Review: “Krazy” by Michael Tisserand

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-12-02 23:44Z by Steven

Review: “Krazy” by Michael Tisserand

Know Louisiana: The Digital Encyclopedia of Louisiana and Home of Louisiana Cultural Vistas
2016-12-02 (Winter 2016)

Lydia Nichols

There is nothing more American than passing, the act of projecting a racial identity other than that assigned. At no other time and place in American history have necessity and opportunity so dramatically conspired to create the possibility for passing as in late 19th century New Orleans. Reconstruction had failed to establish equitable institutions for those whom the Constitution had denied 2/5 of their personhood; and by 1877, the Southern Democrats (former Confederates) had reclaimed political and social dominion over the state. As W.E.B Du Bois writes in Black Reconstruction, Louisiana’s government was to be “a government of white people, made and to be perpetuated for the exclusive political benefit of the white race.” Though identifying as neither white nor black, New Orleans’ Afro-Creoles, who had enjoyed relative mobility prior to the Civil War, were kicked out of schools and churches, cut off from quality education, and pushed to “colored cars.” It became clear that hybridity was no longer acknowledged or welcome. Well-educated, multilingual and able to pass for white, unknown numbers of Creoles left to seek whatever security their ambiguity would allow. Among them was George Joseph Herriman, a ten-year old boy who in time would become a white man and a pioneering cartoonist.

Michael Tisserand provides a painstakingly well-researched analysis of Herriman’s life and work in Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White (HarperCollins, 2016). Herriman, a man of diverse interests and experiences, created comics laden with allusions to classical literature and philosophy; written in immigrant, black and southern vernaculars; and often incorporating foreign languages. The most famous and longest-running of his comics was Krazy Kat, a gender non-conforming, color-changing cat in the southwestern desert who regularly drops philosophical gems in his own dialect of English…

Read the entire review here.

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Pink and the Fancy Gal: White Slavery, the Abolitionists’ Crusade, and the Painter’s Canvas

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Slavery, United States on 2016-11-29 01:35Z by Steven

Pink and the Fancy Gal: White Slavery, the Abolitionists’ Crusade, and the Painter’s Canvas

Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide: a journal of nineteenth-century visual culture
Volume 15, Issue 3, Autumn 2016

Naurice Frank Woods Jr., Assistant Professor of African American Art History; Director of Undergraduate Studies in the African American and African Diaspora Studies Program
University of North Carolina, Greensboro


Fig. 1, George Fuller, The Quadroon, 1880. Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, gift of George A. Hearn, 1910.

This article examines two paintings from the antebellum period, The Slave Market (ca. 1859) by an unidentified artist and The Freedom Ring (1860) by Eastman Johnson, which involve the purchase of nearly white slaves, and attempts to delineate the motivation for presenting these images before the public. These paintings functioned much as slave narratives, and abolitionists used them to provide visual evidence of an insidious, often sexually depraved side of “the peculiar institution.”

In late 1849, Massachusetts native George Fuller (1822–84) traveled throughout the Deep South in pursuit of portrait commissions.[1] Like many of his northern contemporaries, Fuller sought a receptive and less competitive climate below the Mason-Dixon Line. The artist’s journey placed him directly in the midst of a region addicted to the institution of slavery, and while it may not have been his intention to observe astutely the lives of human chattel, Fuller was increasingly aware of their plight and recorded his observations in a sketch diary. Fuller’s drawings and subsequent commentary revealed neither his political inclinations about the “great divide” that was gripping the nation nor his moral position on the subject. This was, however, his third trip to the region, and while his sketches remained dignified depictions of black plantation life, his words reflected growing concern over certain “rituals” conducted in the South.

One of these rituals, a slave auction involving a beautiful quadroon, affected him profoundly. Fuller had witnessed slave auctions before, but the sight of men bidding over a nearly white slave like a farm animal caused him to write:

Who is this girl with eyes large and black? The blood of the white and dark races is at enmity in her veins—the former predominated. About ¾ white says one dealer. Three fourths blessed, a fraction accursed. She is under thy feet, white man. . . . Is she not your sister? . . . She impresses me with sadness! The pensive expression of her finely formed mouth and her drooping eyes seemed to ask for sympathy. . . . Now she looks up, now her eyes fall before the gaze of those who are but calculating her charms or serviceable qualities. . . . Oh, is beauty so cheap?…

Read the entire article here.

