“Suspect-Proof”? Paranoia, Suspicious Reading, and the Racial Passing Narrative

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2022-03-20 02:02Z by Steven

“Suspect-Proof”? Paranoia, Suspicious Reading, and the Racial Passing Narrative

American Literary History
Volume 34, Issue 1, Spring 2022
pages 272–282
DOI: 10.1093/alh/ajab089

Sinéad Moynihan, Associate Professor of English
University of Exeter

This short essay considers racial passing narratives in relation to the “postcritical turn,” highlighting the proliferating reappraisals of the practices of “suspicious” or “symptomatic” reading in literary studies and the extent to which passing narratives offer an opportunity to test some of the claims of this body of scholarship. The utility of the passing narrative for this critical project lies in its persistent, self-conscious foregrounding of reading practices. Revisiting passing narratives in light of postcritique reveals that symptomatic reading is not a monolithic practice; rather, there are multiple ways of reading suspiciously. Moreover, and more importantly, passing narratives disclose that what has now become an orthodoxy in postcritique—that attitudes such as “paranoia,” “suspicion,” and “vigilance” profoundly limit “the thickness and richness of our aesthetic attachments”—ignores contexts, like that of a passer in a white supremacist society, in which such strategies are not a choice but are essential for survival (Felski 17). The key question posed herein is: What forms of privilege enable a reader to relinquish her attachment to paranoia, suspicion, and vigilance; to opt for openness rather than guardedness, submission rather than aggression (21)? Narratives of racial passing provide one answer to that question.

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CLS 413: Comparative Studies in Theme: Generation, Degeneration, Miscegenation

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Course Offerings, Gay & Lesbian, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, United States on 2011-11-18 04:15Z by Steven

CLS 413: Comparative Studies in Theme: Generation, Degeneration, Miscegenation

Northwestern University
Winter 2012

César Braga-Pinto, Associate Professor of Brazilian Studies

In this seminar we will discuss how and why late 19th-century and early 20th-century fiction often represented a crisis in models of biological reproduction. We will investigate how anxieties regarding miscegenation and degeneration impacted this three-part pattern:

(1) the “family romance” in Latin America (and elsewhere); (2) the  so-called generative crisis in the turn of the century; (3) the homosocial, “horizontal” forms of association or affiliation that were evoked to compensate the crisis in the generative model. We will also consider the meanings of the term “generation” as a form of “affiliation” in multi-racial societies such as Brazil.

Although we will focus primarily on Brazilian fiction, the approach will be comparative (hemispheric and/or transatlantic), and final papers may focus on U.S., Latin American, European, African or other post-colonial literatures (primarily from the period 1850’s-1930’s).

Class Materials:


Secondary sources may include works by Doris Sommer, Edward Said, Franz Fanon, Eve Sedgwick, Judith Butler, Roberto Schwarz, Silviano Santiago and Jacques Derrida.

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