Race and identity in Krazy Kat: Performance, Aesthetics, Perspectives

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-01-22 21:07Z by Steven

Race and identity in Krazy Kat: Performance, Aesthetics, Perspectives

University of Oregon
June 2014
79 pages

Zane Mowery

A Thesis Presented to the Department of English and the Robert D. Clark Honors College in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts

This work marks an attempt to redirect the focus of academic writing on race in the early twentieth-century comic strip Krazy Kat away from its author, George Herriman, and towards the comic itself. I argue that Herriman displays deep concerns with race and (more generally) identity in his work, but that these concerns do not necessarily stem from his own race or family history. In the end, Herriman’s work takes a far more complex perspective towards race and identity than current analysis would imply, and this thesis therefore serves as an attempt to reopen the dialogue around Herriman and race by establishing a new point of commencement for such investigations.

Read the entire thesis here.

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The Passing of Passing: A Peculiarly American Racial Tradition Approaches Irrelevance

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-01-22 20:40Z by Steven

The Passing of Passing: A Peculiarly American Racial Tradition Approaches Irrelevance

BlackPast.org: Remembered & Reclaimed
2014-12-14

Robert Fikes Jr., Reference Librarian
San Diego State University, San Diego, California


Three Harlem Women, ca. 1925

In the article below, independent scholar Robert Fikes Jr., explores a centuries-old process in the United States where African Americans with no visible African ancestry “pass” into the Caucasian race or other races to avoid the stigma associated with anti-black racial discrimination and social marginalization. As he notes below, the process finally began to lose its appeal in the second half of the 20th Century. He outlines a brief history of that process and suggests reasons for its decline.

Routinely shocking and sometimes lurid in detail, reports abound over three centuries of mixed-race persons lacking discernible African heritage masquerading as white: a Vassar student who proceeded toward graduation as informed school officials looked the other way; the man who abandoned his family in Atlanta and became a leading voice for fascism in the United States; a syndicated cartoonist who took his secret to the grave; an attorney who also changed his name and did not return home until retiring from a prosperous career on Wall Street; the Vaudeville actor-singer whose success vaporized when he was discovered to be “a Negro”; an assumed to be white New York Times editor and literary critic who also rose to captain in the segregated white Army of World War II; and the guilt-ridden New England doctor and his wife who journeyed to the extreme in withholding the fact of being “Colored” from even their four children.

The opportunity for passing during the colonial and pre-Civil War eras most often resulted from the mating of slaveowner and slave followed by additional whitening and inbreeding of mulatto offspring who were then able to slip virtually unnoticed into the dominant society. In the post-Reconstruction South politicians schemed to legally segregate the races which necessitated defining who was not white using a combination of percentages and the infamous “one drop rule,” condemning those with observable Negroid features to a life of greater hardship. Unlike Brazil, a nation that had a larger 18th and 19th century black slave population than the United States, there was not a “mulatto escape hatch,” as historian Carl Degler termed it, that permitted those with the taint of slavery in their background to be more easily accepted across the spectrum of society. A cause for anxiety for white Americans fearing racial contamination and degradation, but seen by many African Americans as a way of outwitting the system of oppression and making laughable fools of those who countenanced notions of white racial purity and supremacy, the extent of passing has never been reliably quantified by social scientists, hence estimates up to 1950 ranged from hundreds of thousands to several million blacks vanishing into the ranks of unsuspecting whites.

The complex predicament of persons living double lives passing as whites, deliberately or not, permanently or as a temporary convenience, intrigued a surprising number of major authors whose writings gave rise to the by now familiar trope of the tragic mulatto and the unveiled pretender. Among the books that pursued this theme, The Slave (1836) by Richard Hildreth and Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter (1853) by William Wells Brown. Post-emancipation works that pursued this theme include Maria Lydia Child’s A Romance of the Republic (1867), Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894) James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), The House Behind the Cedars (1920) by Charles W. Chesnutt, Passing (1929) by Nella Larsen, the satirical Black No More (1931) by George Schuyler, Colcorton (1944) by Edith Pope. Late 20th century works on passing include Oxherding Tale (1982) by Charles Johnson, Caucasia (1998) by Danzy Senna, and The Human Stain (2000) by Philip Roth

…Long after the “passing” novels left the bookshelves scholars began their investigations on black-white passing.  The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey From Black to White (2011) by Daniel Sharfstein represents one of the best examples of this new academic interest.  These studies however have expanded the scope of passing to include those who have denied being gay and posed as heterosexuals, switched genders, claimed a different white identity (e.g., Jewish to Anglo-Saxon), feigned membership in a wealthier social class, mislead others about their age, and more.

