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AfriGeneas World Research Forum

The alien in our nation:...

The alien in our nation: Complicating issues of "passing" and miscegenation in the American narrative

Kosnik, Kristin Costello. Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2001. Section 0054, Part 0591 220 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- New York: Columbia University; 2001. Publication Number: AAT 3005745.

Abstract (Summary)
This study examines the complexity of racial "passing" beyond the presumed arithmetic of the black-white dualism of modern America. Encompassing works from the mid-nineteenth century through contemporary American literature, I argue that racial "passing" is as much a negotiation of American citizenship for black and mixed race Americans as it is a secret attempt to cross America's "color-line" from black to white.

Chapter 1 sets the stage for the project with a discussion of Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin , specifically the scene in which light-skinned black George Harris decides to leave the United States to establish a home in Africa rather than "to pass for an American." Harris's statement of resistance to American identity, notably using the term "passing," significantly shifts the assumption of "passing" in American culture from implying "a black person who passes for white" to what The Alien in Our Nation argues is the more complex and explosive notion of a black person or person of mixed race who refuses to pass for American.

All of the texts that I address in this project offer provocative responses to this notion of refusing to pass for American .

Chapter 2 explores Joe Christmas's uncertain racial origins in William Faulkner's 1932 novel Light in August , where Christmas's swapping of shoes with a black woman becomes symbolic of his own alienated and emasculated place as an ambiguously raced American.

Chapter 3 considers the question of "passing" in Toni Morrison's 1981 novel Tar Baby and 1998 novel Paradise, both works in which the black male's assertion of his racial authenticity verges on committing the very "crime" of "passing for white" against which the black male defines his identity as an American.

Chapter 4 examines the complexities of American identity through "passing"--for black as well as white--in Ralph Ellison's posthumously published 1999 novel Juneteenth , where a light-skinned black boy's reinvention of himself as a white racist Senator reveals Americanness as its own complex form of masquerade.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: O'Meally, Robert G.
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Keyword(s): Alien, Miscegenation, Narrative, Racial passing, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Faulkner, William, Morrison, Toni, Ellison, Ralph
Source: DAI-A 62/02, p. 574, Aug 2001
Source type: Dissertation
Subjects: American literature, African Americans
Publication Number: AAT 3005745
ISBN: 9780493152424


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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