AIA Evening Lecture: An Overlooked Chapter in the History of Egyptology: W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey & Pauline Hopkins

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, Media Archive, United States on 2017-03-30 02:03Z by Steven

AIA Evening Lecture: An Overlooked Chapter in the History of Egyptology: W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey & Pauline Hopkins

Penn Museum
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
3260 South Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
Thursday, 2017-03-30, 18:00-19:00 EDT (Local Time)

Vanessa Davies, Visiting Research Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, speaks at this Archaeological Institute of America Philadelphia Society lecture. Three prominent black writers of the early 20th century—W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and Pauline Hopkins—incorporated ancient Egyptian culture into their writings. Attacking a common theory of their day, DuBois and Garvey used ancient Egyptian culture to argue for the humanity of black people, marshaling evidence of Egypt’s glorious past to inspire black people in the Americas with feelings of hope and self-worth. They also engaged with the contemporary work of prominent archaeologists, a fact lost in most histories of Egyptology. Hopkins’ novel Of One Blood places the reality of the racial discrimination and the racial “passing” of her day against the backdrop of ancient Egypt. Like Du Bois, she advocates for the education of black Americans, and like Garvey, she constructs an African safe haven for her novel’s protagonist. Understanding these three writers’ treatments of ancient Egypt, Davies argues, provides a richer perspective on the history of the discipline of Egyptology. Reception with opportunity to meet the speaker follows.

For more information, click here.

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Reaping Something New: African American Transformations of Victorian Literature

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2016-11-02 20:55Z by Steven

Reaping Something New: African American Transformations of Victorian Literature

Princeton University Press
November 2016
304 pages
6 x 9
12 line illus.
Hardcover ISBN: 9780691169453
eBook ISBN: 9781400883745

Daniel Hack, Associate Professor of English
University of Michigan

Tackling fraught but fascinating issues of cultural borrowing and appropriation, this groundbreaking book reveals that Victorian literature was put to use in African American literature and print culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in much more intricate, sustained, and imaginative ways than previously suspected. From reprinting and reframing “The Charge of the Light Brigade” in an antislavery newspaper to reimagining David Copperfield and Jane Eyre as mixed-race youths in the antebellum South, writers and editors transposed and transformed works by the leading British writers of the day to depict the lives of African Americans and advance their causes. Central figures in African American literary and intellectual history—including Frederick Douglass, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Charles Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins, and W.E.B. Du Bois—leveraged Victorian literature and this history of engagement itself to claim a distinctive voice and construct their own literary tradition.

In bringing these transatlantic transfigurations to light, this book also provides strikingly new perspectives on both canonical and little-read works by Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and other Victorian authors. The recovery of these works’ African American afterlives illuminates their formal practices and ideological commitments, and forces a reassessment of their cultural impact and political potential. Bridging the gap between African American and Victorian literary studies, Reaping Something New changes our understanding of both fields and rewrites an important chapter of literary history.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The African Americanization of Victorian Literature
  • 1. Close Reading Bleak House at a Distance
  • 2. (Re-) Racializing “The Charge of the Light Brigade”
  • 3. Affiliating with George Eliot
  • 4. Racial Mixing and Textual Remixing: Charles Chesnutt
  • 5. Cultural Transmission and Transgression: Pauline Hopkins
  • 6. The Citational Soul of Black Folk: W.E.B. Du Bois
  • Afterword After Du Bois
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Uncanny Compulsions: Automatism, Trauma, and Memory in Of One Blood

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2016-07-26 20:41Z by Steven

Uncanny Compulsions: Automatism, Trauma, and Memory in Of One Blood

Volume 39, Number 2, Spring 2016
pages 473-492
DOI: 10.1353/cal.2016.0076

Joshua Lam, Adjunct Professor, American Literature and Composition
State University of New York, Buffalo