In researching the experiences of blacks who passed as whites, in her new book, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life (2014) Stanford University professor Allyson Hobbs offered a different perspective.  Fully aware that past research gave prominence to the supposed advantages of passing as white, when interviewed about her project she affirmed: “I am not interested in what people gained by being white, but rather in what they lost by not being black . . . . by rejecting a black racial identity.”  Numerous personal narratives in the book—some wrenching and heartfelt, others humorous and bordering on the absurd—reinforce her stance that passing for African Americans was, and remains, “a deeply individualistic practice, but it is also a fundamentally social act with enormous social consequences.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Where are all the interracial children’s books?

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-01-21 21:15Z by Steven

Where are all the interracial children’s books?

The Washington Post
2015-01-20

Nevin Martell

Browsing the shelves of the children’s section at bookstores can be a depressing experience for the parent of an interracial youngster. I’m a mutt mixture Caucasian with roots going back to Western Europe and beyond, while my wife is from Ghana. We are constantly on the lookout for stories featuring characters with whom our interracial son can visually identify. It would just be nice for him to pick up a book and think to himself, “Hey, that little guy looks like me.” Sadly, he doesn’t get to do that very often.

Though there is a growing number of racially diverse characters popping up on picture book pages – and the passionate social media campaign #WeNeedDiverseBooks hopes to inspire even more of them – there is a depressing dearth of interracial ones. This is somewhat surprising given how many families are interracial these days. According to the United States Census Bureau, “interracial or interethnic opposite-sex married couple households grew by 28 percent over the decade from 7 percent in 2000 to 10 percent in 2010.” Additionally, there were 275,500 interracial marriages in 2010 out of a total of 2,096,000. Heck, there’s even a TV show about an interracial family and it’s on a major network – ABC’s “The Fosters.”

This isn’t to say that there aren’t any children’s books starring interracial characters. There are some wonderful options, including “Black, White, Just Right!” by Marguerite W. Davol and illustrated by Irene Trivas, “Black is Brown is Tan” by Arnold Adoff with illustrations by Emily Arnold McCully and Phil Mandelbaum’s “You Be Me, I’ll Be You.” A current favorite is “The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage,” which chronicles the 1967 Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, in which a biracial couple successfully challenged the state’s law against interracial marriage…

Read the entire article here.

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ENLT 2513 Major Authors of American Literature: Race and Performance

Posted in Course Offerings, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-01-20 01:36Z by Steven

ENLT 2513 Major Authors of American Literature: Race and Performance

University of Virginia
Spring 2015

Sarah Ingle, Lecturer

This course will explore representations of race and performance in American literature and culture from the eighteenth century to the present. We will examine cultural phenomena such as blackface minstrel shows, stories of racial “passing,” and a variety of texts (plays, fiction, poetry, and non-fiction) that depict the complex relationship between race and identity in American culture. Authors will include Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, William Wells Brown, Herman Melville, Charles Chesnutt, James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, Zitkala-Sa, Sui Sin Far, Onoto Watanna, David Henry Hwang, and Suzan Lori-Parks. Course requirements will include three essays, weekly informal reading responses, active class participation, and a final exam.

For more information, click here.

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Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery: William and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory

Posted in Biography, Books, Communications/Media Studies, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2015-01-15 02:11Z by Steven

Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery: William and Ellen Craft in Cultural Memory

University of Georgia Press
2015-05-15
136 pages
8 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8203-3802-6
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8203-4724-0
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8203-4832-2

Barbara McCaskill, Associate Professor of English and co-director of the Civil Rights Digital Library
University of Georgia

How William and Ellen Craft’s escape from slavery, their activism, and press accounts figured during the antislavery movement of the mid-1800s and Reconstruction

he spectacular 1848 escape of William and Ellen Craft (1824–1900; 1826–1891) from slavery in Macon, Georgia, is a dramatic story in the annals of American history. Ellen, who could pass for white, disguised herself as a gentleman slaveholder; William accompanied her as his “master’s” devoted slave valet; both traveled openly by train, steamship, and carriage to arrive in free Philadelphia on Christmas Day. In Love, Liberation, and Escaping Slavery, Barbara McCaskill revisits this dual escape and examines the collaborations and partnerships that characterized the Crafts’ activism for the next thirty years: in Boston, where they were on the run again after the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law; in England; and in Reconstruction-era Georgia. McCaskill also provides a close reading of the Crafts’ only book, their memoir, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, published in 1860.

Yet as this study of key moments in the Crafts’ public lives argues, the early print archive—newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets, legal documents—fills gaps in their story by providing insight into how they navigated the challenges of freedom as reformers and educators, and it discloses the transatlantic British and American audiences’ changing reactions to them. By discussing such events as the 1878 court case that placed William’s character and reputation on trial, this book also invites readers to reconsider the Crafts’ triumphal story as one that is messy, unresolved, and bittersweet. An important episode in African American literature, history, and culture, this will be essential reading for teachers and students of the slave narrative genre and the transatlantic antislavery movement and for researchers investigating early American print culture.