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In the Name of the Mother: Italian Americans, African Americans, and Modernity from Booker T. Washington to Bruce Springsteen

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, United States on 2016-11-27 15:28Z by Steven

In the Name of the Mother: Italian Americans, African Americans, and Modernity from Booker T. Washington to Bruce Springsteen

Dartmouth College Press
2017-01-03
296 pages
10 illus.
6 1/8 x 9 1/4″
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-5126-0019-3
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-5126-0018-6
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-5126-0020-9

Samuele F. S. Pardini, Associate Professor of Italian
Department of World Languages and Cultures
Elon University, Elon, North Carolina

A bracingly original dialogue on modernity, class, and difference in the 20th century

In the Name of the Mother examines the cultural relationship between African American intellectuals and Italian American writers and artists, and how it relates to American blackness in the twentieth century. Samuele Pardini links African American literature to the Mediterranean tradition of the Italian immigrants and examines both against the white intellectual discourse that defines modernism in the West. This previously unexamined encounter offers a hybrid, transnational model of modernity capable of producing democratic forms of aesthetics, social consciousness, and political economy. This volume emphasizes the racial “in-betweenness” of Italian Americans rearticulated as “invisible blackness,” a view that enlarges and complicates the color-based dimensions of American racial discourse. This strikingly original work will interest a wide spectrum of scholars in American Studies and the humanities.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • New World, Old Woman: Or, Modernity Upside Down
  • Rochester, Sicily: The Political Economy of Italian American Life and the Encounter with Blackness
  • Structures of Invisible Blackness: Racial Difference, (Homo)Sexuality, and Italian American Identity in African American Literature during Jim Crow
  • In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Gun: Modernity as the Gangster
  • In the Name of the Mother: The Other Italian American Modernity
  • The Dago and the Darky: Staging Subversion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Blackness, Science, and Circulation of Knowledge in the Eighteenth-Century Luso-Brazilian World and the United States

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-26 21:54Z by Steven

Blackness, Science, and Circulation of Knowledge in the Eighteenth-Century Luso-Brazilian World and the United States

The Eighteenth Century
Volume 57, Number 3, Fall 2016
pages 303-324
DOI: 10.1353/ecy.2016.0020

Bruno Carvalho, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
Princeton University

It has become increasingly common for scholars to locate the eighteenth century as a turning point in what Nell Irvin Painter calls the “now familiar equation that converts race to black and black to slave.” Recent studies explore how scientific racism, which flourished in the nineteenth century, emerges in debates involving Enlightenment savants like Voltaire, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and several less prominent authors. European anatomists, natural historians, and philosophers devised racial classification schemata, frequently relying on erroneous travel narratives as their main source of knowledge. The voices of “non-whites” are predictably muted in debates that took place almost exclusively among Europeans, but that also included well-connected North Americans, chief among them Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826). Although “race”—by no means a stable concept in the eighteenth century—included myriad categories besides “blackness,” this article will discuss how intellectuals in the Americas wrote about black Africans and their descendants in the context of Enlightenment-era science.

Given how the Portuguese and British Americas received the majority of Africans taken to the New World as slaves, it is not surprising that there is a longstanding tradition of comparative approaches to racial relations in Brazil and the United States. Sparse attention, however, has been paid to how the transatlantic circulation of eighteenth-century scientific discourses, especially in natural history, might have impacted the later development of different forms of racism across the hemisphere. This study brings to the fore texts from the Luso-Brazilian world that have been largely overlooked, and aims to add to the vast literature on Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia (1781). Although the analysis here does not pretend to be comprehensive or exhaustive, by investigating connections between a group of would-be revolutionaries in the Brazilian captaincy of Minas Gerais and the United States independence movement, it attempts to be connective as much as comparative. This hemispheric approach evinces the disparate roles and station of Luso-Brazilian and United States lettered elites in transatlantic circulation of knowledge, while seeking to contribute to an understanding of how they produced divergent texts about blackness in the period preceding the French and Haitian revolutions.

