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Complicating Constructions

Race, Ethnicity, and Hybridity in American Texts

edited by David S. Goldstein and Audrey B. Thacker

Publication Year: 2007

This volume of collected essays offers truly multiethnic, historically comparative, and meta-theoretical readings of the literature and culture of the United States. Covering works from Toni Morrison to Bret Harte, these essays provide a vital supplement to the critical literary canon, mapping a newly variegated terrain that refuses the distinction between “ethnic” and “nonethnic” literatures.

Published by: University of Washington Press

Series: American Ethnic and Cultural Studies


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xii

Foremost among those whom we must specially acknowledge are our essay contributors, who patiently endured multiple requests for revisions and a process longer than any of us could have envisioned. We have relied mightily on their intellects and tolerance, and they have given far more than any editors had a right to ask. ...

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pp. xiii-xxviii

The essays in this volume re

I. Re-Constructing Race and Ethnicity: Identity Imposed or Adopted

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1. Citizenship Rights and Colonial Whites: The Cultural Work of Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton's Novels

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pp. 3-30

In 1856, the captain of San Diego's military post headed out to Temecula, California, after hearing rumors that Cahuilla Indians under Juan Antonio and Luise

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2. Testifying Bodies: Citizenship Debates in Bret Harte's Gabriel Conroy

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pp. 31-47

Published in 1876, Gabriel Conroy, Bret Harte's obscure novel of multiple disguises, hustlers, two-timing women, cannibals, legal and illegal fights over mining rights, and the Indian and Chinese Questions mimics posturings occurring mid

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3. The Color of Money in The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

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pp. 48-73

Why does the protagonist of James Weldon Johnson's The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man,1 an intelligent. talented pianist of mixed race, sell himself to a white, capitalist culture, and why did Johnson, a prominent. educated poet, writer, lyricist. lawyer. diplomat. and Secretary of the NAACP, publish such a work anonymously? ...

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4. Passing as the "Tragic" Mulatto: Constructions of Hybridity in Toni Morrison's Novels

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pp. 74-98

In her essay "Unspeakable Things Unspoken," Toni Morrison says, "We are not, in fact, 'other.' We are choices." This comment provides the foundation for the way I am looking at the mixed-race characters in her novels. My argument here is that Toni Morrison is revising the stereotype of the tragic mulatto found in ...

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5. Re-Viewing the Literary Chinatown: Multicultural Hybridity in Gish Jen's Mona in the Promised Land

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pp. 99-120

What separates a good marketing strategy from the rest is its ability to anticipate, feed, and sometimes even produce taste. Identifying the consumer's tastes, or the possibility for certain tastes to develop, is critical to selling the product. Consider, for example, this advertisement for a product ...

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6. Reading The Turner Diaries: Jewish Blackness, Judaized Blacks, and Head-Body Race Paradigms

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pp. 121-140

The Turner Diaries, William Pierce's futuristic and white supremacist race-war novel—made famous as Timothy McVeigh's favorite inspirational reading—is usually condemned with opprobrium. The novel, first published in 1978, is not one that invites prolonged contemplation on issues of critical undecidability. ...

II. Re-Contextualizing Race and Ethnicity: Texts in Historical and Political Perspective

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7. Smallpox, Opium, and Invasion: Chines Invasion, White Guilt, and Native American Displacement in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century American Fiction

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pp. 143-156

The cover illustration on a February 1879 Harper's Weekly shows a well-dressed Chinese man and a Native American man looking over a poster featuring Irish-American labor leader Dennis Kearney's anti-immigration slogan: "The Chinese Must Go!" The Native American observes to the Chinese man, "Pale face 'fraid you ...

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8. Visualizing Race in American Immigrant Autobiography

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pp. 157-179

"The United States is a nation of immigrants." For many Americans, this cliche evokes a vague notion of ancestry that originates with the Pilgrims and culminates in waves of immigration from Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These images and mythologies of the immigrant experience have created ...

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9. Maud Martha vs. I Love Lucy: Taking on the Postwar Consumer Fantasy

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pp. 180-204

On the day that I began reading Gwendolyn Brooks's only novel, Maud Martha (1953), I had finished the graphic scene of Maud's daughter's birth in a tenement apartment when I decided to break for lunch. That day, I watched syndicated 1950s sitcoms while eating, as is my habit when working at home. The broadcast was ...

III. Re-Considering Race and Ethnicity: Meta-Issues in Theory and Criticism

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10. Some Do, Some Don't: Whiteness Theory and the Treatment of Race in African American Drama

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pp. 207-226

Recent attempts within academe to decenter whiteness have most often enlisted ontological language and categories of identity for the purpose of implicating those cultural pathologies that have sustained white power and ideology. A common extension of whiteness discourse involves the critique of universalizing ...

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11. Traumatic Legacy in Darryl Pinckney's High Cotton

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pp. 227-249

The anonymous protagonist of Darryl Pinckney's novel. High Cotton (1992), begins enigmatically: "No one sat me down and told me I was a Negro. That was something I figured out on the sly" (3). The ostensible confidence of that declaration unravels as we follow Pinckney's autobiographical narrator from his middle-class, ...

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12. Portnoy's Neglected Siblings: A Case for Postmodern Jewish American Literary Studies

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pp. 250-269

Jewish-American fiction holds a curious place in contemporary literary studies. During the 1950s and 1960s it established a dominant position not only within ethnic literary studies, but within postwar American literature as a whole. Much as Americans in the postwar period were migrating from the cities to the suburbs, ...

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13. Tension, Conversation, and Collectivity: Examining the Space of Double-Consciousness in the Search for Shared Knowledge

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pp. 270-289

As the following collaborative analysis demonstrates, W. E. B. Du Bois's concept of double-consciousness in The Souls of Black Folk goes to the heart of issues raised by the teaching of, and the scholarship in, muIti-cultural literature. On the one hand, it serves for us as common denominator from which ...

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14. When Hybridity Doesn't Resist: Giannina Braschi's Yo-Yo Boing!

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pp. 290-308

Hybridity, as an operative concept today in postcolonial theory, is often presented as a function of diaspora. The economic forces that compel the often violent and disruptive movement of millions of people across boundaries and geopolitical spheres, a phenomenon that still continues, .,..

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pp. 309-312

Olivia Castellano was a professor of English at California State University, Sacramento, where she taught courses in composition, creative writing, Chicano literature, and multiethnic literature from 1972 until her retirement in 2005. She has written several books of poetry, including ...


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pp. 313-320

E-ISBN-13: 9780295800745
E-ISBN-10: 0295800747
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295988351
Print-ISBN-10: 0295988355

Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: American Ethnic and Cultural Studies