In recent years, critics have begun to frame slavery in the United States in terms of haunting and trauma studies, directing us to consider the ways in which texts such as Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987) “disturb our sense of historical time” (Tuhkanen 335). Yet as Mikko Tuhkanen suggests in his analysis of temporality in Hagar’s Daughter (1901–1902), Pauline Hopkins may well have been one of the first African American novelists to situate slavery in terms of trauma’s ghostly presence. Indeed, Hopkins’s turn-of-the-century fictions are filled with references to spirits and specters, and are overwhelmingly concerned with the continued effects of slavery on the post-slavery nation. Scholars have been especially attentive to the prevalence of racial passing in Hopkins’s narratives, focusing on the ways in which her novels expose the imbrication of slavery and miscegenation in order to combat the ideology of racial purity. Yet few scholars have discussed the connection between Hopkins’s ghostly depictions of slavery and the discourse of hysteria in French psychiatry and American psychology, especially evident in her novel Of One Blood: Or, the Hidden Self (1902–1903). This is perhaps because the novel is singular in its use of hysterical illness, historically the provenance of European and Anglo-American white women, to frame the traumas propagated by the legacy of slavery upon black bodies. Indeed, while feminist critiques of the discourse of hysteria are now well known, scholars have been less attentive to the ways in which this discourse intersects with turn-of-the-century racial ideologies. Yet as Of One Blood demonstrates, the nascent discourse of hysteria, with its genesis in nineteenth-century mesmerism and spiritualism, provides an uncanny lens through which the complex legacies of slavery, miscegenation, and historical trauma can be witnessed.

Drawing upon the vast network of associations linking hysterical “automatism” to double consciousness, automatic writing, and hypnosis, Of One Blood evokes a variety of discourses—psychological, psychical, spiritualistic, historical, romantic, occult—to interrogate the trauma and historical violence perpetrated against black bodies and psyches. The novel focuses upon two African American characters, Reuel Briggs and Dianthe Lusk, who both pass as white and suffer from different hysterical illnesses: Reuel from a neurasthenic melancholy, and Dianthe from “nervous shock” and what Reuel (a doctor) calls “a dual mesmeric trance” (Hopkins, Of One Blood 472). More than merely adopting a medical discourse that primarily applied to Anglo-Americans, however, the novel uses “automatism” to represent conflicted acts of ambiguous agency and volition. Throughout the novel, Reuel and Dianthe are shocked, silenced, moved, mesmerized, and manipulated by others—cast as living automatons. Indeed, Hopkins’s novel presents a decisive understanding of the ways in which automatism—hysterical, mesmeric, or traumatic—signals suspended agency, and Of One Blood is inseparable from the connections between these discourses and the legacy of racial violence in the United States.

Hopkins’s endeavor hinges upon its incompletion, however, for Of One Blood equally participates in a project of racial uplift in which individual will is subordinated to the will of a God who has made us “all of one blood.” Adopting popular pan-African themes in what Kevin Gaines identifies as a key strategy of racial uplift ideology, Hopkins “sought to make civilization a racially inclusive, universal concept by calling attention to its origins in African society” (111). In this context, the hysterical illnesses of black characters might even indicate a gesture of inclusion (e.g., non-whites, too, are susceptible to the travails of “civilization”). This inclusive view of “civilization” is in tension, however, with the mute figure of the black automaton, whose silence amid the vocal protestations of turn-of-the-century uplift movements indicates Hopkins’s critical awareness of the continued effects of slavery upon the present. Rather than reifying the silence of Hopkins’s passive characters, the trope of the black automaton critically links compromised agency to the wider historical and discursive systems that produce it, suggesting that critique and skepticism are crucial components of even the most utopian endeavors. This tension…

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Pauline Hopkins and the Death of the Tragic Mulatta

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-08-11 20:17Z by Steven

Pauline Hopkins and the Death of the Tragic Mulatta

JoAnn Pavletich, Associate Professor of English
University of Houston, Houston, Texas

Volume 38, Number 3, Summer 2015
pages 647-663
DOI: 10.1353/cal.2015.0103

Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins, turn-of-the-century intellectual, editor of the Colored American Magazine, and author of essays, plays, short stories, and four complex novels written in the short span of five years is deservedly celebrated as a writer whose texts attempt to subvert racist social norms and encourage resistance. As Claudia Tate rightly claims, Hopkins’s first novel, Contending Forces, is a “manifesto on the value of fiction to social activism in black America” (170), and in the introduction to Contending Forces, Hopkins herself claims that “[i]n giving this little romance expression in print, I am not actuated by a desire for notoriety or for profit, but to do all that I can in an humble way to raise the stigma of degradation from my race” (13–14). These activist and didactic intentions are borne out in all four of her novels, which offer readers a parade of righteous and pure men and women who do not deserve the “stigma of degradation” and struggle to rise above it. Hopkins’s politically charged novels transmit their arguments through many genres, but most obviously and predominantly through the conventions of the period’s sentimental and domestic literature, which includes an almost obsessive preoccupation with feminine virtue, submissiveness, and piety. Significantly, each of Hopkins’s full-length novels employs these conventions in the context of a mixed-race female protagonist, resulting in a tension between the author’s stated purpose of promoting African American agency and the imperatives that structured sentimentalism. This tension is the focus this essay.