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Machado de Assis: The Brazilian Master and His Novels

Posted in Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2015-01-13 20:34Z by Steven

Machado de Assis: The Brazilian Master and His Novels

University of California Press
1970
270 pages
ISBN: 9780520016088

Helen Caldwell

Machado de Assis is among the most original creative minds in Brazils rich, four-century-long literary tradition. Miss Caldwell’s critical and biographical study explores Machado’s purpose, meaning, and artistic method in each of his nine novels, published between 1872 and 1908. She traces the ideas and recurrent themes, and identifies his affinities with other authors.

In tracing Machado’s experimentation with narrative techniques, Miss Caldwell reveals the increasingly subtle use he made of point of view, sometimes indirect or reflected, sometimes multiple and “nested” like Chinese boxes.

Miss Caldwell shows the increasing sureness with which he individualized his characters, and how. in advance of his time, he developed action, not by realistic detail, but by the boldest use of allusion and symbol. Each novel is shown to be an artistic venture, and not in any sense a regurgitation from a sick soul as some critics have argued.

In searching out the unity of his novels. Miss Caldwell explores the other aspects of Machado’s intellectual life—as poet, journalist, playwright, conversationalist, and academician. Of particular interest is her attention to his shift away from the social criticism of his early novels into the labyrinth of individual psychology in the last five—all of which rank among world literature. But this perceptive account never loses sight of the one element present in every piece of Machado’s fiction, in every one of his personages; that is, superlative comedy, in its whole range: wit, irony, satire, parody, burlesque, humor.

Altogether, Miss Caldwell reveals to us a writer, in essence a poet, who is still the altus prosator of Brazilian letters.

Read the entire book here or here.

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Machado de Assis: A Literary Life

Posted in Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2015-01-13 19:49Z by Steven

Machado de Assis: A Literary Life

Yale University Press
2015-05-26
360 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4
2 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300180824

K. David Jackson, Professor of Portuguese and Director of Undergraduate Studies of Portuguese
Yale University

Novelist, poet, playwright, and short story writer Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1839–1908) is widely regarded as Brazil’s greatest writer, although his work is still too little read outside his native country. In this first comprehensive English-language examination of Machado since Helen Caldwell’s seminal 1970 study, K. David Jackson reveals Machado de Assis as an important world author, one of the inventors of literary modernism whose writings profoundly influenced some of the most celebrated authors of the twentieth century, including José Saramago, Carlos Fuentes, and Donald Barthelme. Jackson introduces a hitherto unknown Machado de Assis to readers, illuminating the remarkable life, work, and legacy of the genius whom Susan Sontag called “the greatest writer ever produced in Latin America” and whom Allen Ginsberg hailed as “another Kafka.” Philip Roth has said of him that “like Beckett, he is ironic about suffering.” And Harold Bloom has remarked of Machado that “he’s funny as hell.”

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Tropics of Haiti: Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2015-01-07 02:38Z by Steven

Tropics of Haiti: Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865

Liverpool University Press
May 2015
848 pages
234 x 156mm
Hardback ISBN: 9781781381847
Paperback ISBN: 9781781381854

Marlene L. Daut, Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Studies
Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California

The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) was an event of monumental world-historical significance, and here, in the first systematic literary history of those events, Haiti’s war of independence is examined through the eyes of its actual and imagined participants, observers, survivors, and cultural descendants. The ‘transatlantic print culture of the Haitian Revolution’ that this literary history shows was created by novelists, poets, dramatists, memoirists, biographers, historians, journalists, and eye-witness observers, revealing enlightenment racial ‘science’ as the primary vehicle through which the Haitian Revolution was interpreted, historicized, memorialized, and fictionalized by nineteenth-century Haitians, Europeans, and U.S. Americans alike.

Through its author’s contention that the Haitian revolutionary wars were incessantly racialized by four constantly recurring racial tropes—the ‘monstrous hybrid’, the ‘tropical temptress’, the ‘tragic mulatto/a’, and the ‘mulatto legend of history’, Tropics of Haiti shows the ways in which the nineteenth-century tendency to understand Haiti’s revolution in primarily racial terms has affected present day demonizations of Haiti and Haitians. In the end, this new archive of Haitian revolutionary writing, much of which has until now remained unknown to the contemporary reading public, invites us to examine how nineteenth-century attempts to paint Haitian independence as the result of a racial revolution coincides with present-day desires to render insignificant and ‘unthinkable’ the second independent republic of the New World.

