Why can a “white” woman give birth to a “black” baby, while a “black” woman can never give birth to a “white” baby in the United States? What makes racial “passing” so different from social mobility? Why are interracial and incestuous relations often confused or conflated in literature, making “miscegenation” appear as if it were incest? Werner Sollors examines these questions and others in Neither Black nor White yet Both, a fully researched investigation of literary works that, in the past, have been read more for a black–white contrast of “either–or” than for an interracial realm of “neither, nor, both, and in-between.”
From the origins of the term “race” to the cultural sources of the “Tragic Mulatto,” and from the calculus of color to the retellings of various plots, Sollors examines what we know about race, analyzing recurrent motifs in scientific and legal works as well as in fiction, drama, and poetry.
Sollors limns the discourse on race that dominated the world that each text entered, and presents what passed for ‘scientific’ knowledge at the time, thereby shedding light on the cultural work accomplished by each novel or poem. He also shows how the same basic stories have been retold by different writers, each reshaping and transforming the tale in light of the racial politics of his or her own time...Neither Black nor White yet Both, a stunning achievement, will be of interest to anyone who cares about race and culture.
Any reader who thinks that novels, plays, and poetry devoted to the tragic mulatto, miscegenation, the code noir, passing, the curse of Ham, and other such themes constitute a mere subgenre in American culture will need to think again. Sollors proves, in voluminous detail, that the various William Faulkners and Nella Larsens now well know in academic circles rest on the vast, deep foundation of a national obsession.
- 592 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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