: Edna Pontellier as Femme Fatale in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening
    • The Imprisonment of Edna
    • Edna Breaks Free
    • McTeague, Sister Carrie, The Awakening: Trina, Carrie, and Edna
    • Edna’s suicide
  • Chapter Five: “It had begun, a new life for Helga Crane”: Helga Crane as Femme Fatale in Nella Larsen’s Quicksand
    • Twentieth Century American Naturalism
    • The Plight of the Tragic Mulatto Figure
    • Helga Crane’s Liberation
  • Chapter Six: Examples of Other Femmes Fatales in American Naturalism
  • Primary Bibliography
  • Secondary Bibliography
  • Index
Tags: , , , , , , ,

White Womanhood Revised

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-06-16 02:08Z by Steven

White Womanhood Revised

Avidly: A Los Angeles Review of Books Channel
2015-06-15

Brigitte Fielder, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Whatever else we might say about it, let’s not forget this: Rachel Dolezal’s story is a decidedly American one. Here, I refer not only to story of Dolezal’s racial passing, but also to how Dolezal’s story triggers and reveals America’s racial fascinations. Whatever Dolezal’s motives or ethics, our scrutiny of Dolezal’s race echoes a long history of parsing race in the United States more generally.

Much of the conversation about Dolezal proceeds within long-standing US assumptions about how race “works”: if her biological parents are “really” white people, then so is she, and therefore she cannot be black. While Dolezal is a member of an interracial family, she seems to have no mixed-race African American genealogy, and this is the single deciding factor about her own race. In effect, these assumptions tell us that there is no way for a woman who was born white (i.e., to white parents) to become black. For her to claim blackness, then, is a conscious act of deception.

But for all the clarity these assumptions provide, they are not the only American story about race and womanhood. Even as Americans want race to be simple and essentialist, American racial ideologies rarely allows it to be. Race, Dolezal’s story reminds us, is connected to the history of racial justice work and interracial collaboration, and complicated by relations of power and privilege. Her story also reminds us how race is connected to not only biological relationships, but also to social relationships. For a scholar of race and nineteenth-century literature like myself, Dolezal’s complex (and confusing) story calls to mind other stories of white womanhood revised.

Consider how Dolezal’s American Story aligns with this fictional one: Kate Chopin’s 1893 short story, “DĂ©sirĂ©e’s Baby.” In the story, DĂ©sirĂ©e, a woman of unknown parentage, is adopted into a respectable white family and marries the wealthy son of slaveholders, Armand Aubigny. When DĂ©sirĂ©e and Armand’’s baby begins to show signs of being mixed-race, Armand argues that, because the baby does not look white, it is not white. The appearance of DĂ©sirĂ©e’s baby calls DĂ©sirĂ©e’s race into question…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Making and Unmaking Whiteness in Early New South Fiction After the Civil War

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2014-12-21 01:40Z by Steven

Making and Unmaking Whiteness in Early New South Fiction After the Civil War

Smashwords
2012-06-06
77 pages (21,670 words)
eBook ISBN: 9781476497068

Peter Schmidt, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English Literature
Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

This essay—a work of literary criticism and critical race studies written to be accessible to non-specialists—examines how popular fiction contributed to and contested new forms of white racial dominance, collectively known as Jim Crow or the “color-line,” in the U.S. in the 1880s and after. I focus in particular on the cultural work undertaken by the “command performance” scene in these texts, in which a black person was asked to tell a story or otherwise give a performance that was supposed to affirm the affection and respect “good” blacks held for whites. Yet what begins to emerge again and again in such “command performance” scenes, even sometimes against the author’s efforts to downplay them, are suggestions of coercion, duplicity, and instability in power hierarchies and racial identities. White supremacy is demonstrably not a given here; it is imperfectly produced, or at least reaffirmed under stress, in a way that locally conditions any power that whiteness may claim. And if a white person’s sense of entitlement was so dependent upon the performance of another, to what degree could such a sense of self be threatened or even unmade in such encounters?