The significance of Hopkins’s mixed-race female protagonists has been a central topic in previous scholarship on her work. The figure of the mulatto, or the tragic mulatta, a stock figure in nineteenth-century sentimental literature, sprung out of that century’s confluence of abolitionist efforts and gender ideologies, emerging alongside and structured by notions of “true womanhood” in antebellum America. As many scholars have observed, this popular and influential trope functioned as an effective vehicle to explore relations between the races. According to Hazel Carby, one of Hopkins’s first and most sensitive critics, “[a]s a mediating device the mulatto had two narrative functions: it enabled an exploration of the social relations between the races … and it enabled an expression of the sexual relations between the races, since the mulatto was a product not only of proscribed consensual relations but of white sexual domination” (xxi–xxii). This literary exploration, however, took place in a specific and limited ideological context where the dominant literary form and the dominant gender ideology were both constituted by notions of “true womanhood.” Thus, while the mulatto functioned as a narrative device, it existed within narratives inextricably tied to the rhetoric of true womanhood.

Separate spheres ideology, later christened the Cult of True Womanhood by Barbara Welter, advanced a regime of purity, piety, submissiveness, and domesticity as the basis for female moral authority. Writers seeking to end slavery or ameliorate racial injustices depicted mixed-race women possessing these characteristics in order to represent Black women as capable of asserting moral authority and participating in civil society. The obvious dilemma presented by this construct, however, is what Shirley Samuels has termed the “double logic of power and powerlessness”: the contradiction between an assertion of female authority and the purity, piety, submissiveness, and domesticity that policed female subjectivity (4). That Hopkins created pure and submissive protagonists and engaged the conventional marriage plot of sentimental literature is not surprising. Given the way in which slavery stripped African American women of maternal and familial rights, Hopkins’s and others’ use of the “seemingly conventional trope of redemptive maternity [and marriage] becomes not so conventional” (McCullough 40). Moreover, as Ann duCille notes, for the black female intelligentsia of the post-Reconstruction era, “marriage was the calling card that announced … civility and democratic entitlement” (30). This democratic entitlement came with a price, however, and this article examines Hopkins’s innovative responses to working within the ideological constraints of her era, while simultaneously attempting to “faithfully portray the inmost thoughts and feelings of the Negro” (Contending Forces 14).

This essay’s analysis of the representational arc of Hopkins’s mixed-race female protagonists…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Blood Work: Imagining Race in American Literature, 1890-1940

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2015-03-29 20:12Z by Steven

Blood Work: Imagining Race in American Literature, 1890-1940

Louisiana State University Press
January 2015
240 pages
5.50 x 8.50 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780807157848

Shawn Salvant, Assistant Professor of English and African American
University of Connecticut

The invocation of blood—as both an image and a concept—has long been critical in the formation of American racism. In Blood Work, Shawn Salvant mines works from the American literary canon to explore the multitude of associations that race and blood held in the consciousness of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Americans.

Drawing upon race and metaphor theory, Salvant provides readings of four classic novels featuring themes of racial identity: Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894); Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood (1902); Frances Harper’s Iola Leroy (1892); and William Faulkner’s Light in August (1932). His expansive analysis of blood imagery uncovers far more than the merely biological connotations that dominate many studies of blood rhetoric: the racial discourses of blood in these novels encompass the anthropological and the legal, the violent and the religious. Penetrating and insightful, Blood Work illuminates the broad-ranging power of the blood metaphor to script distinctly American plots—real and literary—of racial identity.

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Making and Unmaking Whiteness in Early New South Fiction After the Civil War

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2014-12-21 01:40Z by Steven

Making and Unmaking Whiteness in Early New South Fiction After the Civil War

77 pages (21,670 words)
eBook ISBN: 9781476497068

Peter Schmidt, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English Literature
Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

This essay—a work of literary criticism and critical race studies written to be accessible to non-specialists—examines how popular fiction contributed to and contested new forms of white racial dominance, collectively known as Jim Crow or the “color-line,” in the U.S. in the 1880s and after. I focus in particular on the cultural work undertaken by the “command performance” scene in these texts, in which a black person was asked to tell a story or otherwise give a performance that was supposed to affirm the affection and respect “good” blacks held for whites. Yet what begins to emerge again and again in such “command performance” scenes, even sometimes against the author’s efforts to downplay them, are suggestions of coercion, duplicity, and instability in power hierarchies and racial identities. White supremacy is demonstrably not a given here; it is imperfectly produced, or at least reaffirmed under stress, in a way that locally conditions any power that whiteness may claim. And if a white person’s sense of entitlement was so dependent upon the performance of another, to what degree could such a sense of self be threatened or even unmade in such encounters?

