Abstract

The leading American comic papers and illustrated literary magazines of James's era tended to represent ethnicity as an unresolvable paradox: the ethnic identity of the Irishman, the Jew, the Indian, or the African-American was easily conveyed by an exaggerated physical stigma, a permanent mark that denoted a set of culturally agreed upon social pathologies, such as intemperance, avarice, savagery, or laziness. Yet the very form of ethnic caricature—its exaggerated emphasis on the subject's purported deviation from physical and social norms—made such markers ridiculous and thus inherently unstable, such that ethnic identities were often represented as arbitrarily interchangeable. In this essay I argue that James's engagement with the discourse of American ethnic caricature runs far deeper than his dismissive comments about "the slangy illustrated magazines" might lead us to believe. In fact, James's representation of ethnicity in The Golden Bowl and elsewhere is surprisingly in tune with the popular discourse of ethnic caricature in the "coon era."

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6555
Print ISSN
0273-0340
Pages
pp. 130-146
Launched on MUSE
2005-05-18
Open Access
No
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