Making and Unmaking Whiteness surveys a broad range of black and white authors but gives special attention to the fictions of four—Joel Chandler Harris, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Kate Chopin, and Pauline Hopkins—who in the early Jim Crow era both dissected the contradictions in white supremacy and imagined alternatives.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

“The Role of Implicatures in Kate Chopin’s Louisiana Short Stories”

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2012-03-09 04:37Z by Steven

“The Role of Implicatures in Kate Chopin’s Louisiana Short Stories”

Journal of the Short Story in English
Issue 40, Spring 2003
pages 69-84

Teresa Gibert, Professor of English
Spanish National University of Distance Education (UNED) in Madrid

It is tempting, in interpreting a literary text from an author one respects, to look further and further for hidden implications. Having found an interpretation consistent with the principle of relevance—an interpretation (which may itself be very rich and vague) which the writer might have thought of as adequate repayment for the reader’s effort—why not go on and look for ever richer implications and reverberations? (Sperber and Wilson 1996: 278)

The popular renown and the critical praise that Kate Chopin received during her lifetime resulted essentially from her Louisiana short stories, published first in various magazines and subsequently collected in the volumes Bayou Folk (1894) and A Night in Acadie (1897). After her death in 1904, a few of these stories were included in various anthologies and thus became virtually the only pieces of Chopin’s literary production available to the general public, whereas her later works went out of print or remained unpublished. For several decades her name was almost invisible in the field of literary criticism, except as a “local colorist,” a term that nowadays some scholars are reluctant to apply to her (Forkner and Samway xxii), partly because it has so often been used derogatorily, although there have been recent attempts to reappraise it, emphasizing its positive value (Ewell and Menke xvi). Others have taken into account her own ambivalence towards the local-color movement, from which she unsuccessfully tried to detach herself (Papke 24, Staunton 203, Steiling 197, Taylor 156). Indeed, for many years the status of Kate Chopin was that of a marginalized local colorist because she was associated exclusively with her early narratives set in Louisiana, which were taken to exemplify local-color fiction, a genre that captivated American readers in the 1880s and 1890s but which experienced a decrease in popularity during the twentieth century.

When modern scholarship rediscovered Chopin’s writings in the 1970s—following Per Seyersted’s publication of Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography and his edition of her Complete Works, both in 1969—they were mainly analyzed from feminist perspectives. Consequently, attention was focused on her most mature works, with a particular emphasis on The Awakening (1899) and those short stories which were labeled “proto-feminist.” When A Vocation and a Voice—Chopin’s third collection of short stories, which she had begun writing in 1893—was finally published in 1991, it was also warmly welcomed by feminists. Meanwhile, her early Louisiana short stories became comparatively neglected. Not until recently have they been subjected to close scrutiny in the light of various theoretical frameworks, some of which are unrelated to feminism…

…Due to its explicitness, “The Storm” has not generated any contrasting interpretations, in spite of the close critical attention to which it has been submitted. Likewise, another of Chopin’s mature short narratives, “The Story of an Hour” (composed and first published in 1894) does not allow for much conjecture. Little effort of elucidation is needed to understand that it is about the sense of freedom enjoyed by a woman during the hour she mistakenly thinks that she is a widow, until she discovers that her husband is still alive. Both “The Storm” and “The Story of an Hour” exemplify maximum explicitness, and consequently, maximum consensus on the author’s intentions and readers’ interpretations. In order to illustrate the opposite end of the spectrum, that is, maximum implicitness, and therefore, a wide range of diverging opinions, I would like to focus on Chopin’s most famous Louisiana short story: “DĂ©sirĂ©e’s Baby.”

Désirée, a foundling raised by Monsieur and Madame Valmondé in their Louisiana plantation as if she were their own daughter, “grew to be beautiful and gentle, affectionate and sincere.” At eighteen she married Armand Aubigny, the heir to another plantation, and was cruelly rejected by him after giving birth to a mixed-race baby whose black ancestry derived in fact from the child’s paternal grandmother. We learn this at the very end of the story, once we have been told that Désirée and the baby have disappeared forever into the bayou. This is an extremely brief outline of the plot, which is almost impossible to summarize in a satisfactory manner because Chopin’s text resists further reduction. The richness of the story is based on the accumulation of significant details, and thanks to its concise prose, the author managed to compress into 2,152 words the contents of what she could have expanded into a whole novel. Chopin’s verbal economy partially accounts for her need to implicate, rather than explicate, but apart from the requirements of condensation inherent in the short fiction genre, there were also other reasons for her preference to communicate through veiled suggestions and resort to understatement. At the time of composing “Désirée’s Baby,” Kate Chopin was striving to be accepted by northern editors as a serious professional writer in the carefully regulated market of magazine and book publishing, controlled by censoring eyes, and consequently she could not work as spontaneously as she claimed (Complete Works 722), but under constraints that inhibited her treatment of socially sensitive topics.