Making and Unmaking Whiteness surveys a broad range of black and white authors but gives special attention to the fictions of four—Joel Chandler Harris, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Kate Chopin, and Pauline Hopkins—who in the early Jim Crow era both dissected the contradictions in white supremacy and imagined alternatives.

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The Limits of Literary Realism: Of One Blood’s Post-Racial Fantasy by Pauline Hopkins

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2013-05-20 17:31Z by Steven

The Limits of Literary Realism: Of One Blood’s Post-Racial Fantasy by Pauline Hopkins

Volume 36, Number 1, Winter 2013
pages 158-177
DOI: 10.1353/cal.2013.0049

Melissa Asher Daniels, Assistant Professor of English
University of Alabama, Birmingham

Fiction is of great value to any people as a preserver of manners and customs—€”religious, political and social. It is a record of growth and development from generation to generation. No one will do this for us; we must ourselves develop the men and women who will faithfully portray the inmost thoughts and feelings of the Negro with all the fire and romance which lie dormant in our history, and, as yet, unrecognized by writers of the Anglo-Saxon race.

Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces

In the preface to her first novel, an excerpt of which appears above, Pauline Hopkins offers a critical assessment of the cultural stakes of fiction. According to the prolific writer and editor, fiction and history should serve mutual ends: the uplifting of the race. Pointing to the artistic and archival merits of both disciplines, Hopkins implores her fellow African Americans to take up the pen. As Hopkins seems to suggest, fiction’s primary power lies in its pedagogical potential. Fiction has the ability to educate literate African Americans about their rich and painful past, and this past can in turn enrich literary production, as it is replete with material that might easily be adapted for the sake of artistic development and political agitation. Addressing African Americans specifically, Hopkins indicates that it is the responsibility of the race to produce the writers who will narrate this past “with all the fire and romance” that it deserves. Calling for a fiction of mimetic detail and romantic affect, Hopkins echoes white writer Albion Tourgée’s claim, made some several years before, that realism alone cannot convey “the grand truth which makes up the continued story of every life” (411).

In Of One Blood; or, the Hidden Self (1902-1903), Hopkins advances her views on the limitations of literary realism and puts her ideas about the aesthetic virtues of romantic fiction into practice. Published serially in the Colored American Magazine, the episodic novel blends realism with romance to explore issues of ancestry, miscegenation, and tangled kinship. In this respect, the novel is generically and thematically akin to much of nineteenth-century African American writing. But in some fundamental ways, Of One Blood is one of the most intricate, if not bewildering texts. Indeed, critics often describe it as “unruly”—taking their cue from the title of an anthology edited by John Cullen Gruesser. To be sure, the novel draws from several romantic traditions—the gothic, adventure, utopian genres—€”and adopts a bifurcated plot line—one American, one African—€”that splits the novel into two separate narratives. The text begins in America, focusing on Reuel’s racial passing, and culminates in Africa with his discovery of a hidden city that doubles as a metaphor for his hidden identity. Together, both the American and African sequences form a “realistic” and “romantic” meditation on blood, genealogy, and fantasies of racial difference circulating in the United States imaginary during the nadir.

Critics, however, have a tendency to overlook the novel’s realism or to under assess its romantic value. Some, following Eric Sundquist’s cue, read the book as “patently escapist” (569); while others, such as Adenike Marie Davidson and Yogita Goyal, more recently, situate it within a constellation of black nationalist and Pan-Africanist discourses advocating emigrationism. My trouble with these readings is twofold: first, critical assessments that describe the novel as “escapist” come off sounding slightly condemnatory; such readings carry a pejorative connotation that seem to suggest that the novel evades pressing political concerns confronting black Americans at the turn of the century or that it disavows literary realism (which it does not); second, analyses that take the novel’s “back to Africa” plot at face value are too literal, neglecting the novel’s fantastic and allegorical qualities in the service of advancing emigrationist readings. And while the novel is clearly in conversation with such discourses, it is more interested in promoting black consciousness and cultural distinctiveness than in advocating actual repatriation. An imaginative take on the problem of American racism,…