The Luso-Brazilian eighteenth century has generated an outstanding body of scholarship, but it does not often appear prominently in panoramic studies of the period—despite the fact that the Portuguese empire remained one of Europe’s most extensive, and that gold from its Minas Gerais possessions had a significant impact on the global economy. Perhaps it is so because Brazil does not easily fit within the Age of Revolutions paradigm: in 1822, it was the Portuguese monarch’s son, rather than a republican revolutionary, who declared independence. Brazil was an empire through most of the nineteenth century, and became a republic in 1889, later than its Spanish-speaking neighbors. Eighteenth-century movements that might have become comparable to the United States and Haitian Revolutions were thwarted by the Crown. Likewise, although by some estimates mining in the Portuguese Americas alone propelled about ten percent of all slave trade in the eighteenth century, the Luso-Brazilian world remains largely absent from scholarship on the connections between slavery and the “Sciences of Man” during the Enlightenment: one aspect of what Charles Withers calls “geographies of human difference.”

While the historiography on slavery and race relations in the Portuguese empire has for some time been vibrant, studies on Luso-Brazilian scientific representations of race in the eighteenth century are still lacking. This might be attributed to the perception that scientific racism was a phenomenon of the nineteenth century, or that Portugal remained mired in religious obscurantism, its writers therefore not attuned to Enlightenment-era debates. Through a transatlantic lens, Brazil’s place in eighteenth-century geographies of knowledge is usually further diminished by how, unlike the British and Spanish Americas, it had neither universities nor a printing press. Nonetheless, as we well know, central books and ideas of the Enlightenment circulated among lettered elites.

In Brazil and Portugal…

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Krazy racial rules: New biography of cartoonist George Herriman

Posted in Articles, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-11-25 23:08Z by Steven

Krazy racial rules: New biography of cartoonist George Herriman

The Times-Picayune
New Orleans, Louisiana
2016-11-25

Doug MacCash, Arts and Entertainment Writer


New Orleans-born Krazy Kat cartoonist George Herriman (Photo by Will Connell, courtesy Michael Tisserand)

Krazy: A Life in Black and White,” the biography of Crescent City-born newspaper cartoonist extraordinaire George Herriman (1880-1944) is an absorbing study of a genius with a secret.

Herriman’s equally compelling and confounding “Krazy Kat” cartoon is considered a milestone in modern art. As New Orleans author Michael Tisserand deftly points out in his 549-page volume, the illogic of Herriman’s ink-on-paper drawings mirror the absurdity of the racial divide in early 20th-century America.

After 10 years of scouring microfilm archives, yellowed newspapers and public records, Tisserand has pieced together Herriman’s journey from his humble birth in the Treme neighborhood to heights of fame in Jazz-era New York and Los Angeles. It wasn’t easy.

“I had to teach myself to be an historian,” Tisserand said. “I didn’t anticipate the amount of difficulty it would be finding Herman’s work.”

Like a snake handler, Tisserand uncoils the confusing racial politics of New Orleans in the Jim Crow era, where the descendants of slaves and the descendants of so-called free people of color suffered segregation, discrimination and violence at the hands of the white population.

As Tisserand explains, when Herriman was 10 years old, his parents fled the South for a new beginning in California, where personal reinvention was possible. As Tisserand wrote, “Herriman was a black man born in New Orleans.” But upon reaching the Pacific, Herriman’s parents “had obscured their identity and ‘passed’ for white.”…

Read the entire article here.

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A “Konversation” with George Herriman’s Biographer, Michael Tisserand (Part One)

Posted in Articles, Biography, Interviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-11-25 15:30Z by Steven

A “Konversation” with George Herriman’s Biographer, Michael Tisserand (Part One)

The Comics Journal
2016-11-14

Paul Tumey


Michael Tisserand in Krazy Kat territory (Photo credit: Cecilia Tisserand)

Herriman was talking about race and identity — as profoundly as anyone has, in my opinion — but I never see that as his big “Topic.” It was just part of his world, and the world he created, even if others were slow to recognize it.”Michael Tisserand

The first time I saw Michael Tisserand, he was walking up my doorstep, holding what appeared to be a red brick by his head, almost — but not quite– in a throwing pose. Turns out the red brick was the recently released Library of American Comics collection of Krazy Kat dailies for which he wrote the introduction, and it was a gift (aren’t all bricks gifts in [George] Herriman’s world?).