This story was composed in 1892, and when it was published by Vogue in January of the following year under the title of “The Father of DĂ©sirĂ©e’s Baby,” it was an immediate success. It was included in Bayou Folk (1894), Chopin’s first collection of twenty-three short stories and sketches which received over two hundred reviews and press notices. “DĂ©sirĂ©e’s Baby” was frequently singled out for praise, and as it was often anthologized, it remained continuously in print while most of Kate Chopin’s work was virtually unavailable. Among the reasons that may account for such acclaim, we should mention the fact that Kate Chopin’s main themes—marriage and motherhood—are explored here through a submissive and vulnerable female protagonist who is far from being like the emancipated heroines that people her later fiction. A third theme, that of miscegenation, which is rather unusual in Chopin’s fiction, was particularly controversial when the story was first published, but thanks to the author’s “masterful phrasing and subtle word-choice” (Reilly 1942: 135), her audience, far from feeling offended, was delighted. It was indeed a period of “latent and massive social antagonism against miscegenation […] among both blacks and whites” (Williamson 90)…

Read the entire article here in HTML or PDF format.

Tags: , ,

Crossing the Color Line: Narratives of Passing in American Literature

Posted in Course Offerings, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United Kingdom on 2012-01-03 22:58Z by Steven

Crossing the Color Line: Narratives of Passing in American Literature

St. Mary’s College of Maryland
English 400.01
Fall 2008

Christine Wooley, Assistant Professor of English
     
This course will consider representations of passing (and thus also miscegenation) in nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. culture. While passing has often been depicted-and dismissed-as an act of racial betrayal, more recent criticism has suggested that we view these depictions of racial transgression and deception in more complicated ways. In this class, we will analyze various narratives centered around passing and miscegenation as sites through which we can better examine-and understand-the construction of racial identities in particular historical and political contexts. We will ask whether or not narratives about passing and miscegenation challenge the stability of racial categories. Likewise, we will pay close attention to how such narratives also engage issues of class, ethnicity, and gender. Syllabus may include works by authors such as Harriet Wilson, William Wells Brown, Lydia Maria Child, Frances Harper, William Dean Howells, Pauline Hopkins, Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, George Schuyler, Toni Morrison, and Philip Roth. In addition, this class will also draw on a selection of historical and legal documents, current critical works on race, and films such as The Jazz Singer and Imitation of Life.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Discourse of Interracial and Multicultural Identity in 19th and 20th Century American Literature

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2011-10-31 04:07Z by Steven

The Discourse of Interracial and Multicultural Identity in 19th and 20th Century American Literature

Indiana University of Pennsylvania
May 2007
373 pages
AAT 3257969

Dale M. Taylor

A Dissertation Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies and Research In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy

