The Shadow of Lynching in Nella Larsen’s Passing

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2017-03-19 20:14Z by Steven

The Shadow of Lynching in Nella Larsen’s Passing

Women’s Studies: An inter-disciplinary journal
Published online: 2017-02-22
pages 1-22
DOI: 10.1080/00497878.2017.1285767

Kangyl Ko
Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea

Since Deborah E. McDowell’s groundbreaking essay on the representation of black female sexuality in Nella Larsen’s Passing (1929), many scholars have discussed how the intersectionality of race, class, gender, and sexuality unfolds throughout the novel. In her compelling reading of Passing, McDowell examines the hidden lesbian narratives beneath “the safe and familiar plot of racial passing” on which previous scholars have focused (xxx). McDowell’s excavation of the tale of sexual passing within the tale of racial passing has since inspired many scholars to further examine the novel’s exploration of black female sexuality, especially in terms of lesbian desire, and its appropriation and negotiation of the literary convention of the tragic mulatto—“the safe and familiar plot of racial passing,” as McDowell refers to it. The continuous trend in scholarship of Passing, whether it focuses on lesbian desire and/or the appropriation of the tragic mulatto narrative, links discussions of black female sexuality directly with racialized popular discourses about black female bodies in Jim Crow America. As a result, one of Larsen’s rhetorical and thematic threads that runs through her second novel has remained underexplored: lynching.

Following Grace Elizabeth Hale’s formulation of lynching as “cultural form” that “existed as both physical practice and as written and photographic representations” (360), I read Passing as a discursive platform where Larsen explores and challenges not only the dominant white lynching narrative, but also its counter-lynching narrative created by black male writers. As an iconic “cultural form” of Jim Crow America, lynching played a crucial role in defining and shaping interracial relations in the United States. Within criticism, lynching as a form of physical violence and a discourse has been addressed largely in terms of the black male body alone. However, black women were victims of lynching as well. They were “routinely lynched, burned, and summarily mutilated” (Wiegman 84)…

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White women’s complicity and the taboo: Faulkner’s layered critique of the “miscegenation complex”

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2011-06-27 03:48Z by Steven

White women’s complicity and the taboo: Faulkner’s layered critique of the “miscegenation complex”

Women’s Studies
Volume 22, Issue 4 (1993)
pages 497-506
DOI: 10.1080/00497878.1993.9978998

Karen M. Andrews
Kobe College, Japan

In Faulkner’s social milieu, the proscription against miscegenation between white women and black men was so deeply ingrained as to be “common sense.” White male hegemony promoted a double standard which tolerated one form of miscegenation, between white men and black women, while virulently prohibiting the other form. Miscegenation virtually came to mean only the taboo form, thus silencing the reality of white male exploitation of black women. As James Kinney argues, the “post-war apologists for racism tried to convert the rape victim into the rapist, to reverse reality in order to justify past and present inhumanity” (227).

In works such as Absalom, Absalom! and Go Down, Moses, Faulkner critiques the sexual and racial injustices wrought by this double standard. Moreover, he exposes the whites’ paranoid and often violent reactions to the taboo—the “miscegenation complex”—in several novels, particularly Light in August, and in stories, such as “Dry September,” [Read the full text here.] “Elly” and “Mountain Victory.” In “Dry September,” probably the most anthologized of his short fiction, Faulkner demystifies the “miscegenation complex” by exposing the complicity of whites, male and female, who exploit the taboo for personal and political gain.

“Dry September” entails a multilayered critique of the miscegenation/rape complex. At the most obvious level of analysis, Faulkner employs the character Hawkshaw as a counterhegemonic voice among the radical racists, Unlike the other white men gathered about the barbershop, Hawkshaw critiques the belief that any rumor of the interracial taboo involves a black…

Read or purchase the article here.

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