Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture

Posted in Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United Kingdom, Women on 2009-10-12 23:07Z by Steven

Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture

Duke University Press
272 pages
13 b&w photographs
Cloth ISBN: 0-8223-2105-X, ISBN13: 978-0-8223-2105-7
Paperback ISBN: 0-8223-2120-3, ISBN13 978-0-8223-2120-0

Jennifer DeVere Brody, Professor, African and African American Studies
Duke University

Using black feminist theory and African American studies to read Victorian culture, Impossible Purities looks at the construction of “Englishness” as white, masculine, and pure and “Americanness” as black, feminine, and impure. Brody’s readings of Victorian novels, plays, paintings, and science fiction reveal the impossibility of purity and the inevitability of hybridity in representations of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and race. She amasses a considerable amount of evidence to show that Victorian culture was bound inextricably to various forms and figures of blackness.

Opening with a reading of Daniel Defoe’s “A True-Born Englishman,” which posits the mixed origins of English identity, Brody goes on to analyze mulattas typified by Rhoda Swartz in William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, whose mixed-race status reveals the “unseemly origins of English imperial power.” Examining Victorian stage productions from blackface minstrel shows to performances of The Octoroon and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she explains how such productions depended upon feminized, “black” figures in order to reproduce Englishmen as masculine white subjects. She also discusses H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau in the context of debates about the “new woman,” slavery, and fears of the monstrous degeneration of English gentleman. Impossible Purities concludes with a discussion of Bram Stoker’s novella, “The Lair of the White Worm,” which brings together the book’s concerns with changing racial representations on both sides of the Atlantic.

This book will be of interest to scholars in Victorian studies, literary theory, African American studies, and cultural criticism.

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The Specter of Sex: Gendered Foundations of Racial Formation in the United States

Posted in Books, Europe, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2009-09-02 01:33Z by Steven

The Specter of Sex: Gendered Foundations of Racial Formation in the United States

State University of New York (SUNY) Press
August 2009
323 pages
Hardcover ISBN13: 978-1-4384-2753-9
Paperback ISBN13: 978-1-4384-2754-6

Sally L. Kitch, Distinguished Professor of Women and Gender Studies
Arizona State University

Genealogy of the formation of race and gender hierarchies in the U.S.

Theories of intersectionality have fundamentally transformed how feminists and critical race scholars understand the relationship between race and gender, but are often limited in their focus on contemporary experiences of interlocking oppressions. In The Specter of Sex, Sally L. Kitch explores the “backstory” of intersectionality theory—the historical formation of the racial and gendered hierarchies that continue to structure U.S. culture today. Kitch uses a genealogical approach to explore how a world already divided by gender ideology became one simultaneously obsessed with judgmental ideas about race, starting in Europe and the English colonies in the late seventeenth century. Through an examination of religious, political, and scientific narratives, public policies and testimonies, laws, court cases, and newspaper accounts, The Specter of Sex provides a rare comparative study of the racial formation of five groups—American Indians, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and European whites—and reveals gendered patterns that have served white racial dominance and repeated themselves with variations over a two-hundred-year period.

“This gracefully written synthesis of existing historical scholarship advances a position that both asserts distinction between ‘race’ and ‘gender’ as categories and privileges the gendered process of racial formation as key to understanding power and hierarchy in the United States. It is perfect for the classroom and will serve as a guide for theorists who need grounding in history.

Table Of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The “Purloined Letter” of Gendered Race
  • Part I: Roots As the Twig is Bent
    • 1. “Women are a Huge Natural Calamity”: The Roots of Western Gender Ideology
    • 2. The First Races in Society: Gendered Roots of Race Formation
    • 3. Gendered Racial Institutions: World Slavery and Nationhood
    • Conclusion: From Gender to Race
  • Part II: Bodies Whose Too, Too Solid Flesh?
    • 4. The American “Body Shop”: Gendered Racial Formation in the Colonies and New Republic
    • 5. Enslaved Bodies and Gendered Race
    • 6. Sexual Projection and Race: Science, Politics, and Lust
    • Conclusion: Embodying Race
  • Part III: Blood “Off Women Com Owre Manhed”
    • 7. Defining, Measuring, and Ranking Racial Blood: The Ungendered Surface
    • 8. Hardly Gender Neutral
    • 9. Gendered Anti-Miscegenation: Laws and Their Interpretation
    • 10. Preserving White Racial Blood: Rape Accusations and Motherhood
    • Conclusion: Miscegenation as Racial Reconciliation?
  • Part IV: Citizenship “My Folks Fought for This Country”
    • 11. What is Citizenship?: Gender and Race
    • 12. Engendering Citizenship: Dependency and Sex
    • 13. “No Can Do” Men and Their Others: Dependency and Inappropriate Gender
    • 14. Mixed Race, Suspect Gender: Both White and . . . Whatever
    • Conclusion: Homosexual Citizenship: A Gendered Racial Oxymoron
  • Part V: Implications Patterns for a New Bridge
    • 15. Implications for Feminist Theories of Racial Difference and Antisubordination Politics
    • 16. Gender Implications for Theories of Racial Formation
  • Conclusion: Interdependence
  • Notes
  • Index
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