The narratives of and about mixed-race people have provided a varied and rich artistic canvas. Using various literary works as tools for investigation, this project explores a discourse for mixed-race people and determines to what extent that discourse shapes conceptions about them. In addition, it examines to what extent subjects of mixed-racial heritage and identity establish and form new cultures, struggle for the validity of their existence in spite of racial binaries, affirm their experiences and to some degree question the validity of race itself. A discourse of mixed-race subjects is related to a discourse about race. Issues of hybridity, creolization and mestizaje have affected postcolonial subjects and Americans throughout the Diaspora. The project will consider people of mixed Native American, African, Latin, Asian, European descent and others. Literature involving and about mixed-raced subjects is their history—whether fiction or nonfiction—a history that has been silenced by political, economic and racial ideology. Mixed-racial and mixed-cultural subjects exist in the “between” spaces of racial binaries. They are “called into place” by self and others through discourse to define and negotiate power. Among the writers and works used are: Gigantic, by Marc Nesbitt, The Human Stain by Philip Roth, “DĂ©sirĂ©e’s Baby” by Kate Chopin, “Stones of the Village” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson, “After Many Days,” by Fannie Barrier Williams, Passing by Nella Larsen, “The Downward Path To Wisdom” by Katherine Anne Porter, “The Displaced Person” by Flannery O’Connor, Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith, “Origami” by Susan K. Ito, and poetry by Derek Walcott, Walt Whitman and others.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • One: THE DISCOURSE OF MIXED-RACE SUBJECTIVITY AND IDENTITY
    • Introduction
  • Two: MIXED-RACE DISCOURSE IN “DESIREE’S BABY” BY KATE CHOPIN, “STONES OF THE VILLAGE” BY ALICE DUNBAR-NELSON, AND ‘AFTER MANY DAYS: A CHRISTMAS STORY” BY FANNIE BARRIER WILLIAMS
    • Introduction
    • “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin
    • “Stones of the Village” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson
    • “After Many Days: A Christmas Story” by Fannie Barrier Williams
    • Closing Remarks For Chapter Two
  • Three: MIXED RACE AND DISCOURSE IN THE WORK OF KATHERINE ANNE PORTER, NELLA LARSEN AND FLANNERY O’CONNOR
    • Introduction
    • “The Downward Path To Wisdom” by K.A. Porter
    • “The Displaced Person” by Flannery O’Connor
    • Passing by Nella Larsen
    • Closing Remarks For Chapter Three
  • Four: YELLOWMAN, THE HUMAN STAIN, GIGANTIC AND THE DISCOURSE OF INTERRACIAL AND INTRARACIAL SUBJECTIVITY
    • Introduction
    • Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith
    • The Human Stain by Philip Roth
    • Gigantic: “The Ones Who May Kill You In The Morning” by Marc Nesbitt
    • Closing Remarks For Chapter Four
  • Five: THE FUTURE AND THE DISCOURSE OF MIXED-RACE SUBJECTIVITY
    • Conclusion
  • WORKS CITED
  • APPENDICES
    • Appendix A – Permissions Letter Professor Natasha Trethewey
    • Appendix B – Permissions Letter Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture The New York Public Library

Purchase the dissertation here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Blood relations: The cultural work of miscegenation in nineteenth-century American literature

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2011-08-21 02:07Z by Steven

Blood relations: The cultural work of miscegenation in nineteenth-century American literature

University of Pennsylvania
1999, 282 pages
Publication Number: AAT 9937719
ISBN: 9780599389762

Leigh Holladay Edwards, Associate Professor of English
Florida State University

A DISSERTATION in English Presented to the Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

“Blood Relations” analyzes the way nineteenth-century literary texts use racial mixture to explore cultural anxieties about subjectivity and national identity. As many scholars have detailed, nineteenth century Anglo-America overwhelmingly rejected actual, literal interracial sex and reproduction between white and non-white races. Yet I show that on a symbolic level, the dominant white culture actively invoked metaphors of mixing in order to define itself. While it would be more conventional to argue that nineteenth-century culture ignored or suppressed miscegenation because it wanted to believe in racial purity, I illustrate that the culture shaped notions of race not by repressing mixture but rather by obsessively focusing on it. Intermixture emerges as a popular literary trope in the nineteenth century at the same time that amalgamation was becoming more socially and legally taboo. The literary focus on mixing is a way of micro-managing it, encouraging people to think about the interracial in certain ways, not in others. This process of cultural management through endless discussion is similar to nineteenth-century discourses about sexuality; as Foucault has shown us, the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie did not ignore sex, they endlessly talked about it, and their routinized ways of talking about sex worked to narrow and restrict sexual identities. Similarly, American race consciousness requires a discussion of the interracial in order to sustain itself. If Americans had not had interracial sex, their writers would have had to invent it.

