The Arresting Eye: Race and the Anxiety of Detection

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Passing on 2019-02-23 02:57Z by Steven

The Arresting Eye: Race and the Anxiety of Detection

University of Virginia Press
May 2015
224 pages
6×9 inches
Cloth ISBN: 9780813937014
Paper ISBN: 9780813937021
Ebook ISBN: 9780813937038

Jinny Huh, Associate Professor of English
University of Vermont

In her reading of detective fiction and passing narratives from the end of the nineteenth century forward, Jinny Huh investigates anxieties about race and detection. Adopting an interdisciplinary and comparative approach, she examines the racial formations of African Americans and Asian Americans not only in detective fiction (from Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan to the works of Pauline Hopkins) but also in narratives centered on detection itself (such as Winnifred Eaton’s rhetoric of undetection in her Japanese romances). In explicating the literary depictions of race-detection anxiety, Huh demonstrates how cultural, legal, and scientific discourses across diverse racial groups were also struggling with demands for racial decipherability. Anxieties of detection and undetection, she concludes, are not mutually exclusive but mutually dependent on each other’s construction and formation in American history and culture.

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Detecting Winnifred Eaton

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2014-01-19 04:33Z by Steven

Detecting Winnifred Eaton

MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States
Published online: 2014-01-16
DOI: 10.1093/melus/mlt078

Jinny Huh, Assistant Professor of English
University of Vermont

In her recent introduction to Winnifred Eaton’s Marion: The Story of an Artist’s Model (1916), Karen E. H. Skinazi explores the relationship between racial ambiguity—that of both the anonymous author and the heroines in Marion and its predecessor, Me: A Book of Remembrance (1915)—and the audience’s ability to detect racial coding. “Me’s success,” Skinazi states, “has been predicated on a mystery that allowed each reader the chance to become a literary Sherlock Holmes, cracking the codes of its vault of shocking secrets” (xvii). Later, Skinazi writes that a New York Times reviewer, playing detective, solves Eaton’s racial passing utilizing the science of detection à la Edgar Allan Poe (xxi-xxii). Skinazi’s allusions to the art of detection, although brief, are astute, leading to this essay’s rereading of Eaton’s legacy through the lens of detection and the anxieties produced by its failures, especially the threat of racial passing. It is no coincidence that Eaton published her fiction at a time when both classic detective fiction and African American passing tales were at the peak of their popularity.

Few critics have examined Eaton’s role in the detective genre. This essay responds to this oversight by arguing that Eaton’s reliance on a trope of racial and ethnic passing, both in her choice of pseudonym and in her Japanese romances, cannot be fully appreciated without situating her within the context of the panic about detecting passing that swept America during the first quarter of the twentieth century. The unique lens of detective fiction allows us further to conceptualize Eaton’s role as a founding figure of Asian American fiction. This essay also highlights Eaton’s familiarity with rules of genre, particularly detective fiction and African American passing narratives, and her participation in the construction of racial epistemologies that were then being codified by…

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The arresting eye: Race and the detection of deception

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2012-07-19 00:29Z by Steven

The arresting eye: Race and the detection of deception

University of Southern California
December 2005
282 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3220115
ISBN: 9780542713217

Jinny Huh

A Dissertation Presented to the FACULTY OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY (ENGLISH)

With increasing rates of miscegenation and racially invisible bodies, how is race to be determined? This dissertation examines the dynamics and discourse of race detection through a comparative analysis of detective fiction and passing narratives, two genres that witnessed a simultaneous rise during the mid-nineteenth century. I argue that the detective fiction genre in many ways prospers and responds to the anxiety of racial indecipherability by creating a systematic method of detection. By examining narratives of detection and passing written by both white and ethnic authors ranging from Arthur Conan Doyle and Earl Derr Biggers to Pauline Hopkins and Winnifred Eaton, among others, this study demonstrates that the politics and mechanics of race detection is highly specific to the eye of the gazer attuned to distinguishing the signs of race. For example, while Dupin and Holmes may exhibit mystically and supernaturally intuitive powers, Pauline Hopkins (author of the first African American detective in Hagar’s Daughter) shows that intuition and race detection is a necessary component of the African American community. On the other hand, Winnifred Eaton (the first Asian American novelist) responds to the obsession with detection by promoting a rhetoric of undetection in the emergence of Asian American fiction. Finally, in response to Eaton’s celebration of undetection within the Asian American context, Earl Derr Biggers’s Charlie Chan series demonstrate the anxieties of promoting an Asian American detective hero during the height of Yellow Peril paranoia.

In addition to examining the politics of race detection in literature, this dissertation also explores how numerous disciplines formulate their own concepts of “racial knowledges” via a discourse of detection (such as film studies, visual studies, law, ethnography, and literary history). As such, through a comparative focus which encompasses multiple levels (19th/20th century, male/female, British/American, African American/Asian American, literature/film), my study also addresses the potential threat and implications of racial erasure to Ethnic Studies specifically and Civil Rights overall.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Whispers of Norbury: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Modernist Crisis of Racial (Un)Detection
  • Chapter Two: Intuitive Faculties and Racial Clairvoyance: Pauline Hopkins and the Emergence of Multiethnic Detective Fiction
  • Chapter Three: The Legacy of Winnifred Eaton: Ethnic Ambidexterity, Undetection as Guerilla Tactics, and the Emergence of Asian American Fiction
  • Chapter Four: “The Jaundiced Eye”: Charlie Chan and the Mysterious Disappearance of a Detective Hero
  • Bibliography

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