In early December 2016, HarperCollins will release Tisserand’s long-awaited book, Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White. The book, over 500 pages in length, offers the first detailed biography of the man many regard as the greatest cartoonist of the twentieth century. Chris Ware has spoken highly of the book, observing: “Michael Tisserand’s Krazy draws back the curtain on the one [Herriman] who’s been with us all along.” The book has drawn an early favorable review from Kirkus which states, in part: “Essential reading for comics fans and history buffs, Krazy is a roaring success, providing an indispensable new perspective on turn-of-the-century America.”…

Paul Tumey: Having that perspective from reading your biography on Herriman’s life massively expanded my understanding and appreciation of his work. I have to admit, I was a bit daunted at first when I realized there was a chunk of early family history to read before our man comes onto the scene. But you know what? After a page or two of pouty grumbling, I was totally captivated – the stories are great, and you did a nice job of telling them. And later, I realized how valuable that perspective is – it’s the foundation for understanding the deepest levels of Herriman’s work.

Michael Tisserand: When I learned more about his family, I understood a bit more not just the pressures he must have felt in passing for white, but also the strange, unsettling feeling it must have been to identify with a group of people historically known as Free People of Color, or Mulatto, or Creoles … a group that constantly was seeing its very identity being changed legally and linguistically and culturally. And then for Herriman to work in a genre so deeply influenced by the masks of minstrelsy! When I read a classic Krazy Kat line such as “lenguage is that we may mis-unda-stend each udda,” it seems pretty clear that Herriman had a deep understanding of what we now consider to be modern notions of the slipperiness of language and a sort of permeability of identity….

Read the entire interview here.

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ENLS 4012-01 Lit: Cross-Dressing and Racial Passing

Posted in Course Offerings, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Passing, United States on 2016-11-25 15:09Z by Steven

ENLS 4012-01 Lit: Cross-Dressing and Racial Passing

Tulane University
New Orleans, Louisiana
Spring 2017

Lauren Heintz, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of English

The genre and literary trope of passing, most commonly expressed in characters who are “legally” black but who are able to pass for white, is a popular narrative that runs throughout American fiction from the mid-nineteenth to late-twentieth century. The importance of the passing narrative rests is in its ability to expose how race is a social construct, set down in legal codes like “one-drop-rules.” Alongside narratives of racial passing also runs narratives of cross dressing and gender passing (man for woman or woman for man). This course will examine why and how racial passing is often aided and abetted by gender passing. Taking an intersectional approach, this course will continuously think through how race, gender, class, and sexuality are social constructs. We will begin with foundational texts of racial passing and the discourse of blackface, and we will build on this by moving to texts in which race and gender passing converge. We will come to better understand these constructs through the language of fiction, metaphors of race, performances of gender, and the visual strategies of film. Literary selections will include works by Mark Twain, Kate Chopin, Ellen and Willian Craft, Pauline Hopkins, Billy Tipton, Nell[a] Larso[e]n, Patricia Powell, Toni Morrison. Films may include A Florida Enchantment and Boys Don’t Cry.

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Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

Posted in Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2016-11-25 01:56Z by Steven

Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

HarperCollins
2016-12-06
560 pages
Trimsize: 6 in (w) x 9 in (h) x 1.679 in (d)
Hardcover ISBN: 9780061732997
E-book ISBN: 9780062098054

Michael Tisserand

In the tradition of Schulz and Peanuts, an epic and revelatory biography of Krazy Kat creator George Herriman that explores the turbulent time and place from which he emerged—and the deep secret he explored through his art.

The creator of the greatest comic strip in history finally gets his due—in an eye-opening biography that lays bare the truth about his art, his heritage, and his life on America’s color line. A native of nineteenth-century New Orleans, George Herriman came of age as an illustrator, journalist, and cartoonist in the boomtown of Los Angeles and the wild metropolis of New York. Appearing in the biggest newspapers of the early twentieth century—including those owned by William Randolph Hearst—Herriman’s Krazy Kat cartoons quickly propelled him to fame. Although fitfully popular with readers of the period, his work has been widely credited with elevating cartoons from daily amusements to anarchic art.