I analyze works by writers such as Hawthorne, Melville, Chopin, Twain, and Helen Hunt Jackson, as well as popular Pocahontas narratives and the 1863 miscegenation pamphlet in which the term was coined. These representations titillated readers with America’s “open secret” of mixture, speaking to its paradoxical status as both social taboo and defining factor of self and nation. While distancing themselves from literal mixing, these writers simultaneously deploy symbolic intermixing, using mixture metaphorically to stage notions of the identity and the relationship between ideas of nation, gender, and race. I argue that we should place representations of mixture not at the periphery, but at the center of accounts of nineteenth-century culture.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Amalgamation and the National Imaginary in Hawthorne and Melville
  • Chapter Two: Tricky Business: Racial Mixture as Hoax in Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson
  • Section Introduction: Gendering Interracial Mixture
  • Chapter Three: Women as the Source of Mixture in “Desiree’s Baby
  • Chapter Four: Women and Assimilation in Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona
  • Chapter Five: The United Colors of Pocahontas: America’s Obsession with Race Mixing
  • Bibliography

Purchase the dissertation here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

From exile to transcendence: racial mixture and the journey of revision in the works of Lydia Maria Child, Hannah Crafts, Kate Chopin, James Weldon Johnson, and Jean Toomer

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2011-06-26 19:50Z by Steven

From exile to transcendence: racial mixture and the journey of revision in the works of Lydia Maria Child, Hannah Crafts, Kate Chopin, James Weldon Johnson, and Jean Toomer

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
May 2010

Suzanne M. Lynch

My study, entitled From Exiles to Transcendences focuses on five authors: Lydia Maria Child, Hannah Crafts, Kate Chopin, James Weldon Johnson, and Jean Toomer. It examines each author’s effort to represent the mixed-race character as a constant “process of becoming” (Hall, Questions of Identity 4). This study aims to convey the distinctiveness of the American mixed-race character in American literature and to provide a thorough reading of how this distinctiveness is portrayed and sustained throughout the scope of the selected texts. My dissertation identifies the mixed-race voice as experientially distinct from other American raced voices while acknowledging the mixed-race character as one who demonstrates a connectedness to a plurality of racial cultures. The following chapters span a period of approximately 100 years and illustrate a common concern among them, albeit from differing perspectives and influences, regarding how home and family function as fluid spaces of racial subjectivity. My study maintains a position that the above authors questioned the presumed irreversibility of an entrenched understanding of family ties; that they challenged and rescripted the historically defined self with a self that privileges experience and discovery over pre-given identities; and that they depicted their characters as evolving subjects who created themselves with name and identity as they moved toward their “process of becoming.”

Read the dissertation here (may require log-in).

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Fear and Desire: Regional Aesthetics and Colonial Desire in Kate Chopin’s Portrayals of the Tragic Mulatta Stereotype

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2011-03-21 17:11Z by Steven

Fear and Desire: Regional Aesthetics and Colonial Desire in Kate Chopin’s Portrayals of the Tragic Mulatta Stereotype

The Southern Literary Journal
Volume 43, Number 1 (Fall 2010)
pages 1-22
E-ISSN: 1534-1461 Print ISSN: 0038-4291

Dagmar Pegues

The interrogation of the category of race in Kate Chopin’s fiction represents an essential dimension of regional aesthetics, and it offers an alternative view to previous interpretations that focus primarily on feminist themes. This article examines the role of Louisiana as a specific region in the construction of the tragic mulatta stereotype in the fiction of Kate Chopin, primarily in her stories “DĂ©sirĂ©e’s Baby” and “La Belle ZoraĂŻde,” and by analogy in her most successful novel The Awakening. I propose to extricate Chopin’s work from the virgin/whore dichotomy so often applied to white and non-white characters respectively. From a new perspective, an illumination of the portrayals of the tragic mulatta figure in Chopin’s texts invites a reconsideration of the stereotype of the tragic mulatta that typically oscillates between evocations of the exotic and the sentimental. Attempting to reclaim the category of race in regionalist fiction by examining the tragic mulatta stereotype in the selected texts, I see parallels between this pervasive image of southern local color fiction and the post-colonial paradigm, i.e. the dichotomy of the colonizer versus the colonized as it is suggested by Frantz Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks as well as the notion of stereotype as a form of normalizing, yet contradictory, judgment in Homi K. Bhabha’s The Location of Culture. From this perspective, the trope of the tragic mulatta appropriated by Chopin in her fiction represents an essential point of concurrence of the issues of gender, race, and region, and it points to the underlying racial anxiety manifested by the existence of ambivalent feelings of fear and desire toward the racial Other. Consequently, the internalization of colonial commodification of the racially Other can be interpreted as the true tragic element in the…

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , ,