Racial Passing in Twenty-First Century Literature: Complicating Color in the African-American Fin-de-Siècle Novel

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2019-08-31 19:51Z by Steven

Racial Passing in Twenty-First Century Literature: Complicating Color in the African-American Fin-de-Siècle Novel

Indiana University of Pennsylvania
December 2014

Pamela S. Richardson, Chief of Staff & Assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives
Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, Florida

A Dissertation Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies and Research in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy

This dissertation focuses on how racial passing can be a critical strategy for defining and validating a nuanced conceptualization of blackness in twenty-first century African-American Literature. Specifically in the works of Sapphire, Danzy Senna, and Colson Whitehead, the historical moment of passing yet endures into the future. Scholars have thoroughly analyzed racial passing in African American literature according to a standard definition of narratives written primarily in the early twentieth-century. These texts are steeped in sentimentality and tragedy about the abandonment of the black body and social identity. However, the popularity of post-racial discourse at the turn of the twenty-first century marks a shift in racial passing as a millennial concept, creating a space for the expansion of what constitutes a passing narrative. These millennial narratives address and parallel the changing social-political American racial climate. This research is an attempt to trace the shifts of the racial passing construct that allow for questions of representation, resistance, agency, and power relative to race and race relations in an ever increasingly, but arguably, post-racial society. Furthermore, passing narratives at the turn of the century critique the importance of maintaining fixed racial identities in order to empower the individual through redefining, reconnecting, and reclaiming one’s blackness.

Read the introduction here.

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The Agonies Of “Passing” – Considering the Murder Mystery ‘Sapphire’

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Passing, United Kingdom, Videos on 2016-06-12 01:06Z by Steven

The Agonies Of “Passing” – Considering the Murder Mystery ‘Sapphire’

July 2014


The Agonies Of “Passing” – Considering the Murder Mystery ‘Sapphire

Starting in the late 1940’s, and continuing through to the end of the ‘50’s, Hollywood seemed to be obsessed with the concept of “passing” –light skinned black people passing for white. Though it wasn’t new, of course, somehow it caught Tinseltown’s attention and a slew of films were made, almost all them dealing with women in particular, who passed for white and the tragedies and sorrow that they encountered.

Elia Kazan’sPinky,” “Lost Boundaries,” “Imitation Of Life,” “Band of Angels,” “The Night of the Quarter Moon,” “I Passed for White,” and the would-be “Gone with the Wind” rip-off, “Raintree County,” with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, which, technically may not be a “passing” movie, though it deals with a pre-Civil war, antebellum Southern belle (Taylor), who goes slowly insane because she believes her real mother was a slave, who was her father’s lover (turns out that she wasn’t, but Taylor dies anyway for all her grief).

But, for my money, the real doozy of the passing-for-white films wasn’t from Hollywood, but came instead from the U.K.

I’m referring to the 1959 British mystery detective film “Sapphire,” directed by Basil Dearden, who specialized, during the late 50′s and 60′s, in films with controversial subject matter, such as his 1961 film “Victim,” which dealt with a successful and closeted gay barrister who is being blackmailed, and fights back against his tormentors. It is credited for being the first movie in which the word “homosexual” was actually used in a film.

But “Sapphire” is in another realm altogether…

Read the entire review here. Watch the entire film, Sapphire here.

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