CONTENTS

  • PRELUDE: On “Haitian Exceptionalism”
  • INTRODUCTION: From Enlightenment Literacy to Mulatto/a Vengeance
  • PART ONE: THE MONSTROUS HYBRIDITY OF MULATTO/A VENGEANCE
    • 1. Baron de Vastey, Colonial Discourse, and the Global “Scientific” Sphere
    • 2. Monstrous Testimony and Baron de Vastey in 19th-Century Historical Writing About Haiti
    • 3. Victor Hugo and the Rhetorical Possibilities of Monstrous Hybridity in Revolutionary Fiction
  • PART TWO: TRANSGRESSING THE TROPE OF THE TROPICAL TEMPTRESS
    • 4. Moreau de Saint-Méry’s Daughter and La Mulâtre comme il y a beaucoup de blanches (1803)
    • 5. “Born to Command:” Leonora Sansay and the Paradoxes of Female Resistance in Zelica; the Creole
    • 6. Theresa to the Rescue!: African American Women’s Resistance and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution
  • PART THREE: THE TROPE OF THE TRAGIC MULATTO/A AND THE HAITIAN REVOLUTION
    • 7. “Sons of White Fathers”: The Tragic Mulatto/a and the Haitian Revolution in Victor Séjour’s “Le Mulâtre”
    • 8. Between the Family and the Nation: Toussaint L’Ouverture and The Interracial Family Romance of the Haitian Revolution
    • 9. Romance and the Republic: Eméric Bergeaud’s Ideal History of the Haitian Revolution
  • PART FOUR: REQUIEM FOR THE “MULATTO LEGEND OF HISTORY”
    • 10. The Color of History: The Transatlantic Abolitionist Movement and William Wells Brown’s “Never-to-be-forgiven-course-of the-mulattoes”
    • 11. Victor Schoelcher, “L’Imagination Jaune,” and the Francophone Geneaology of the “Mulatto Legend of History”
    • 12. “Let us Be Humane after the Victory: Pierre Faubert’s New Humanism
  • CODA : Today’s Haitian Exceptionalism
  • Works Cited
  • Index
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“Love Letter to My Ancestors:” Representing Traumatic Memory in Jackie Kay’s The Lamplighter

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, Women on 2014-12-30 02:16Z by Steven

“Love Letter to My Ancestors:” Representing Traumatic Memory in Jackie Kay’s The Lamplighter

Atlantis: Journal of the Spanish Association for Anglo-American Studies
Volume 36, Number 2 (December 2014)
pages 161-182

Petra Tournay-Theodotou, Associate Professor of English
European University Cyprus, Engomi, Nicosia-Cyprus

Jackie Kay’s The Lamplighter, published in 2008, was first broadcast on BBC radio in 2007 to coincide with the commemoration of the bicentenary of the abolition of the African slave trade in Britain. Kay’s dramatised poem or play, as it has alternately been defi ned, focuses on the female experience of enslavement and the particular forms of dehumanization the female slave had to endure. Kay’s project can in fact be described in terms of Marianne Hirsch’s concept of “postmemory,” or more specifically of “feminist postmemory.” As such, literary devices are employed to emulate the traumatic events at the level of form such as intertextuality, repetition and a fragmented narrative voice. While commemorating the evils of the past, Kay simultaneously wishes to draw attention to contemporary forms of racism and exploitation in the pursuit of profit. Through re-telling the story of slavery, The Lamplighter can ultimately be regarded as Kay’s tribute to her African roots and the suffering endured by her African forebears and contemporaries.

Read the entire article here.

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A Mestiza in the Borderlands: Margarita Cota-Cárdenas Puppet

Posted in Arts, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2014-12-29 23:48Z by Steven

A Mestiza in the Borderlands: Margarita Cota-Cárdenas Puppet

Atlantis: Journal of the Spanish Association for Anglo-American Studies
Volume 34, Number 1 (June 2012)
pages 47-62

Ana María Manzanas Calvo
Department of American Literature and Culture
Universidad de Salamanca, Spain

The article explores the formal and conceptual complexities of a novella that has so far escaped wide critical attention even though it tackles similar issues to Anzaldúa’s Borderlands. Like Anzaldúa’s mestiza, Cota-Cárdenas’ narrator finds herself floundering in uncertain territory, for she has also discovered that she cannot hold concepts or ideas within rigid boundaries. That state of dissolution of traditional formations is what Cota-Cárdenas situates at the center of the narrative. Mestizaje in Puppet does not appear as a comfortable and privileged locus, but as a painful ideological repositioning, a third space or element that works against totalizing narratives. The article illustrates how Cota-Cárdenas foregrounds the powerful identitary revision Anzaldúa would carry out in Borderlands, and contributes to the understanding of the self, of culture and the nation from the point of view of borderland subjectivities.

Read the entire article here.

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