Read e-book online Crossing the Line: Racial Passing in Twentieth-Century U.S. PDF

By Gayle Wald

ISBN-10: 0822324792

ISBN-13: 9780822324799

ISBN-10: 0822380927

ISBN-13: 9780822380924

As W. E. B. DuBois famously prophesied within the Souls of Black folks, the fiction of the colour line has been of pressing obstacle in defining a definite twentieth-century U.S. racial ''order.'' but the very arbitrariness of this line additionally supplies upward push to possibilities for racial ''passing,'' a convention wherein matters acceptable the phrases of racial discourse. To erode race's authority, Gayle Wald argues, we needs to know the way race defines and but fails to symbolize identification. She therefore makes use of cultural narratives of passing to light up either the contradictions of race and the deployment of such contradictions for numerous wishes, pursuits, and needs.

Wald starts her interpreting of twentieth-century passing narratives via examining works via African American writers James Weldon Johnson, Jessie Fauset, and Nella Larsen, displaying how they use the ''passing plot'' to discover the negotiation of id, corporation, and freedom in the context in their protagonists' limited offerings. She then examines the 1946 autobiography quite the Blues, which info the transformation of Milton Mesirow, middle-class son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, into Mezz Mezzrow, jazz musician and self-described ''voluntary Negro.'' Turning to the 1949 movies Pinky and

Lost limitations, which think African American citizenship inside class-specific protocols of race and gender, she interrogates the complex illustration of racial passing in a visible medium. Her research of ''post-passing'' testimonials in postwar African American magazines, which strove to foster black consumerism whereas developing ''positive'' photos of black success and affluence within the postwar years, makes a speciality of missed texts in the information of black pop culture. ultimately, after a glance at liberal contradictions of John Howard Griffin's 1961 auto-ethnography Black Like Me, Wald concludes with an epilogue that considers the assumption of passing within the context of the hot discourse of ''color blindness.''

Wald's research of the ethical, political, and theoretical dimensions of racial passing makes Crossing the road vital examining as we process the twenty-first century. Her attractive and dynamic e-book will be of specific curiosity to students of yankee reports, African American reports, cultural stories, and literary feedback.

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Extra info for Crossing the Line: Racial Passing in Twentieth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture

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I additionally interrogate the assumptions that underlie the metaphor and the practice of color ‘‘blindness,’’ arguing that neither adequately accounts for the exigencies of racial ideology. ’’ Notwithstanding the complicated history of the color line, particularly in the contemporary era, Senna’s novel speaks to the importance of ongoing and careful negotiation of concepts of race, racial identity, and racial definition. S. 43 At very least, that is, we need to practice a self-consciousness in the ways we use the concept of race and in the methods we develop to read race in cultural production, lest the practice of putting race in quotation marks as a sign of anti-essentialist critique become rhetorical.

More important, through the spectacle of the lynching the narrator himself is violently confronted with the contradiction of his own noncitizenship in a country that promises to be ‘‘the great example of democracy to the world’’ (). In so doing, it therefore also unsettles the ex-colored man’s fantasy that national identity affords him protection from racist violence, which is paradoxically committed in the name of national identity and authenticity. In spectacular fashion it demonstrates the predication of the national narrative on such secular rituals of racial ‘‘purification’’—rituals that symbolically transform the African American male body (in this case) into a ‘‘beastly’’ presence that must be expelled.

In particular, the following chapters demonstrate how the structurally disempowered position of the racially defined subject with respect to definitions of race is evidenced in the ‘‘feminization’’ of black passing narratives, while the social entitlement assumed by ‘‘raceless’’ white subjects over these same boundaries is reflected in the coding of ‘‘white’’ passing as a masculinized (and often masculinist) enterprise. I find such gendering of the narrative representation of passing most frequently expressed through tropes of domesticity and/or homecoming that take on shifting significance within heterogeneous social and historical contexts, but that generally cluster along lines of race.

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Crossing the Line: Racial Passing in Twentieth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture by Gayle Wald


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Categories: African American Studies