Herriman used his work to explore the human condition, creating a modernist fantasia that was inspired by the landscapes he discovered in his travels—from chaotic urban life to the Beckett-like desert vistas of the Southwest. Yet underlying his own life—and often emerging from the contours of his very public art—was a very private secret: known as “the Greek” for his swarthy complexion and curly hair, Herriman was actually African American, born to a prominent Creole family that hid its racial identity in the dangerous days of Reconstruction.

Drawing on exhaustive original research into Herriman’s family history, interviews with surviving friends and family, and deep analysis of the artist’s work and surviving written records, Michael Tisserand brings this little-understood figure to vivid life, paying homage to a visionary artist who helped shape modern culture.

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Zadie Smith on Male Critics, Appropriation, and What Interests Her Novelistically About Trump

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2016-11-24 21:54Z by Steven

Zadie Smith on Male Critics, Appropriation, and What Interests Her Novelistically About Trump

The Slate Book Review
Slate
2016-11-16

Isaac Chotiner

A wide-ranging conversation.

In an interview in 2000, Zadie Smith told the Guardian about the pressure she felt after the astonishing success of her debut novel, White Teeth. “I was expected to be some expert on multicultural affairs, as if multiculturalism is a genre of fiction or something,” she said. “Whereas it’s just a fact of life—like there are people of different races on the planet.” Whether it’s indeed a fact of life or, we now fear, a feature of American life that is at risk of erasure, multiculturalism in all its complexity is at the center of Smith’s books. From White Teeth to NW, which was published in 2012, Smith’s characters inhabit mixed urban communities, often in London. Her latest novel, Swing Time, is out this week; set in England and West Africa, the story concerns the friendship of two young girls who meet in a dance class (“our shade of brown was exactly the same”) and traces the paths of their lives over a quarter-century.

Smith, who grew up in London with a Jamaican mother and English father, has also established herself as one of her generation’s prolific essayists, weighing in energetically on such topics as Middlemarch and Brexit and E.M. Forster. (Her third novel, On Beauty, was an “homage” to Howards End.) She now lives with her husband and children in New York City. I had been trying to interview her for years, to no avail. When the chance finally presented itself, the date and time kept changing, usually a sign of a reluctant subject. But when we did eventually speak over the phone, the day before the election, Smith, now 41, seemed surprisingly at ease. (Weren’t we all in those innocent days?)

Over the course of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed the vulnerability one feels writing fiction, the arrogance of male critics, and why she doesn’t have a smartphone…

Since your new book spans continents, from Europe to Africa, did you think about the target audience? Who are you writing for?

This time I was thinking very particularly about black girls. I’m very happy if other people read the book, but that’s who the book is for explicitly, and that’s who I wanted to write to…

Read the entire interview here.

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Loop of Jade: Sarah Howe visits Manchester Literature Festival

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-11-24 01:58Z by Steven

Loop of Jade: Sarah Howe visits Manchester Literature Festival

Humanity Hallows
2016-11-04

Leigh Jones

2015 T.S. Eliot prize winner and author of A Certain Chinese Encyclopaedia, Sarah Howe made an appearance at the Manchester Literature Festival recently to discuss her novel Loop of Jade. Within her work, Howe takes her audience on a personal journey through her English-Chinese background, exploring, as the book’s blurb describes, both ‘migration and inheritance’. The novel contains many forms of writing, including poetry, narrative, free verse and short prose, all providing an insight into cultural upbringing and the journey to discover one’s place within society.

At the event, Howe read from her work. Opening with ‘Sirens’, inspired by Theodore Roethke’s ‘Elegy for Jane’, Howe showed how she became fascinated with the key word ‘pickerel’ from which she created a poem illustrating the true meaning of literature and how the perceptions of words continuously develop overtime. Howe emphasised the differences human beings share through literature and how it has encouraged us to think. She described her piece as, “very real and determinative”, as it does not seek to provide an answer but, more so, to enhance ideas…

Read the entire article here.

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