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Neither Black nor White yet Both

Neither Black nor White yet Both

Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature

Werner Sollors

ISBN 9780674607804

Publication date: 10/15/1999

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.

    —Shelley Fisher Fishkin, University of Texas, Austin


  • Werner Sollors is Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 592 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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