A Genetic Fallacy: Monstrous Allegories of Mixed-Race in Gothic and Contemporary Literature

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2016-06-14 20:25Z by Steven

A Genetic Fallacy: Monstrous Allegories of Mixed-Race in Gothic and Contemporary Literature

University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
119 pages

Rylan Spenrath

A Thesis Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies of the University of Lethbridge in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts

My thesis examines the similar intersections of hybridity that are embodied in both representations of monstrosity and the politics surrounding people of mixed-race. Drawing from Robert J.C. Young’s text Colonial Desire, I argue that monstrosity and mixed-race present diachronically parallel embodiments of hybridity. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen views monsters as “disturbing hybrids whose externally incoherent bodies resist attempts to include them in any systematic structuration” (loc 226); however, monsters and multiracial people do not inherently disturb category. Gothic representation of monstrosity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde confirms that hybridity can be exploited in order to strengthen colonial categories of Self and Other. Postmodern monstrosity in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and Octavia Butler’s Imago, complicate ostensibly rigid categories of identity only for the Gothic binary to resurface beneath the masks of superheroes and supervillains.

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Figures
  • Introduction: The Intersection of Hybridity, Multiculturalism, and Monstrosity
  • Chapter One: Hybridity Unsettled: Gothic Monstrosity and the Uncanny Valley
  • Chapter Two: Distinctly Ambivalent: Category Crisis and the Postmodern Monster
  • Chapter Three: Monster Masks: Monstrosity in the Superhuman Genre
  • Conclusion
  • References

Read the entire thesis here.

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Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race, 2nd Edition

Posted in Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2010-08-26 04:42Z by Steven

Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race, 2nd Edition

248 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-415-31183-0

Robert J. C. Young, Silver Professor of English and Comparative Literature
New York University

As one of the most important books in post-colonial studies, this book argues that contemporary theories on post-colonialism and ethnicity are disturbingly close to the colonial discourse of the nineteenth century.

Rather than marking ourselves off from patterns of thought which characterized Victorian racial theory, we show remarkable complicity with historical ways of viewing ‘the other’, both sexually and racially. ‘Englishness’, Young suggests, has been less fixed and stable than uncertain, fissured with difference and a desire for otherness.

In this updated new edition, the author revisits the ideas set out in the book in light of recent developments in post-colonial theory, including projects influenced by his own work. With this fresh intervention, Robert Young is set once again to re-energize his field and open new channels of debate.

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Light in August in Light of Foucault: Reexamining the Biracial Experience

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2009-11-10 01:26Z by Steven

Light in August in Light of Foucault: Reexamining the Biracial Experience

Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory
Volume 64, Number 4, Winter 2008
pages 49-68
E-ISSN: 1558-9595
Print ISSN: 0004-1610
DOI: 10.1353/arq.0.0020

Bethany L. Lam

Comparatively little current criticism of Foucauldian racial theory exists, primarily because [Michel] Foucault never formulated a full-blown racial theory. Some critics, such as Robert J.C. Young and Ann Laura Stoler, have successfully used Foucauldian principles to inform their views of race studies. Foucault himself said little directly pertaining to race studies, admits Young: “Foucault had a lot to say about power, but he was curiously circumspect about the ways in which it has operated in the arenas of race and colonialism. His virtual silence on these issues is striking” (57).  This silence does not deter Young and a few other critics from extrapolating Foucauldian thought into various areas of race studies. Young focuses his discussion on racism; he evaluates Foucauldian influence on colonial studies, particularly on Edward Said’s Orientalism, before applying Foucauldian commentary on ethnology, power, and sexuality to a theory of racism. Like Young, Ann Laura Stoler relies heavily on Foucault’s History of Sexuality in her applications of Foucault to colonial studies. Stoler has authored two of the more extensive explorations of Foucauldian thought as it pertains to race studies, Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things and Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule.  Both of these works deal with race primarily in the context of sexuality in colonialism, neglecting the larger picture of Foucault and racial identity.

One element that has been noticeably lacking in the theory thus far is a thorough application of Foucault to the study of multiracialism. But Foucault has much insight to offer in explaining the attitudes of society towards the multiracial, the attitudes of the multiracial towards himself, and the resulting interaction between society and individual. The viability and value of these explanations become evident when applied to literary characters and their social (albeit fictional) contexts. Foucault deepens our understanding of the multiracial in society, showing not just how the individual and society affect each other, but—more importantly—why they view and treat each other as they do; merging his theory with literary criticism sheds new light on the tensions between multiracial characters, such as Faulkner’s Joe Christmas, and their societies, moving our explanations beyond mere “identity confusion” to the underlying causes of the confusion.

Before applying Foucault directly to Faulkner, let us spend several moments tracing the outlines of a Foucauldian theory of multiracialism. To understand society’s perception of multiracialism, we must begin with the racial hierarchy, one of the many ways by which society orders subjects. In order to do this effectively, we should first look at Foucauldian thought regarding power, knowledge, and discourse. Foucault describes discourse as “an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumbling-block, a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy. Discourse transmits and produces power; it reinforces it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart it” (History 101). “It is in discourse,” he states, “that power and knowledge are joined together” (100). Discourse is both product and producer of power, the place where power and knowledge intersect.

In a Foucauldian paradigm, one might view race as a visual discourse. Its power emanates first of all from the prevalence and potency of race-based societal stereotypes. These racial stereotypes act as self-ful-filling prophecies, continually producing and reproducing themselves. The stereotypes lead to a second source of power in the discourse of race: the race-based ordering of society. These stereotypes and ordering feed off the knowledge aspect of racial discourse, knowledge based both on visual perception of skin color and the expectations created by the stereotypes themselves. Society uses its knowledge to assign a place in the racial hierarchy to each person. Race, then, becomes an indicator of societal expectation for a person, to which that person more or less conforms.

Multiracialism problematizes this visual discourse through its nonconformity, both to the visual code and to traditional racial categories. A mixed-race individual is the result of an ancestral transgression of the racial order, a transgression either of the parents or of a more…

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