The Human Stain

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels on 2011-06-24 05:10Z by Steven

The Human Stain

Random House
May 2000
384 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-375-72634-7

Philip Roth

It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town, an aging classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would have astonished even his most virulent accuser.

Coleman Silk has a secret, one which has been kept for fifty years from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman. It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk’s secret and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled. And to understand also how Silk’s astonishing private history is, in the words of The Wall Street Journal, “magnificently” interwoven with “the larger public history of modern America.”

Read an excerpt here.

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Passing into the present: Contemporary American Fiction of Racial and Gender Passing

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2011-06-24 04:58Z by Steven

Passing into the present: Contemporary American Fiction of Racial and Gender Passing

Manchester University Press
256 pages
216 x 138mm
Hardback ISBN: 9780719082290

Sinéad Moynihan, Senior Lecturer in English
University of Exeter

  • Discusses wider themes including class, gender, sexuality, and religious identity
  • Focuses on Philip Roth’s ‘The Human Stain‘, Louise Eridich’s ‘Tracks’ Percival Everett’s ‘Erasure’ and Paul Beatty’s ‘The White Boy Shuffle
  • Looks at a wide rage of contemporary writers that represent the theme of gender and racial passing

This book is the first full-length study of contemporary American fiction of ‘passing’. Its takes as its point of departure the return of racial and gender passing in the 1990s in order to make claims about wider trends in contemporary American fiction.

The book accounts for the return of tropes of passing in fiction by Philip Roth, Percival Everett, Louise Erdrich, Danzy Senna, Jeffrey Eugenides and Paul Beatty. These writers are attracted to the trope because passing narratives have always foregrounded the notion of textuality in relation to the (il)legibility of black subjects passing as white. The central argument of this book, then, is that contemporary narratives of passing are concerned with articulating and unpacking an analogy between passing and authorship.

Aimed at students and researchers, it promises to inaugurate dialogue on the relationships between identity, postmodernism and authorship in contemporary American fiction.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Introduction: ‘Passing’ into the present: passing narratives then and now
  • 2. Living parchments, human documents: passing, racial identity and the literary marketplace
  • 3. The way of the cross(-dresser): Catholicism, gender and race in two novels by Louise Erdrich
  • 4. (W)Rites-of-passing: shifting racial and gender identities in Caucasia and Middlesex
  • 5. Bodies / texts: passing and writing in The White Boy Shuffle and The Human Stain
  • 6. Conclusion: ‘Passing’ fads?: recent controversies of authenticity and authorship
  • Bibliography
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Impurely Raced // Purely Erased: Toward a Rhetorical Theory of (Bi)Racial Passing

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2011-05-21 02:31Z by Steven

Impurely Raced // Purely Erased: Toward a Rhetorical Theory of (Bi)Racial Passing

University of Southern California
May 2009
348 pages

Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Visiting Scholar
Brown University

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 (COMMUNICATION)

This dissertation develops a theory about the interrelations between mixed race identification and passing as they pertain to the field of rhetoric and to United States slavery and segregation settings. I introduce the concept of (bi)racial passing to argue that passing is a form of rhetoric that identifies and represents passers intersectionally via synecdoche. In Chapter One I introduce the rhetorical, cultural, and conceptual significances of passing based on a review of the literature. I introduce the central argument of the project by proposing a theory of (bi)racial passing that considers the problems and possibilities of mixed race representation and mobility as a bridge between Platonic episteme and Sophistic doxa as well as between the material and symbolic components of biracial categorization. Chapter Two considers the historical narrative of Ellen Craft at the intersection of synecdoche and irony to highlight and transgress real and imagined borders that stretch beyond a simple consideration of race. Taking up the issue of appropriation through a detailed critique of the Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson, my third chapter considers passing as an antecedent form of identity theft and as a form of resistance. In contrast to the cases examined in these chapters, my fourth chapter explores Harper’s Iola Leroy, as a fictional account of passing that ties synecdoche to eloquence, articulating the tension between the threat of passing contained in the Plessy ruling and its relation to contemporary attempts at measuring discrimination at the intersection of race, class, and gender.

My fifth chapter takes a turn by exploring the literary and cinematic versions of The Human Stain, as contemporary narratives of passing based on tragedy and synecdoche in the context of minstrel performance and Jim and Jane Crow segregation. My last chapter fleshes out the theory introduced in the first, working toward a theory of (bi)racial passing that rethinks inadequate dichotomies of episteme vs. doxa as well as white vs. black. Then, blending the critical race theory of intersectionality with rhetorical personae I explain the significances of synecdoche, metonymy, irony, appropriation, eloquence, and tragedy in the various instances of passing explored. At a theoretical level, I rethink the inadequate dichotomies of episteme vs. doxa as well as white vs. black. I conclude with a rhetorical theory of passing based on the fourth persona and six original passwords that present opportunities for future research.


  • Epigraph
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Chapter One: Running Along the Color Line: Racial Passing and the Problem of Mixed Race Identity
  • Chapter One References
  • Chapter Two: The “Craft” of Passing: Rhetorical Irony, Intersectionality and the Case of Ellen Craft
  • Chapter Two References
  • Chapter Three: “Membership Has Its Privileges:” Plessy’s Passing and the Threat of Identity Theft
  • Chapter Three References
  • Chapter Four: “She Was Above All Sincere:” (Bi)racial Passing and Rhetorical Eloquence in Iola Leroy
  • Chapter Four References
  • Chapter Five: “A Crow that Doesn’t Know How to Be a Crow:” Reading The Human Stain and Racial Passing from Text to Film
  • Chapter Five References
  • Chapter Six: Things Said in Passing: Toward a Rhetorical: Theory of (Bi)Racial Passing
  • Chapter Six References
  • Bibliography


  • Figure 1: Rev. Rafael Matos Sr
  • Figure 2: “The New Eve”
  • Figure 3: Dramatic Theater of Passing
  • Figure 4: Ellen Craft in Plain Clothes
  • Figure 5: Ellen Craft as Mr. Johnson
  • Figure 6: D. F. Desdunes
  • Figure 7: Homer A. Plessy
  • Figure 8: Hopkins as Elder Silk
  • Figure 9: Miller as Younger Silk
  • Figure 10: Rhetorical Intersections of Passing
  • Figure 11: Dramatic Theater of Passing as Rhetorical and Intersectional
  • Figure 12: Layers of Meaning: The Dramatic and Tropological Roots of (Bi)racial Passing
  • Figure 13: Neoclassical Elements of Passing
  • Figure 14: The Truths of (Bi)racial Passing
  • Figure 15: (Bi)racial Passing as Material and Symbolic

Read the entire dissertation here.

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