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Dividing Lines: Class Anxiety and Postbellum Black Fiction

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2013-02-24 22:48Z by Steven

Dividing Lines: Class Anxiety and Postbellum Black Fiction

University of Michigan Press
232 pages
6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-472-11861-8
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-472-02890-0

Andreá N. Williams, Associate Professor of English
Ohio State University

Photograph of John and Lugenia Burns Hope and family, undated, Atlanta University Photographs—Individuals, Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library
(Pictured from left to right: Dr. John Hope, Edward Hope, John Hope, II, and and Lugenia Burns Hope)

New insights on the intersection of race and class in black fiction from the 1880s to 1900s

Dividing Lines is one of the most extensive studies of class in nineteenth-century African American literature. Clear and engaging, this book unveils how black fiction writers represented the uneasy relationship between class differences, racial solidarity, and the quest for civil rights in black communities.

By portraying complex, highly stratified communities with a growing black middle class, these authors dispelled popular notions that black Americans were uniformly poor or uncivilized. But even as the writers highlighted middle-class achievement, they worried over whether class distinctions would help or sabotage collective black protest against racial prejudice. Andreá N. Williams argues that the signs of class anxiety are embedded in postbellum fiction: from the verbal stammer or prim speech of class-conscious characters to fissures in the fiction’s form. In these telling moments, authors innovatively dared to address the sensitive topic of class differences—a topic inextricably related to American civil rights and social opportunity.

Williams delves into the familiar and lesser-known works of Frances E. W. Harper, Pauline Hopkins, Charles W. Chesnutt, Sutton Griggs, and Paul Laurence Dunbar, showing how these texts mediate class through discussions of labor, moral respectability, ancestry, spatial boundaries, and skin complexion. Dividing Lines also draws on reader responses—from book reviews, editorials, and letters—to show how the class anxiety expressed in African American fiction directly sparked reader concerns over the status of black Americans in the U.S. social order. Weaving literary history with compelling textual analyses, this study yields new insights about the intersection of race and class in black novels and short stories from the 1880s to 1900s.


  • Introduction: Contending Classes, Dividing Lines
  • 1. The Language of Class: Taxonomy and Respectability in Frances E. W. Harper’s Trial and Triumph and Iola Leroy
  • 2. Working through Class: The Black Body, Labor, and Leisure in Sutton Griggs’s Overshadowed
  • 3. Mapping Class Difference: Space and Social Mobility in Paul L. Dunbar’s Short Fiction
  • 4. Blood and the Mark of Class: Pauline Hopkins’s Genealogies of Status
  • 5. Classing the Color Line: Class-Passing, Antiracism, and Charles W. Chesnutt
  • Epilogue: Beyond the Talented Tenth
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2012-09-23 02:44Z by Steven

The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930

Rutgers University Press
January 2013
240 pages
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8135-5462-4
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-5463-1
eBook ISBN: 978-0-8135-5464-8

Jolie A. Sheffer, Associate Professor, English and American Culture Studies
Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio

In the United States miscegenation is not merely a subject of literature and popular culture. It is in many ways the foundation of contemporary imaginary community. The Romance of Race examines the role of minority women writers and reformers in the creation of our modern American multiculturalism.

The national identity of the United States was transformed between 1880 and 1930 due to mass immigration, imperial expansion, the rise of Jim Crow, and the beginning of the suffrage movement. A generation of women writers and reformers—particularly women of color—contributed to these debates by imagining new national narratives that put minorities at the center of American identity. Jane Addams, Pauline Hopkins, Onoto Watanna (Winnifred Eaton), María Cristina Mena, and Mourning Dove (Christine Quintasket) embraced the images of the United States—and increasingly the world—as an interracial nuclear family. They also reframed public debates through narratives depicting interracial encounters as longstanding, unacknowledged liaisons between white men and racialized women that produced an incestuous, mixed-race nation.

By mobilizing the sexual taboos of incest and miscegenation, these women writers created political allegories of kinship and community. Through their criticisms of the nation’s history of exploitation and colonization, they also imagined a more inclusive future. As Jolie A. Sheffer identifies the contemporary template for American multiculturalism in the works of turn-of-the century minority writers, she uncovers a much more radical history than has previously been considered.

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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

Purchase the dissertation here.

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